The challenging 114.9 km course took racers up a total of 17 climbs and ended with three laps of a hilly 16.9 km circuit that included the Cauberg.
With 60 km to go, eight riders – including Brand – went for the breakaway just before the pivotal descent into Valkenburg. The move stuck for the remainder of the race, with the chasing peloton keeping their distance between 1:30 to 2:35 minutes back. At 20 km to go, the attacks began. Unfortunately just as the race leader unleashed a strong attack at the end of the second circuit lap, Brand needed a bike change. The setback meant Brand had to play catch up for the next few kilometers, finding her way back with the lead riders by the beginning of the final lap.
On the final climb of the Cauberg, Brand jumped to wage an attack but it didn’t stick. When another rider attacked, only Brand and Chantal Blaak (Boels Dolmans) could follow and the three riders stretched out a small gap on the remaining group. The trio set up for a sprint finish which came down to a close battle between Brand and Blaak.
“It’s my first big result of this season,” Brand said of her second-place finish. “It was not really planned that it would be me up the road, we just planned to make sure we were covered in the strong breaks, and the breaks where there weren’t too many of the same team in. That worked out pretty well. I’m really happy – I didn’t have the greatest season so far on the road. To finally be in the break and sprint to second place in your home country makes me really proud.”
Fleche Wallonne (WWT), April 18, 2018
Team Sunweb coach Hans Timmermans (NED): " With Ellen, Ruth, and Liane as our last riders on the day we could see a really interesting final. Not only in terms of result but also in terms of development. Liane will get her first real opportunity to be there in the final of a WorldTour race, which will be a valuable experience for her, especially after some strong performances helping her teammates already this year."
- Ellen van Dijk (NED)
- Juliette Labous (FRA)
- Liane Lippert (GER)
- Floortje Mackaij (NED)
- Coryn Rivera (USA)
- Ruth Winder (USA)
Liege-Bastogne-Liege (WWT), April 21, 2018
Team Sunweb coach Koen de Haan (NED): "Last year, Ellen finished in 4th place and this year we would like to search for another top result there. We have an experienced line-up with riders like Lucinda and Leah, and the combination of young talents like Liane, Juliette and Ruth will make for a really exciting race."