Photo Credit: Baixauli Studio
The final stage of racing at the Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta saw the peloton faced with several laps of a fast and flat circuit around the streets of Madrid. With numerous intermediate sprints throughout the afternoon and several bonus seconds up for grabs, the GC battle was very much still on as the riders rolled out to get the action underway. Team Sunweb had two riders sitting in the top six on GC heading into the stage, with Lorena Wiebes 18 seconds behind race leader Lisa Brennauer in fifth and Leah Kirchmann 23 seconds behind in sixth.
As the laps ticked down, the team rode well to position Wiebes for the multiple bonus second sprints – with Wiebes and Brennauer producing a great battle throughout the afternoon, taking seconds off of each other. As the race headed into the final 40 kilometres Wiebes had reduced the gap to 14 seconds, while the attacks flew from the bunch. Second placed rider on GC Longo Borghini got a good gap over the peloton and set off solo, sweeping up several bonuses at the head of the race. With the GC win almost mathematically out of sight for the team, Wiebes sat up and didn’t contest the final three intermediates, instead focusing on going all-in for the stage win.
The team worked well to control the bunch in the finale with Wilma Olausson and Liane Lippert shutting down any dangerous moves while Julia Soek ushered Wiebes towards the front of the bunch. Kirchmann was last in line for the stage one winner, shepherding her to around fifth wheel before peeling off with 400 metres to go. Sensing an opportunity to go early and catch the other riders unaware, Wiebes launched a vicious sprint, instantly getting a bike length on Brennauer. However, Elisa Balsamo was quick onto her wheel and in the closing 50 metres used Wiebes’ slip stream to come out and take the stage win on the bike throw.
With Wiebes’ bonuses from her second place taken into account, she ended the race in third place on GC and Kirchmann in fifth – a good reward for the team’s efforts over the three stages.
|1||BALSAMO Elisa||Valcar - Travel & Service||2:16:49||50|
|2||WIEBES Lorena||Team Sunweb||,,||40|
|3||BASTIANELLI Marta||Alé BTC Ljubljana||,,||30|
|1||BRENNAUER Lisa||Ceratizit-WNT Pro Cycling||4:29:21|
|2||LONGO BORGHINI Elisa||Trek-Segafredo Women||0:12|
|3||WIEBES Lorena||Team Sunweb||0:13|
|1||BRENNAUER Lisa||Ceratizit-WNT Pro Cycling||38|
|2||WIEBES Lorena||Team Sunweb||36|
|3||LONGO BORGHINI Elisa||Trek-Segafredo Women||30|
|4||Canyon SRAM Racing||1:02|
|5||Alé BTC Ljubljana||1:23|
|6||Valcar - Travel & Service||1:30|
|7||Ceratizit-WNT Pro Cycling||,,|
|1||WIEBES Lorena||Team Sunweb||4:29:34|
|2||BOOGAARD Maaike||Alé BTC Ljubljana||0:39|
|3||BARNES Alice||Canyon SRAM Racing||,,|