By Owen Rogers
After regular top ten finishes in recent seasons, Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig finally won a WorldTour race at stage three of the Vuelta a Burgos.
The Danish rider won the hilltop sprint at Ojo Guareña with a clever, well-timed sprint from a group of around 15 women.
With the finish line in sight, around 300m Kasia Niewiadoma launched her sprint first, but Uttrup Ludwig was aware, coming over the top and winning the sprint, ahead of the Polish rider.
World champion Anna van der Breggen (SDWorx) was third, while her team-mate Niamh Fisher-Black was fifth and takes over the race lead with one stage to go.
FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope have been improving steadily in recent seasons and today was a perfect example of their teamwork. Uttrup Ludwig had followed a move earlier in the day, but when that was caught her French team-mate Evita Muzic headed up the road.
Though that move was brought back it showed the French squad’s increasing confidence to dictate races, after Muzic took their first top tier win at the 2020 Giro Rosa.
Uttrup Ludwig has come close many times in recent seasons and some excellent victories to her name in lower-level races, but she began this year with the ambition of winning a WorldTour race.
How it happened
Another hilly day awaited the riders on the third stage of the 2021 Women’s WorldTour’s first multi-day race. Starting in Medina de Pomar the 115.4km route took the riders south on undulating roads, before turning north towards the first of two classified climbs, Alto de las Hoyas.
Coming at the end of a long drag, this climb also prefaced a difficult final 20km, with two unclassified digs before the finish at the top of the final classified climb at Ojo Guareña.
Though there were a couple of short-lived moves, the bunch stayed together on an opening loop which saw them re-cross the start line. It was only with 32km done that anyone got away, three women getting a small gap before a determined peloton dragged them back.
More groups tried the same thing, but the dominant peloton reacted the same way. Only with 45km gone did Australian champion Sarah Roy (BikeExchange) get away, accompanied two Brits, Sophie Wright (Alé-BTC Ljubljana) and former national champion Hannah Barnes (Canyon-SRAM), whose team-mate Elsie Chabbey led the race overall.
However, despite the group gaining a lead approaching 30 seconds, they too were caught and the race settled, the more aggressive riders thwarted by the dominant peloton.
Only on the first classified climb did the action kick-off, when Spanish champion Mavi García (Alé-BTC Ljubljana) attacked with best young rider, and former New Zealand champion Niamh Fisher-Black.
Though García was caught immediately, Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope) then went and when they were joined by Pauliena Rooijakkers (Liv Racing) we had three women in what looked to be a promising break with only 21km to go.
However, despite the bunch being reduced to only around 35 women they were caught after the descent, when two more women went away, including Uttrup Ludwig’s team-mate, Evita Muzic. She was joined by Sabrina Stultiens (Liv Racing) meaning we had two of the same teams represented up the road.
However, both Stultiens and Muzic both excellent climbers, both began the day only five seconds down on GC and were caught as the Canyon-SRAM team of overall leader Chabbey went to work, Omer Shapira rinding an infernal pace.
Over the top of one of the unclassified climbs, six kilometres from the line Chabbey attacked, SDWorx’s Karol-Ann Canuel sitting resolutely on her wheel, all five of her team-mates safe in the chasing pack.
The pair still led onto the final climb, but were swept up, with Bike Exchange’s stage one winner Grace Brown setting the pace.
Tomorrow’s final stage is the longest and toughest of the four, the 121.6km race fishing at the top of the 12km “Especial” climb to Lagunas de Neila. Not only do SDWorx have the overall lead they also have here other excellent climbers in the top ten, though Fisher-Black is perhaps best placed to win overall.
Vuelta a Burgos Feminas stage 3, Medina de Pomar - Ojo Guareña (115.4km)
1. Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Den) FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope in 3-00-28
2. Kasia Niewiadoma (Pol) Canyon-SRAM
3. Anna van der Breggen (Ned) SDWorx
4. Elisa Longo Borghini (Ita) Trek-Segafredo, all at same time
5. Niamh Fisher Black (NZ) SDWorx, at 3 seconds
6. Mavi García (Esp) Alé-BTC Ljubljana
7. Demi Vollering (Ned) SDWorx
8. Annemiek van Vleuten (Ned) Movistar
9. Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (RSA) SDWorx
10. Soraya Paladin (Ita) Liv Racing all same time
General classification after stage 3
1. Niamh Fisher Black (NZ) SDWorx in 7-59-38
2. Grace Brown (Aus) BikeExchange, at same time
3. Kasia Niewiadoma (Pol) Canyon-SRAM, at 2 seconds
4. Elisa Longo Borghini (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
5. Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Den) FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope
6. Anna van der Breggen (Ned) SDWorx, all at same time
7. Demi Vollering (Ned) SDWorx at 5s
8. Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (RSA) SDWorx
9. Soraya Paladin (Ita) Liv Racing
10. Ane Santesteban (Esp) BikeExchange, all at same time
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