Team Jayco AlUla women will head to their first Grand Tour of the season, La Vuelta Femenina, with a well-rounded and diverse team ready to tackle the ‘new’ seven-day women’s WorldTour stage race. The event was previously held in September under a different title and ran alongside the final weekend of the men’s Vuelta a España, but for 2023, the event has expanded to seven-days, elevating its status to be alongside the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift.
Taking place in May, the race now stands as the first major stage race of the women’s WorldTour peloton and with a huge variety of stages on offer, the event has all the ingredients to become one of the biggest and most interesting races on the women’s calendar.
Starting in Torrevieja on May 1st, the general classification battle will commence immediately thanks to a lung-busting 14.5km team time trial, before the riders slowly make their way northwest to Galicia. The stage terrain ranges from flat, potential bunch sprints to heavy and undulating rolling roads, with one hilltop test mid-race before the brutal Queen stage up to Lagos de Covadonga on day seven, at which point the 2023 champion will be crowned. This final lengthy climb, a 12.5km ascent averaging 6.9%, leaves no room to hide and is set to sort out the final podium positions if the time gaps haven’t been revealed prior to this.
To tackle the event, Team Jayco AlUla bring in last year’s two-time Giro d’Italia stage winner, all-round powerhouse Kristen Faulkner, as a joint leader alongside Basque climber Ane Santesteban, who naturally comes in with high ambitions to perform at her ‘home’ race.
For any potential fast finishes, the squad lines-up with Dutch rider Nina Kessler, plus 2023 Australian recruits Georgie Howe and Australian criterium champion Amber Pate. Urška Žigart will be a key contender and support rider for the team on these tough and lengthy climbs, with Norwegian rider Ingvild Gaskjenn rounding out the strong seven-rider team line-up.
Ane Santesteban said, “We can see in the last years, that the women’s calendar has grown a lot, with new races and longer stage races added, and it is really good to see La Vuelta do it too. They keep working and growing as a race and that for me means a lot, because it shows that more people believe in us, and keep fighting for us women.
I think the race will be very different with it being in May because it is one week after the Ardennes Classics. I think it will be a really good week for us as a team, we will have big engines that can be super good for the TTT or for going into the break. Last year, we came second in the TTT and we were very close to the victory, so we are confident for the stage this year.
Kristen and I are both feeling strong for the mountain stages and we also know how strong Urška is in big montains, so we are more than ready to go for it. I think we have to see how the TTT goes and after that make a plan, but we will looking for a good overall classification.”
Megan Chard, Sport Director added, “We are going into the Vuelta with two leaders – Ane and Kristen. They both have very different strengths that should show across the variety of stages that we have been given.
With the new timing of the event, we are coming straight off the Ardennes Classics, so we have a good idea of who’s going well and who’s not quite at the level, which is quite beneficial for planning and preparing the line-up. It will be interesting to see which riders from other teams will be able to manage their fatigue and condition, with it being only one week from the end of the Ardennes to the start of the Vuelta.
The level of the racing these days is so high, so we are always expecting a hard race. With the variety of stages from the TTT to the potentially windy stages and finishing off in the mountains, it’s really going to be an interesting one.
We have high ambitions; we will be looking for a competitive result overall, as well as coming away with a stage win. We want to have a strong start with the TTT and set the tone for the rest of the race. We have a lot of engines in the team that can really drive us to a podium position on this stage. The girls haven’t raced together in a TTT formation yet so this will be a good challenge to bring the girls together.
It’s great to bring the Vuelta in-line with the Giro and Tour and have three proper Grand Tour stage races – it is a super exciting time for Women’s Cycling. In the peloton now, characteristically we have more aggressive races than ever before, and we can only hope that this continues.”