How the race finished
Demi Vollering (SD Worx) once again showed her strength to win the queen stage, ahead of Gaia Realini (Trek-Segafredo). It wasn’t enough to steal the overall victory from Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar), who came home some 56 seconds behind in third.
Full results are available below.
How it happened
In the final stage of the 2023 La Vuelta Femenina, the peloton raced across 93.7km from Pola de Siero, over La Collada Moandi, and up to the mountain top finish line at Lagos de Covadonga.
Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) started the day with over one minute advantage over her closest GC rival, Demi Vollering (SD Worx). Stand out climber and yesterday’s stage winner Gaia Realini started at over three minutes down at 12th on GC, after losing time in the crosswinds on Stage Three.
The pace was high from the start. After eleven kilometres of racing, while passing through Nava, Gladys Verhulst (FDJ-SUEZ), Kathrin Hammes (EF Education-Tibco-SVB) and Margot Pompanon (St Michel-Mavic-Auber93) managed to create a small gap on the bunch. A second trio took off to chase them, but weren’t allowed the space to move. Olympic champion Anna Kiesenhofer (Israel Premier Tech Roland) and Silvia Zanardi (BePink) also tried to bridge across, but were not allowed to join the trio up front.
On the approach to La Collada Moandi, Trek-Segafredo drove the bunch. By the base of the climb, three Trek-Segafredo riders had already given their all and finished their jobs for the day. On the early slopes of the category two climb to breakaway were caught – but from there, the pace only increased. Under the pressure of SD Worx, by the top of the climb only around eighteen riders remained in the front bunch. Trek-Segafredo led over the top of the climb, with Amanda Spratt and Gaia Realini picking up points in the mountain classification.
On the descent, Kasia Newiadoma (Canyon//Sram Racing) using her descending prowess to attack off the front. She was quickly joined by Marlen Reusser (SD Worx), who had been tailed off slightly at the very end of the climb, but had fought her way back on. The pair worked together through the lush winding roads, holding a small gap over the chasing peloton.
Onto the flat, and it was Team Jumbo Visma who took responsibility for chasing from the peloton. With Reusser a risk to Reijanne Markus’s place on the General Classification, and an intermediate sprint coming up, they had a lot to play for. Reusser and Niewiadoma rolled through the intermediate sprint at Cangas de Onis first, but Marianne Vos got up for third across the line, and in doing so, secured the Points Jersey. She continued to push on at a strong pace, pulling the breakaway pair back for her teammate.
As the road began to pitch up in the lower hills leading towards the final climb, Reusser and Niewiadoma were pulled back. Movistar continued to drive the pace, but once they hit the climb proper, it was SD Worx’s Niamh Fisher Black who took over domestique duties to set up Demi Vollering. The group splintered under the pressure of the young climber, with the group quickly reduced to around ten riders. At one point, Van Vleuten dropped back in the group, and then could be seen bouncing her bike – perhaps checking for a puncture. After a few minutes on the radio and a chat to her team car, she continued on with no visible problem.
Into a hairpin corner, Demi Vollering accelerated up the inside the road, passing Fisher-Black an settling into a quicker tempo. Gaia Realini was immediately on her wheel, while Van Vleuten sat back and let others close the small gap to the pair. The group continued at the pace Vollering was setting, but soon, there were only four riders at the front: Vollering, Van Vleuten, Realini and Evita Muzic (FDJ-Suez).
With 6.9kilometres of uphill battle still remaining, the pace finally got the better of Evita Muzic, who dropped the wheel. At the same time, the effort was etched on Van Vleuten’s face, but she continued onward. Realini had a breathtaking moment as her chain dropped off, but she was able to dismount, fix it, and them quickly climb her way back up to the leading duo. With 5.8 kilometres remaining Realini came through to the front, increasing the pace a little. Again, Van Vleuten looked to be in trouble, but held on.
Vollering once again set the pace, but it was not enough to unseat either of her two competitors. Then, Realini decided to have another crack, coming to the front on the steepest part of the climb. Her pace was stronge than Vollering’s had been, but Vollering was able to slot onto the wheel. For Van Vleuten however, it was the final straw. A gap opened up in front of her of a few metres, then a few metres more. They were gone.
Vollering and Realini worked together as the road continued upwards. Knowing all she had to do to hold on to the red jersey was to deny Vollering from getting more than a minute up the road, Van Vleuten pressed on, pushing herself to the max.
As they neared the top, a deep fog set in, and Van Vleuten could no longer keep her eyes on the duo up the road. Through a small descent before the final pitch up, Vollering pushed the corners so hard that Realini could no longer hold her wheel. Vollering flew up the steep final section to the finish line, raising her arms in glory before turning to see what had played out behind. Realini rolled across eleven seconds later. Then, it was a nail biting wait until Van Vleuten appeared. Crossing the line 56 seconds after Vollering, she had done enough to hold on to the overall victory.
Vollering took second on GC, just nine seconds behind Van Vleuten, and Realini jumped up the rankings to claim third. Evita Muzic (FDJ-Suez) and Ricarda Bauernfeind (Canyon//Sram Racing) confirmed their ascents into the top tier of climbers, crossing the line in fourth and fifth, and securing sixth and fifth in GC. Reijanne Markus (Jumbo Visma) did enough to hold on to fourth on the GC.
Full Stage Seven Results
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Results powered by FirstCycling.com
Photography: Rafa Gomez, Unipublic/SprintCyclingAgency