Team Lidl-Trek head to La Vuelta España

This year, the Vuelta is even bigger and better than before, with the addition of an extra stage. Teams face eight varied stages, starting with a team time trial in Valencia, and ending with a summit finish Valdesquí in the community of Madrid. Between those two points, the peloton must  cover 868 kilometres of varying terrain, with sprints, crosswinds and medium mountains thrown into the mix. Team Lidl-Trek head to La Vuelta España Femenina with high ambitions.

Come the finish in Valdesquí, the team is aiming for the top step of the podium. Elisa Longo Borghini and Gaia Realini will lead the team together and will benefit from the support of Ellen van Dijk, Lizzie Deignan, Elynor Backstedt, Amanda Spratt and Brodie Chapman to help them through everything the race and the competitors will throw at them.

The two leaders, Elisa Longo Borghini and Gaia Realini shared their thoughts ahead of the race, as well as Lizzie Deignan, who has just recovered from a broken arm.

Longo Borghini:

“We have the potential and the desire to race a great Vuelta as a team. I believe that, in these months, we have proven that we are back to our full potential. Our understanding and our team spirit have been the key to achieve great success. This will be our approach to the Vuelta as well. We are aiming to win it and we will do everything we can to succeed. Gaia and I represent a complementary match in terms of characteristics. There is a very good understanding between us and we intend to enhance it.

“The classics season has given me a lot of strength and confidence. Thanks to great results and great performances I am very satisfied. The condition is there and the mindset is positive. The one-day races are tests where you can sometimes go all in, where you concentrate your efforts in a few hours. Grand Tours are different and the mental approach has to be according. Therefore, having two good options to play with is definitely a great added value for the team.

“The Vuelta route is all about toughness. I think every stage is tougher than what the profile we see on paper might say. The wind then can be a major unknown, as in the Zaragoza stage. The initial team time trial is undoubtedly the best way for us to start.”

Gaia Realini:

“I face the first Grand Tour of the season with grit and motivation. The Vuelta 2023 was, for me primarily, but I think also for the general public, a wonderful surprise. The thrilling victory with Van Vleuten, the final podium… it was a beautiful, intense and unexpected experience. It was like a revelation, it was the first time I realised that Grand Tours could become a concrete goal for my future.

“This year there will be a different expectation. I will have more eyes on me, the chances to surprise will be few, but I will certainly not be discouraged or intimidated. I face it with the knowledge that the season of the big climbs, the challenges in the mountains between climbers, begins. My terrain is coming. I am confident that I can have my say. As a team we have multiple goals, from stages to the general classification. I want to do my part. The big hope is that the weather will be, at least a little more fair than in Belgium…

“My approach was different to last year. It was good, because if I look beyond the results, the performances were always solid, like in the queen stages of UAE Tour, Volta Valenciana and Vuelta Extremadura. Every time the road went up, I was in front. The cold and bad weather affected my performance in the classics, but that’s part of the game.”

Lizzie Deignan:

“I’m happy to have recovered in time for the Vuelta, I’m really looking forward to it and getting the first stage race of my season under my belt. It was obviously disappointing to crash out of Flanders and I definitely missed racing the remaining Classics. However, everything has gone really smoothly since and my recovery has maybe been better than we even expected so it’s great to be in a position to be able to resume racing already.

“In terms of my expectations for the race, it will firstly be to get through the eight days safely and to be stronger at the end that I am at the beginning. To be at the start line in a team role is really nice and it’s a good chance to build my form as it means I can get loads of work done, and that’s what I need. Overall, we have a really strong group of women racing and I think it’s going to be a good chance for us to keep the momentum we built in the Spring Classics going and to get some more results.”

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