Victory for Van Vleuten in Durango-Durango
Australian Orica Scott team rider & dutch time trial champion Annemiek van Vleuten raced to a solo victory today in the one-day Basque race Durango-Durango.
The 34-year-old attacked on the final climb of the day and led the race solo but with two riders in hot pursuit just 15seconds behind.
In the end Van Vleuten showed her time trialling talent to hold off the chasers and cross the line alone for an impressive victory.
Despite suffering from illness last week during the team training camp in Spain, the Dutch rider today proved she is back on track and was overjoyed with the unexpected win.
“I really didn’t expect to take the victory today, I was disappointed that I was sick during the training camp and I thought I wouldn’t be the strongest today,” explained van Vleuten. “Of course sometimes with cycling you don’t have to be the strongest to win.”
“It was definitely better than I expected, we always had control with the whole team.
“Georgia Williams opened an attack on the final climb but she was brought back and then myself and Garfoot could follow Shara Gillow (FDJ).
“It was a super steep climb and at that moment I could no longer follow but we had a small downhill so when they came back I immediately attacked.
“I led the race solo all the way down the final descent to the finish and I was thinking about last time I was in this position (Rio Olympics), so I did not want to make any mistakes.
“I think everyone here is in really good form so I am looking forward to the races this week. At a race like this everyone in the team can have their own shot and of course this is a really good way to start the racing here.”
Sport director Gene Bates echoed van Vleuten’s joy, with the victory providing the team with a positive start to their week in the Basque country with a five-day tour beginning tomorrow.
“I am of course super happy with today, we took the victory and that was the goal,” said Bates. “We had a bit more freedom for the girls as we wanted to see how their legs were after the camp and let them relax into the racing.”
“The bigger target for us this week is actually the tour starting tomorrow, so Annemiek had no pressure on her at all.
"She was sick last week, she has taken it really easy, slept a lot and tried to get on top it. We therefore weren’t really sure how she was going to go today and obviously the little rest payed off.”
How it happened:
The one-day precursor event of the five-day tour Emakumeen XXX Bira began with a quiet first hour of racing.
The peloton completed five-laps of a lumpy circuit with an average speed of 38kilometres per hour for the opening hour of racing.
Eventually one rider, Femke Verstichelen (Bizkaia-Durango) broke away from the bunch and led the race solo, riding out to a maximum advantage of one minute 10seconds.
Marta Bastianelli (Ale-Cippollini) bridged across to the solo leader shortly after as the advantage dropped down to just 30seconds.
With two categorised climbs coming in the final 25kilometres of the race, the two escapees were finally reeled in by the peloton as the action heated up as they charged towards the decisive climbs.
One by one, riders started to drop off the back of the bunch, unable to stay with the high pace over the penultimate categorised climb.
Van Vleuten, Spratt and Williams showed their climbing legs and intentions, passing over the summit of the climb in the first three positions with the front of the race now reduced down to just 16riders.
Garfoot then went away with two other riders on the final steep climb of the day, with Van Vleuten seizing the opportunity by courageously attacking over the top to stay away and claim the victory.
Tomorrow Emakumeen XXX Bira begins with a short 50kilometre afternoon road stage.
1. Annemiek van Vleuten (ORICA-SCOTT)
2. Shara Gillow (FDJ)
3. Eider Merino (Lointek)