2022 Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta
How the race finished
Annemiek van Vleuten won the second stage of the Ceratizit Challenge by La Veulta in typical style, soloing away from her closest competitors on the hilly course to come in +2:16” seconds ahead of the chasing group of Elisa Longo Borghini, Liane Lippert and Demi Vollering. Van Vleuten takes over the red leaders jersey, with Longo Borghni at +1.55 and Vollering at +2:24.
How it happened
With five categorised climbs across the 105km parcours, the stage was set for a GC battle, and with some of the key contenders losing time yesterday, it was simply a matter of when the attacks would come.
After the peloton didn’t allow an early attempt from Olympic Champion Anna Kiesenhofer to get away, a breakaway of four riders formed over the first climb up the north side of Fuente las Varas. Maaike Coljé (Massi-Tactic Women’s Team), Marta Lach (Ceratizit – WNT Pro Cycling), Sarah Roy (Canyon//Sram Racing) and Lucinda Brand, team mate of the race leader Elisa Longo-Borghini worked well together to take their lead out to over 3 minutes through the middle of the race.
The tough slopes of the Campo Layal reduced the leading breakaway to a duo, with only Lucinda Brand and Sarah Roy continuing to hold the peloton at bay. Back in the bunch, an attack from SD Worx rider Niamh Fisher-Black incited an increase in pace, while Elisa Longo Borghini was brought back to the bunch by teammates Shirin van Anrooij and Elisa Balsamo after an unfortunate crash.
As they approached the final two climbs, Movistar took charge on the front to set up their leader Annemiek van Vleuten for a characteristic attack. Their work was carried out to perfection, with Sarah Roy and Lucinda Brand being caught at the base of the category 1 climb up the east side of the Fuente las Varas. From there, Van Vleuten went straight to the front herself, setting a blistering pace. Almost immediately, a small group of five formed, with only Demi Vollering (Team SD Worx), Elisa Longo Borgini (Trek Segafredo), Liane Lippert (Team DSM) and Mavi Garcia (UAE Team ADQ) able to follow. Still on the lower slopes of the climb, Van Vleuten repeatedly stamped on the pedals and attacked through the pitches, leaving all five riders fighting to hold her wheel. Liane Lippert was the first to crack after making an effort to close a gap, and Mavi Garcia was soon distanced as well. With Van Vleuten accelerating out of the saddle once again, race leader Longo Borghini was next to drop, leaving only Vollering able to maintain the pace. But, at 3km to go to the top of the climb, even she had to cede to the pain – leaving van Vleuten to ride away solo.
Over the top of the climb, van Vleuten had 45 seconds on Demi, while Longo Borghini and Lippert were working together a further 15 seconds back. Vollering dropped back on the descent to ride together with Longo Borghini and Lippert, with van Vleuten holding a 1 minute gap into the base of the final climb at 17km to go. Apparently unsatisfied with this gap, van Vleuten continued to attack the steep pitches of the 3.2km Campo la Cruz climb, increasing her advantage. Behind, the leaders, a larger chase group formed including Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon//Sram Racing), Cecile Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ Suez Futuroscope), and Ane Santesteban (Team BikeExchange-Jayco), but despite relaying well together and catching Mavi Garcia, the group could only hope to limit their losses.
Van Vleuten eventually came home +2:16” ahead of the chasing bunch, with Longo Borghini winning the sprint for second place against Lippert and Vollering. The group behind arrived +2:50” behind van Vleuten, which, combined with a strong team time trial performance yesterday, was enough for Ane Santesteban to move into fourth place on GC, on equal time with Lippert.