How the Race Finished
Demi Vollering (SD Worx) dominated again at Itzulia Women, taking the second stage and consolidating her overall lead in another steep reduced sprint, ahead of Olivia Baril (Valcar – Travel & Service) and Marta Cavalli (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine). Pauliena Rooijakkers, the rider best positioned to challenge Vollering, came in fourth, four seconds down. Vollering now leads the general classification by twenty-two seconds over Rooijakkers, and forty-two seconds over Kristen Faulkner.
The Main Action
The race looped out from and back to Mallabia, taking in a route full of sharp climbs, with six classified climbs in total. The peloton stayed together over the first climbs, with Elise Chabbey (Canyon // SRAM) clearly interested in the Queen of the Mountains competition: she took maximum points at the first, second and third climbs, Aretio, Montecalvo and Bizkaiko Begiratokia.
With 75km to go, a breakaway finally formed with Alicia Gonzalez (Movistar), Anastasia Carbonari (Valcar Travel & Service), and Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (SD Worx) – the latter the teammate of the current race leader, Demi Vollering. They were caught, however, by the fourth climb of the day, Milloi, with Chabbey yet again taking maximum points over the summit, cementing her position in the mountains jersey tomorrow.
Yulia Biriukova (Arkea-Samsic) and Marta Jaskulska (Liv Xstra) formed another break, and were followed by Sheyla Gutierrez (Movistar), Tatiana Guderzo (Top Girls Fassa Bortolo) and Carbonnari. With 50km to go, they had a gap of 1’40” from the peloton, with Shirin van Anrooij (Trek-Segafredo), Nina Buijsman (Human Powered Health), and Nadia Quagliotto (BePink) in close pursuit. Van Anrooij and Quagliotto caught the front group, but the advantage of the now seven-strong group was rapidly dropping as they scaled the penultimate climb of the day, Mallabia, with a greatly-reduced peloton chasing behind them.
Down the steep descent, their gap tumbled, until they were caught at the base of the final climb, Karabieta, with just over 19km to go. Vollering attacked at the steep base of the climb; throughout, she made repeated sharp attacks, whittling the group down to an ever-smaller selection. SD Worx used their numbers, with Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio and Niamh Fisher-Black attacking and forcing Rooijakkers to close it down. Marta Cavalli (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine) also attacked up the climb; Vollering closed her down, and when Vollering went again, it was only Cavalli who could follow – Rooijakkers had to claw her way across a gap that had been established.
With Cavalli, Vollering, Rooijakkers and Olivia Baril (Valcar – Travel & Service) up ahead, it was left to Kristen Faulkner (BikeExchange) to drag the group behind back, which she duly did. On the shallower upper slopes of the climb, there was almost a stalemate, until Cavalli attacked, pursued by Vollering. Vollering then put everything into the descent, with Rooijakkers, who has struggled with descending, drifting off the back. By the final run-in to the finish, however, she had clawed her way back on.
This left a leading group of five: Cavalli, Vollering, Rooijakkers, Baril and Juliette Labous (Team DSM). Behind them, and rapidly closing, were a chasing group – containing the other three SD Worx riders. As the leading group started to look at each-other, EF Education-Tibco-SVB started to attack hard; in the final kilometre, the second group got sight of the leaders, only metres ahead, with Veronica Ewers (EF Education-Tibco-SVB) making a valiant attempt to drag them back.
However, there was a sudden injection of pace in the leaders when Rooijakkers attacked with 700m to go. Despite Rooijakkers’ best efforts, she couldn’t shake Vollering, and in the final 300m, once Vollering started to sprint, no-one could get her back. Vollering took her second victory in two days, and keeps hold of the leaders’ jersey and the points jersey.
The first two stages have been a show of dominance from SD Worx, despite them only bringing four riders: as well as Vollering’s two jerseys, they are also leading the team classification, and hold the jersey for best young rider with Niamh-Fisher Black. Their entire team finished within the top eleven, with Anna Shackley, in eleventh. Canyon//SRAM also have Elise Chabbey leading the Queen of the Mountains competitions, as well as Rooijakkers in second overall.