The Vuelta Comes To Valencia

The riders taking to the start line of La Vuelta Femenina 24 by Carrefour.es have arrived in Valencia, which is set to host the start of the Tour. The headquarters for all the pre-race operations has been set-up on the Museo de las Ciencias, one of the central facilities of the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias – the City of Arts and Sciences, a beautiful complex offering projections, exhibitions and workshops relating to many different fields of knowledge. Cycling’s temporary takeover of its space will last through Sunday, when the opening 16-kilometre Team Time Trial will start and finish in this iconic fixture of Valencia. The evening prior to the opening race, a team presentation will be held in Valencia, hosted by Eurosport journalist Laura Álvarez and women’s cycling specialist Celia López. The presentation will feature every rider participating in the race, as well as technical insights from race director Fernando Escartín and race ambassador Dori Ruano.

Three mountaintop finishes – and much more

“It is nice to see our events growing at this rate,” said Canyon//SRAM rider ‘Kasia’ Niewiadoma when asked about the evolution of La Vuelta Femenina 24 by Carrefour.es. The winner of the recent La Flèche Wallonne Femmes was referencing the fact that the tour has yet again expanded its schedule, this time by one stage – from seven in 2023 to eight this year. The Valencia TTT will light things up, followed by three relatively flat stages finishing in Moncofa (2nd stage), Teruel (3rd) and Zaragoza (4th) offering a chance for sprinters to aim for victory and, given the bonus seconds awarded in every finish line, potentially for the GC leader’s red jersey, known as La Roja. Some sprinters will also be able to contend in Sigüenza’s uphill finish (7th stage). The other three stages, however  will undoubtably be a climber’s affaire. Three mountaintop finishes, all of them previously featured in the men’s La Vuelta, are set to define the overall standings. First comes the steep ascent to Fuerte Rapitán (5th stage), in the outskirts of Jaca, followed by the dragging climb to Laguna Negra de Vinuesa (6th). The last, deciding stage will be held on Sunday, May 5th between the Distrito Telefónica in Madrid and the Valdesquí winter sport complex. The 12,8-kilometre final climb will be preceded by the 9,2-kilometre ascent to the Puerto de La Morcuera. Between both passes and some lumpy terrain, there will be a total of 1.870 metres of elevation gain in just 89,5 kilometres of racing to create a proper, thrilling mountain stage!

21 teams ready to challenge Movistar Team

The peloton of La Vuelta Femenina 24 by Carrefour.es will consist of 21 teams of 7 riders. 13 teams belong to the UCI Women’s WorldTour, the top tier in women’s cycling, while the remaining 8 are UCI Continental Teams. Among the entrants, three squads that have been present in each and every edition of the Spanish event, a recurrence dating back to the 2015 La Challenge by La Vuelta – these are UAE Team ADQ, the Netherlands’ Team dsm firmenich PostNL and Norway’s Coop-Repsol. By contrast, there are also four debutant teams. Three of them are WWT material: Belgium’s AG Insurance – Soudal Team, Fenix-Deceuninck, and USA’s EF Education-Cannondale, (not to be mistaken with the EF Education-TIBCO-SVB setup that did participate between 2021 and 2023 yet folded last winter.) From France, although with a Chinese title sponsor, comes the Winspace team. Each team will try to end the domination of the Movistar Team, the only Spanish Women’s WorldTour team and winner of the overall classification of both the last two editions of La Challenge by La Vuelta and the maiden La Vuelta Femenina by Carrefour.es thanks to Dutch legend Annemiek van Vleuten. 

Over the past week, every one of the 21 teams taking part in La Vuelta Femenina 24 by Carrefour.es has dropped a press release, a video or at the very least a tweet to reveal its seven-woman squad for the race. Team dsm firmenich PostNL was the only team to uniquely disclose its roster with an original painting, painted by one of the team’s riders, England’s Abi Smith. “I have always enjoyed drawing and painting, and after high school I studied Arts,” she explained. It was only natural that this former triathlete from North Yorkshire would at some point try to combine both her passions – the brush and the bike. “The media team at DSM had seen some of my artwork. They presented a few ideas to me, the main one being the creation of a piece to announce the Vuelta Femenina squad. Collectively we thought of painting the rider names on a section of road, because it is an iconic view for Grand Tours.” Smith’s creativity goes even further: she is also into ‘Strava Art’, which translates as drawing figures on the map with her rides. “That came about through boredom during lockdown,” she smiles. There are in fact butterflies, elephants and cats all over her Strava page. “Sometimes I even go off-road in order to complete a drawing!” she laughs.

A shout-out to local cycling in Valencia

Legacy is as important as racing for La Vuelta Femenina 24 by Carrefour.es. In order to promote local cycling, the Spanish event has invited the UPV cycling team to participate in the opening 16-kilometre Team Time Trial. UPV is short for Universitat Politècnica de València, a University near the Malvarrosa beach that has strengthened its cycling program this winter. More than 50 riders, from the U16 category up to the Elite ranks, ride on this outfit. Most of them are Spanish cyclists, like former Spanish U23 ITT vice-champion María Banllés or track rider Isabel Ferreres, yet there is also space for international talents such as Dutch globetrotter Nicolien Luijstenburg and Paraguay’s brilliant Junior prospect Flor Revetria. On Sunday, two seven-strong UPV squads will take on the TTT from 15.20 and 15.25 CEST. Half an hour later, at 15.56, the first participating team of La Vuelta Femenina 24 by Carrefour.es will roll out the start ramp.

La Vuelta promises to be a thrilling spectacle of women’s cycling and up-and-coming talent with this talented mix of teams participating.

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