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Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta 2022: Stage 3 Report

2022 Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta

Stage 3: Grace Brown takes the win after a late breakaway with Elise Chabbey 

How the race finished

Grace Brown (FDJ Suez Futuroscope) outsprinted her breakaway companion Elise Chabbey (Canyon//Sram Racing) in a two-up sprint to win Stage 3 of the Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta. Elisa Balsamo (Trek-Segafredo) led the reduced chasing bunch across the line just 8 seconds later. Annemiek van Vleuten retains her red jersey.

How it happened

The short stage of 96.4km from Camargo to Aguila de Campoo started fast, with the peloton not letting a breakaway get clear despite multiple attempts. On the first climb of the day, FDJ Suez Futuroscope pushed the pace, but it was Lucinda Brand (Trek Segafredo) who led over the top to take maximum points in the mountains classification.

Halfway through the stage a group of eighteen riders finally went clear, but they weren’t allowed much of a gap, with the peloton ultimately regrouping at the base of the major climb of the day up to Hóces de Bárcena. At 16km long but with a shallow average gradient of only 3.4%, the peloton was quickly whittled down to a group that included not only the GC riders, but also a number of fast finishers from Lotte Kopecky (Team SD Worx) and Elisa Balsamo (Trek Segafredo) to Alexandra Manly (BikeExchange Jayco) and Arlenis Sierra (Movistar Team Women). 

After not quite sticking with the front of the race yesterday, Mavi Garcia (Team UAE ADQ) was keen to get up the road, and managed to create a dangerous looking gap of 20 seconds. After reactions from Brodie Chapman (FDJ Suez Futuroscope) and Juliette Labous (Team DSM), the move was shut down. Demi Vollering (SD Worx) then came to the front, pushing the pace through the steeper pitches of the climb and stringing out the bunch. Kasia Niewadoma, Liane Lippert, Elisa Longo Borghini and race leader van Vleuten were all active as small bunches formed at the head of the race and then found themselves reabsorbed. 

With 26.6km to go, as the profile eased a little, it was Grace Brown who finally got clear, quickly finding 30 seconds on the bunch and being joined by Amber Kraak (Team Jumbo Visma). Vollering and van Vleuten put in strong pulls to bring the pair back, with the pace required to do so seeing Vollering’s team mate Lotte Kopecky and world champion Elisa Balsamo dropped. Seeing two strong finishers dropped, van Vleuten came to the front to set a hard pace to ensure they would remain distanced, hoping to set up her teammate Arlenis Sierra for the win. 

Mavi Garcia was still not content to come to the finish in a group, using every little rise on the run in to launch and try to create a gap. As she was caught, the pace slowed slightly allowing the chasing sprinters, pulled by Kopecky’s teammate Anna Shackely, to rejoin the front. With 8km to go it was Grace Brown who managed to get clear once again, this time with Elise Chabbey (Canyon//Sram Racing). The pair worked strongly together to create a 30 second gap, holding the chasing bunch at bay. After being forced to sit on the front, Elise Chabbey opened her sprint up first, with Grace Brown coming around her to be first across the line. Two attacks from Olympic champion Anna Kiesenhofer (Soltec) within the last 6km were reeled back in, leaving it to Elisa Balsamo and Lotto Kopecky to lead in the chasing bunch. 

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