Annemiek van Vleuten took another win at the Challenge by La Vuelta, but the Olympic champion didn’t have it all her own way, with Marlen Reusser taking second only 20 seconds back.
The result was perhaps predictable, Van Vleuten (Movistar) being not only among the world’s best testers, but also the preeminent climber, and stage two's 7km mountain time trial suited her perfectly.
However, Reusser (Alé-BTC Ljubljana) has been pushing the Dutch rider hard recently, finishing second at the Olympics, and having won the opening stage she started last so knew the time to aim for. The Swiss rider bested her rival’s time at the 3km intermediate check, eventually finishing only 20 seconds down, an advantage that sees her take a lead of 1-36 ahead of second overall.
Another rider who is improving race on race is Marta Cavalli, and the FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine rider finishing third, only 28 seconds behind Van Vleuten.
With two days to go the race is now intriguingly balanced, Van Vleuten in third overall, 1-39 down, with another mountainous stage coming on day three.
How it happened
A time trial was added to the Challenge by La Vuelta in 2018 and has remained a feature as the race expanded. However, in previous years the test was held on an undulating course around the Madrid suburb of Boadilla del Monte. though not super-steep, Friday’s race was a genuine mountain time trial in the Galician mountains.
Once again the race used the ski station at Montaña de Manzaneda, though rather than start by the resort buildings, riders would toil seven kilometres back up the mountain.
Having been the last rider across the line on stage one, BePink’s Silivia Valsecchi was first to start, bagging a time of 24-23, though that time was soon beaten by Cypriot, Antri Christoforou, the Burgos Women Team rider heading to the hot seat after clocking 22-17.
What followed was an exciting day, as riders kept on beating the best time, though only by small margins, the standings changing constantly. Trek-Segafredo’s 19-year-old Dutchwoman spent a good while at the head of affairs, clocking 21-18, before Slovenian Urška Žigart took over with 20-31, just ahead of Bike Exchange team-mate Amanda Spratt.
Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio’s intermediate time of 9-51 was the best of the day, though she was unable to achieve the tester’s holy grail of a negative split, the SD Worx rider fading badly in the second half.
Van Vleuten’s ride proved the point, clocking 9-56 at 3km, three seconds slower than Reusser would, she rode inexorably faster, finishing in 19-08.
Once again, for stage three the peloton will start at Montaña de Manzaneda, though unlike stage one after the descent there route does not relent, either climbing or descending throughout the entire 107.9km to Pereiro de Aguiar.
The day’s final classified climb comes 40km from the line though, so any GC challenge Van Vleuten makes will need to be a spectacular one.
Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta 2021, stage two: Estación de Montaña de Manzaneda to Estación de Montaña de Manzaneda (7km)
1. Annemiek van Vleuten (Ned) Movistar in 19-08
2. Marlen Reusser, (Sui) Alé-BTC Ljubljana at 20 sec
3. Marta Cavalli (Ita) FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope at 28 sec
4. Kristen Faulkner (USA) Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank at 48 sec
5. Leah Thomas (USA) Movistar at 59 sec
6. Juliette Labous (Fra) DSM at 1-00
7. Liane Lippert (Ger) DSM at 1-15
8. Kasia Niewiadoma (Pol) Canyon-SRAM at 1-20
9. Urška Žigart (Slo) BikeExchange at 1-23
10. Pauliena Rooijakkers (Ned) Liv Racing, at 1-24
General classification after stage two
1. Marlen Reusser (Sui) Alé-BTC Ljubljana, in 3-27-03
2. Pauliena Rooijakkers (Ned) Liv Racing, at 1-36
3. Annemiek van Vleuten (Ned) Movistar, at 1-39
4. Coryn Rivera (USA) DSM, at 1-45
5. Elise Chabbey (Sui) Canyon-SRAM, at 1-48
6. Marta Cavalli (Ita) FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope, at 2-06
7. Kristen Faulkner (USA) Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank, 2-26
8. Leah Thomas (USA) Movistar, at 2-37
9. Juliette Labous (Fra) DSM, at 2-54
10. Liane Lippert (Ger) DSM, at 2-54
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Owen Rogers is an experienced journalist, covering professional cycling and specialising in women's road racing. He has followed races such as the Women's Tour and Giro d'Italia Donne, live-tweeting from Women's WorldTour events as well as providing race reports, interviews, analysis and news stories. He has also worked for race teams, to provide post race reports and communications.
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