By Owen Rogers
After her outstanding solo win on stage three, Annemiek van Vleuten sealed the overall title at the Challenge by La Vuelta on Sunday as Lotte Kopecky took the final day's honours.
Now fully recovered after her Olympic track crashes, Kopecky outsprinted Elisa Longo Borghini who was second. Brit Anna Henderson took third place, her best WorldTour finish.
The stage looked set for another solo win, with Van Vleuten’s Movistar team mate, Leah Thomas, escaping a break late in the day, but as she entered Santiago de Compostela her lead was reduced and she was caught with 300m to go.
Longo Borghini attacked on the first of two steep digs into the city, passing the American lone leader, but with Kopecky sat patiently on her wheel, the Belgian knew should would out-sprint the Italian champion and that is what duly transpired.
Van Vleuten’s win was based on her stunning stage three solo, and she also won the previous stage's time trial. Aged 38, she has won 11 times in just 33 race days this season.
How it happened
After three hard days of climbing and heat, many will have breathed a huge sigh of relief when they checked the road book and found no classified climbs on the stage four menu. Starting not far from Galicia’s northern coast in the village of As Pontes, the route took the peloton 107.4km south west, through rolling terrain to Santiago Compostela and a probable bunch sprint.
With the GC decided, barring disaster, the final stage was ridden at frantic pace, far in excess of the organiser’s fastest schedule, with the entire peloton split in two large parts, though from the front group a number of smaller groups attempted to get away.
Eventually 13 women got a gap, world champion Anna van der Breggen (SDWorx) among them, as were two of Van Vleuten’s Movistar teammates, Leah Thomas and Sara Martín.
Upon reaching the day’s final 25km, that group shrunk to only four, with Van der Breggen and Thomas joined by Shirin van Anrooij (Trek-Segafredo) and Alena Amialiusik (Canyon-SRAM) who had a lead of 1-10.
With Liv Racing, Valcar Travel and Service and Jumbo-Visma leading the chase and Jumbo doing the work to bring it back, on a small rise 10km from the line Thomas made move off the front of the leading group, instantly expanding the gap from the front to the peloton.
With the help of her Movistar team mates in the peloton the gap was growing, reaching over 40 seconds, but when Liv Racing came to the front it dropped drastically.
However, Thomas hit the eight percent incline into the city centre on her own, but as she reached 400m to go she was overtaken by Elisa Longo Borghini and the sprint was set which Kopecky was to win.
Result: Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta, stage four: As Pontes - Santiago de Compostela (107.4km)
1. Lotte Kopecky (Bel) Liv Racing in 2-29-37
2. Elisa Longo Borghini (Ita) Trek-Segafredo at same time
3. Anna Henderson (Gbr) Jumbo-Visma a4 04 sec
4. Kata Blanka Vas (Hun) SDWorx at 06 sec
5. Silivia Zanardi (Ita) BePink
6. Elisa Balsamo (Ita) BePink
7. Kasia Niewiadoma (Pol) Canyon-SRAM all at same time
8. Liane Lippert (Ger) DSM at 08 sec
9. Floortje Mackaij (Ned) DSM
10. Riejanne Markus (Ned) Jumbo-Visma
General classification after stage four
1. Annemiek van Vleuten (Ned) Movistar in 6-10-25
2. Marlen Reusser (Sui) Ale2-BTC Ljubljana at 1-34
3. Elise Chabbey (Sui) Canyon-SRAM at 3-12
4. Marta Cavalli (Ita) FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope at 3-30
5. Liane Lippert (Ger) DSM at 3-59
6. Kasia Niewiadoma (Pol) Canyon-SRAM at 4-04
7. Elisa Longo Borghini (Ita) Trek-Segafredo at 4-13
8. Floortje Mckaij (Ned) DSM at 4-38
9. Kata Blanka Vas (Hun) SDWorx at 4-57
10. Pauliena Rooijakkers (Ned) Liv Racing at 7-58
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