It was two stages and two second places for Lotta Henttala, making her racing comeback at the Setmana Ciclista-Volta Comunitat Valenciana Fèmines. In the opening stage, Lotta Henttala sprinted to a second place just behind former world champion Elisa Balsamo. It was her first race back after three years away from the peloton. Her son Olavi, who has just turned one, watched his mum’s comeback at the finish line.
“It was super special to have Olavi there,” said Lotta with a smile. “It’s super nice to be back, but it was hectic with a peloton of 160. I needed to find my place and rhythm again, which is normal of course. The team played an important role in that. We rode together really nicely until the final where I said I would do my own sprint and follow some wheels.”
The stage from Valencia to Sagunt was a pretty straightforward one, with one climb in the first half of the stage. Justine Ghekiere took mountain points by crossing the l’Oronet in second place. It was on the cards from the start that it would be a bunch kick in the streets of Sagunt and naturally Lotta was the woman for the job. She had claimed two stage wins there in 2019, including on the same finish as stage one.
“Jolien said I should go into the last corner as third or fourth place, which I did in fourth. I knew what to do but I hesitated a bit in the end and then braked a little. I don’t know why. But a second place after three years not racing is amazing. I can be happy with this because I got beaten by a former world champion.”
Ashleigh Moolman witnessed a team that worked really well together in their first race ever. The experienced South African rider was impressed.
“It was really amazing how the team spirit and the work we did at training camp translated in the race from the very first second. It was incredible to see how we rode together so well with good communication throughout the day. It was so nice to see how confidently calm Lotta was. I could see straight from the start she was happy, motivated and calm and knew we would have a result. It all came together and it’s special to be part of it. There are many amazing things still to come starting tomorrow.”
‘Tomorrow’ did indeed bring yet more amazing things with another second place for Lotta. In the streets of Vila-Real, the result was the same as in the first stage: Elisa Balsamo beat Lotta again, but the difference was considerably smaller despite the more difficult course.
“I felt good on the climbs. I am kind of surprised at how well I climbed. Ashleigh made me work so hard in training so now racing is almost easier,” Lotta laughed. “In the climbs, Lone and Anya kept me protected and took care of me which is really great. Then Gaia, Justine, Mireia and Ashleigh were with me in the final and the sprint went better than yesterday. I followed the wheels again in the final three kilometres but felt the race a bit in the legs in the final. Balsamo also has that track cycling speed in her legs and I have done more endurance. All in all, I am happy with today. Thinking about how last year a comeback wasn’t even on my mind and now this. It is so great to be part of this team and it just feels like gold being back.”