How the Race Finished
The first stage of Itzulia Women finished in a narrow, technical uphill sprint, with Demi Vollering (SD Worx) taking the win ahead of Pauliena Rooijakkers (Canyon//SRAM Racing) and Kristen Faulkner (Team BikeExchange – Jayco), the three of them fifty seconds ahead of a reduced peloton. Vollering lead them into the final 500m; Rooijakkers tried a long sprint, coming round Vollering with 200m to go, but in the final strait, Rooijakkers couldn’t match Vollering’s speed, who edged ahead in the final metres. Faulkner finished third, with Liane Lippert (Team DSM) winning the sprint for fourth in the peloton.
The Main Action
It was a bright day as they threaded through the rocky Basque country landscape, heading 105.9km from Vitoria-Gasteiz to Labastida. There were some notable absences: Annemiek van Vleuten is still recovering from a broken wrist, UAE didn’t send a team, after Mavi Garcia had a positive Covid test, and SD Worx only had four riders – though the strength of those four made up for their lack of numbers.
The sharp, characteristic climbs of the Basque Country started from the very beginning of the day, with the Zaldiaran, 4.4km at 4.5%, starting a single kilometre into the race. Pauliena Rooijakkers (Canyon//SRAM) took maximum points, followed by Maaike Coljé (Massi Tactic) and Esmee Peperkamp (Team DSM).
A breakaway only formed after this first climb, composed of Cristina Tonetti (Top Girls Fassa Bortolo), Prisca Savi (BePink), Mirela Benito (Massi-Tactic Women Team) and Anastasia Lebedeva (Eneicat – RBH Global). Tonetti won the intermediate sprint. As they approached the Mirardor de Rivas, the first of the day’s major climbs, they had a gap of two and a half minutes, but Lebedeva had already dropped.
FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine and Canyon//SRAM were particularly active in pushing up the pace in the peloton over the climb. Savi and Tonetti both dropped back, caught by the peloton; Benito attacked, and remained dangling in front of the now very-reduced peloton for a long time, only eventually reeled in towards the end of the final climb, the Herrera.
Demi Vollering (SD Worx) now attacked, succeeding in stringing out the peloton, though things regrouped on a short descent. Over the top of the final climb, Elise Chabbey (Canyon//SRAM) attacked. She was joined on the 12km descent off Herrera by Lucinda Brand (Trek-Segafredo), Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio and Demi Vollering (both SD Worx).
In the potentially crucial sprint for bonus seconds that followed, Lucinda Brand managed to surprise the two SD Worx teammates, taking the maximum three. With the efforts from FDJ-Nouvelle-Aquitaine and Team DSM behind, however, the group of four was caught with 18 kilometres to go.
Niamh-Fisher Black (SD Worx) immediately attacked, but was chased down by Floortje Mackaij (Team DSM). It was Kristen Faulkner’s attack that was finally decisive. She went with sixteen kilometres to go, opening a small gap. Vollering and Rooijakkers bridged across, and, with the help of SD Worx and Canyon//SRAM playing interference in the chase behind, there was soon daylight between them and the peloton, despite the best efforts of DSM and FDJ in chasing them down. In the final sprint, Rooijakkers couldn’t quite match Vollering, who took the win and the lead in the general classification.
The Vollering-Rooijakkers-Faulkner group finished fifty seconds ahead of the peloton, which, accompanied by the bonus seconds on the line, and the bonus seconds in the intermediate sprint, gives Vollering a formidable lead in the general classification, with Rooijakkers six seconds behind. Lucinda Brand is fourth in the general classification, having taken three seconds in the intermediate sprint. Mireia Benito leads the Queen of the Mountains competition, after her exploits in the breakaway.
As well as Rooijakkers, Canyon-SRAM had two more riders in the top ten, with Elise Chabbey and Alena Amialiusik eighth and ninth respectively. SD Worx also had three of their four riders in the top ten, with Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio in sixth, and Niamh Fisher-Black in tenth.