Marlen Reusser takes solo win on opening stage of Challenge by La Vuelta

The Swiss road champion attacked from a six-woman breakaway to ride on her own to victory

Challenge by La Vuelta stage one
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Marlen Reusser won another WorldTour stage in Spain on Thursday, taking the opening day of the Challenge by La Vuelta in a solo move.

The Swiss road champion made her way into a six-woman breakaway which formed on the day’s longest climb, before attacking in the final two kilometres and soloing to the line.

Second was American sprinter Coryn Rivera (DSM) with Reusser’s former team-mate and compatriot Elise Chabbey (Canyon-SRAM) third, with the peloton finishing 1-48 behind the winner.

Reusser’s move came in response to a second move from Chabbey, chasing her down before going straight over the top, leaving the others looking at each other and instantly getting a gap, taking the win by 22 seconds.

Though she is light on wins, none of the four remaining breakaway riders had wanted to take Rivera to the line, she is increasingly consistent but lacking the luck to have taken a hat full of wins over the summer.

Equally many will be fearing Reusser, who is proving herself as a real star this summer. After taking second in the Olympic time trial, she finished fourth in the mountain top finish at the Ladies Tour of Norway, before convincingly winning the time trial at last week’s Simac Ladies Tour, and she will hope to maintain her GC lead in tomorrow’s seven-kilometre uphill time trial.

How it happened

Newly expanded, for this year the race has moved away from Madrid, where all the previous editions have been run, adding a stage. Not only that, only the final stage could be classed as anywhere near flat, considerably altering the kind of riders on the start list.

The first three stages are based around the ski resort at Estación de Montaña de Manzaneda, around 60km from Ponferrada, where the 2014 worlds took place, and about 150km southeast of Santiago de Compostela.

Thursday’s stage one began with an 18km descent from the resort, before passing through the finish line in A Rúa and tackling the 145km climb of Alto de Portela. Though the top came just over halfway through the 118.7km stage it was likely to cause some significant gaps, especially as it was followed by a further ascent, before the 20km descent to the line.

Such was the unusual nature of the parcours, none of the riders had any firm predictions for the race.

As it was, the early slopes of the climb produced a breakaway of strong climbers. Lucy Kennedy (BikeExchange), Erica Magnaldi (Ceratizit-WNT), Marlen Reusser ( Alé-BTC Ljubljana), her Swiss compatriot Elise Chabbey (Canyon-SRAM), and Pauliena Rooijakkers (Liv Racing) quickly getting a gap of around one minute.

They were chased by Coryn Rivera (DSM), the American reaching them at the top of the climb, the six-woman group taking a lead of 1-15 onto the short descent, and ensuing lumpy plateau.

With the gap out at 2-15 both Kennedy and Magnaldi dropped back, though the advantage for the four remaining leaders remained over the two-minute mark as the day’s final 20km descent loomed.

Here, with the remaining three all contributing, Rivera began to sit on, wither saving herself of the earlier effort taking its toll.

With only 10km to go the breakaway appeared to have sealed the win, the gap stubbornly around two minutes, with only downhill left to ride, despite Trek-Segafredo and Annemiek van Vleuten’s Movistar team taking to the front.

At the front Olympic silver medallist against the clock Reusser did much of the work, thinking more of the stage two time trial and the general classification, while behind the bunch seemed content to allow the break the win.

Chabbey was most aggressive in the final, attacking a couple of times before Reusser made the decisive move


Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta 2021, stage one: Estación Invernal Cabeza de Manzaneda to A Rua (118.7km)

1. Marlen Reusser (Sui) Alé-BTC Ljubljana, in 3-07-46
2. Coryn Rivera (USA) DSM at 22 sec
3. Elise Chabbey (Sui) Canyon-SRAM
4. Pauliena Rooijakkers (Ned) Liv Racing all at same time
5. Elisa Balsamo (Ita) Valcar Travel and Service at 1-48
6. Anna Henderson (Gbr) Jumbo-Visma
7. Lotte Kopecky (Bel) Liv Racing
8. Alison Jackson (Can) Liv Racing
9. Marie Le Net (Fra) FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope
10. Floortje Mackaij (Ned) DSM all at same time

General classification after stage one

1. Marlen Reusser (Sui) Alé-BTC Ljubljana, in 3-07-46
2. Coryn Rivera (USA) DSM at 26 sec
3. Elise Chabbey (Sui) Canyon-SRAM, at 28s
4. Pauliena Rooijakkers (Ned) Liv Racing, at 32
5. Elisa Balsamo (Ita) Valcar Travel and Service at 1-58
6. Anna Henderson (Gbr) Jumbo-Visma
7. Lotte Kopecky (Bel) Liv Racing
8. Alison Jackson (Can) Liv Racing
9. Marie Le Net (Fra) FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope
10. Floortje Mackaij (Ned) DSM 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.