Meerkerk, Netherlands - Rui Oliveira earned his 5th top 10 finish Saturday at the 12th annual Arno Wallaard Memorial, placing 6th at the event held 45 km outside of Rotterdam.
After 30 km, Hagens Berman Axeon Cycling Team’s Maikel Zijlaard joined Thymen Arensman (SEG Racing Academy) and Mario Spengler (Leopard Pro Cycling) in a breakaway. Soon after, the three were joined by a group of 20 riders. Small attacks and regroupings continued until a group of four, including Cees Bol (SEG Racing Academy) and Joshua Hüppertz (Team Lotto-Kern Haus), left the peloton for good.
The peloton never seemed to get fully organized to pull them back, with some of the riders at the front appearing to block for their riders up the road. But with 2 km remaining, Oliveira saw an opening and took it.
“The team really helped me today, but near the finish we couldn’t get organized to make ground on the breakaway,” said Oliveira. “I felt good and knew I had the legs to try and make a move on my own. When the moment was right, I went.”
Oliveira was able to finish ahead of the main group, five spots behind the riders in the breakaway. Hüppertz edged out Bol at the line in a photo finish. Dion Beukeboom (Vlasman Cycling Team) finished in third.
“It has been a great start to the season even though I haven’t earned a victory,” said Oliveira. “I’m always close, but still not there. I’m always motivated to ride well with the team and I really want to prove that I can be with the best when I have the opportunity.”
Hagens Berman Axeon rider and U23 world time trial champion Mikkel Bjerg was back in action after breaking his hand five weeks ago at Danilith Nokere Koerse. Bjerg started off the season with a bang, winning Rabobank Dorpenomloop Rucphen, the first race of the season and the team’s first category 1.HC race in program history. Bjerg leads the Young Rider Classification in the Holland Cup.
“It feels so good to be racing with the guys again, but my bike handling is still a bit rusty,” said Bjerg. “I spent most of the day sitting in the back, which is not that funny, but my hand is getting stronger and stronger and that is what really matters. I am so grateful that the team is allowing me the chance to come back during the next few races and return to the top of my game.”
In the end, Jasper Philipsen finished just outside of the top 10 in 11th place, Zeke Mostov finished in a season’s best 20th place, Jonny Brown 51st, Zijlaard 75th, and Bjerg 110th.
The next race for our European squad will be the Tour of Bretagne beginning on April 25th and concluding on May 1st.
(Header image of Rui Oliveira by Joyce Jason Ghijs.)