2023 La Vuelta Femenina – Stage Six Race Report

How the race finished

Gaia Realini (Trek-Segafredo) claimed her first world tour victory ahead of new overall leader Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar). Loes Adegeest (FDJ-Suez) led home the chasing bunch which included Demi Vollering (SD Worx), over a minute down.

Full results are available below.

How it happened

In the penultimate day of racing in La Vuelta Femenina, the women took on a mid-mountain day. The tricky course from Castro Urdiales to Laredo featured two category two climbs, before a long flat section to the finish line.

Anticipating that it could be a day when a breakaway could stay clear all the way to the line, the attacks and battle to be in the break was relentless in the opening kilometres. Matilde Vitillo (BePink)  found some space for a short time, but her attempt was short-lived. 

At 35km into racing, the peloton rolled through Laredo and into the flat lands. The wind was gusting up to 45km/hr.  Movistar, who later said that they had planned to try to create echelons in this section of the race, hit the front. As they did so, race leader Demi Vollering (SD Worx) and a few other riders were taking a nature break. Struggling to get back up to the pace, the bunch split, and the vehicle convoy was pulled back behind the chasing riders.

Suddenly, the shape of the race had changed significantly. SD Worx found themselves driving in the chase in a group of around 20 riders. The gap hovered at about 20 seconds for a long time – but with Jumbo Visma and Trek-Segafredo now also pulling on the front, it was a big ask for the race leader’s team. 

By the base of the category 2 climb up the Alto de Fuente de las Varas, Vollering’s group had dropped back to over a minute behind the leaders. Alongside Vollering, Bauernfeind who put in a show of strength yesterday, Niamh Fisher-Black and Urska Zigart also found themselves fighting to put themselves in a position to contest the overall race in the final stage tomorrow.

On the climb, with most of the Movistar riders having already peeled out, van Vleuten launched a characteristic attack. At first, around thirty riders managed to sit in the slipstream, but as the road continued upwards the bunch continued to whittle down. Soon, only six riders remained alongside the world champion: Gaia Realini (Trek-Segafredo), Mavi Garcia (Liv Racing TeqFind), Reijanne Markus (Jumbo-Visma), Erica Magnaldi (UAE Team ADQ) and Evita Muzic (FDJ-Suez). Just before the summit of the climb Garcia and Markus were dropped. 

Van Vleuten led over the top of the Alto de Fuente de las Varas, picking up the Queen of the Mountains points on her way. A chase group behind formed including Marlen Reusser, Kristen Faulkner and a number of UAE Team ADQ riders, who were happy to let Erica Magnaldi get up the road. Some 1 minute and 50 seconds behind van Vleuten, Vollering rolled across, still in pursuit.

Through the flatter lands between the two climbs the leading five riders worked well together, rolling turns to hold their lead. At the intermediate sprint in San Miguel de Aras, van Vleuten got out of her saddle to grab the bonus seconds available. With the six seconds in her pocket, even if it all came back together, she would be ahead of Vollering. After the intermediate sprint though, van Vleuten didn’t stop – using the gap she had generated to power away from the group, who watched powerlessly. 

At the bottom of the second category two climb of the day, Realini made the post of the gradients to put in a big effort, bridging across to van Vleuten. Together, they crested the summit still holding over a minute and a half over Vollering, who had caught the group with her teammate Marlen Reusser on the climb. Vollering continued to push the pace, but the gap was holding fairly steady. After picking up her second lot of Queen of the Mountains points for the day, Van Vleuten had unseated Elise Chabbey (Canyon//Sram Racing) in that classification – but it wasn’t all she was after from the stage.

Through the descent, Canyon//Sram Racing helped SD Worx with the chase, and they were eventually able to bring back Labous, Muzic and Magnaldi with about ten kilometres to go.The gap to Van Vleuten and Realini, however, was proving more impenetrable. As van Vleuten did most of the work in the closing kilometres, with the slighter Realini in the draft, the chasers could only find a few seconds here and there. 

Coming into the finish line in Laredo, Van Vleuten got out of the saddle to launch a long sprint. Realini, anticipating it, kicked from her wheel, initially having enough pace to come around the world champion. But the finish line was still a long way away, and Realini tired while Van Vleuten could hold her speed. With both of them throwing to the line, it was down to a photo finish to confirm that Realini had taken the win.


Full Stage Six Results

Results powered by FirstCycling.com

Photography: Luca Bettini, Unipublic/SprintCyclingAgency

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