Cuban champion Arlenis Sierra won a tense and exciting Clásica Feminas de Navarra from a three woman sprint on Friday.
The AR Monex rider was dragged across to lone leader Annemiek van Vleuten inside the final 600m, before opening her sprint with just over 100m remaining and had time to relish her win in Pamplona.
After attacking from the chasing group and taking Sierra with her, US champion Ruth Winder was second, with Van Vleuten six seconds ahead of the bunch.
The European champion had been part of a four woman group which had gone clear on the 20 per cent slopes of the day’s final climb, some 11km out. However, Canyon-SRAM worked hard behind and, on a small unclassified dig with five kilometres to go they were caught, before reforming with six riders on the descent.
An imbalance of power in that group meant cooperation was hard to come by and when they were caught a bunch sprint seemed likely. However, Van Vleuten had other thoughts, going clear with around 1500m to go.
How it happened
The second of the two Navarra one day races was as hilly as the first, and for the second day running the bunch took on eight climbs, this time over 125.8km starting and finishing in Pamplona.
The day before, the longer climbs of Thursday’s Emakumeen Nafarroako Klasikoa was fertile hunting ground for the true climbers and it was no surprise when Annemiek van Vleuten took the win. The Movistar rider was pushed close though, with Demi Vollering (SD Worx) closing her down, and eventually finishing on the same time.
The shorter, though steeper climbs on Friday meant some of the punchier riders would be at the front with the same women who had competed for the win on Thursday. And after Thursday’s freezing rain sunshine brought another contrast.
The steep climbs did take their toll though on the bunch, with riders disconnected from the bunch one the steeper sections, many over 20 per cent, before getting back on the descents and flatter sections. Only with the first climb behind them, with 25km done was anyone able to get away, Alé-BTC Ljubljana’s Anastasia Chursina building a lead of 30 seconds.
Coming with 73km remaining, the Muro de Tiebas was the first of four walls coming in quick succession, and by the time Chursina reached the top she was caught, and the bend and break pattern in the bunch continued.
Over each of the climbs the group that emerged was smaller, though the concerted attacks only began inside the final 50km, Swiss champion Elise Chabbey (Canyon-SRAM) one of the early aggressors.
Ten kilometres later a move from Lucinda Brand (Trek-Segafredo) caused chaos, though it was Liv Racing’s Italian, Soraya Paladin who got away, while behind her the bunch took a breath and re-formed on a flatter section.
Paladin seemed far from committed to the attack though, and never gained more than 30 seconds advantage on a bunch which seemed happy to leave her dangling. However, after sitting off the front for around eight kilometres she was joined by former world champion Marta Bastianelli (Alé-BTC Ljubljana) and British rider Rachel Langdon (Instafund Racing).
With 20km to go, on the descent from fifth climb, Grace Brown (BikeExchange) made a move off the the front of the peloton, quickly catching the leading trio and getting a gap, and though she is dangerous in a solo move, she was not alone for long.
Joined by the ever aggressive Niamh Fisher-Black (SDWorx) and Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope), the three women made it onto the penultimate climb with a lead over 30 seconds.
However, with Van Vleuten’s Movistar squad setting the pace they were caught as the gradient ramped up towards 20 per cent. Here last year’s winner Van Vleuten predictably went to the front, with Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo), Marta Cavalli (FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope) and Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (SDWorx) on her wheel.
It was this group that made it to five kilometres to go, with Brand and Fisher-Black joining on the approach to Pamplona.
Clásica Feminas de Navarra, Pamplona - Pamplona (125.8km)
1. Arlenis Sierra (Cub) AR Monex in 3-17-00
2. Ruth Winder (USA) Trek-Segafredo
3. Annemiek van Vleuten (Ned) Movistar all at same time
4. Grace Brown (Aus) BikeExchange at 6 sec
5. Demi Vollering (Ned) SDWorx
6. Marta Cavalli (Ita) FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope
7. Emilia Fahlin (Swe) FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope
8. Sofia Bertizzolo (Ita) Liv Racing
9. Hannah Barnes (Gbr) Canyon-SRAM
10. Krista Doebel-Hickok (USA) Rally Cycling all at same time
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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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