Lorena Wiebes won the opening stage of the three day Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta on Friday.
The Sunweb rider took her second consecutive WorldTour win, out sprinting her rivals on the uphill ramp into Escalona, west of Madrid.
Despite a crash just before, the peloton arrived at the flamme rouge together, and as the road ramped up towards the finish line in Escalona it was the Dutch woman who came to the front, crossing the line well ahead of Elisa Balsamo (Valcar Travel and Service) and last year’s winner Lisa Brennauer (Ceratizit-WNT).
British champion Alice Barnes (Canyon-SRAM) was fifth, though there was a gap between her and fourth placed Jelena Erić (Movistar).
In its sixth edition, the race has expanded over the years, with a time trial added in 2018 and a second road stage debuting this year. However Friday’s opening stage was not shown live despite UCI regulations requiring all Women’s WorldTour events have at least some coverage.
Cycling Weekly understands organisers Unipublic have spent much of the last week working closely with the UCI and have ensured Saturday’s individual time trial will at least be streamed on the race website. However, the two organisations were unable to put the required resources in place in time for Friday’s stage.
How it happened
The opening stage of the final race of the truncated 2020 Women’s WorldTour was held to the west of Madrid, between Toledo and Escalona.
With a strong tailwind blowing, the opening 15km was ridden at an eye watering 55kph, with no one willing or able to get away, especially with that wind set to become a cross wind half way through the 82.9km stage.
Finally, more than 25km into the day, Mireia Benito (Massi-Tactic) made a move, soon gaining an advantage of 40 seconds on the peloton.
However, inside the final 50km the race was stopped after being sent off course, though it was re-started with Benito’s gap maintained. However, as the race wore on the Spanish rider’s advantage began to reduce and she was eventually caught after a puncturing.
Inside the final 25km the race began to split in the cross winds, though that did not deter other attacks, but as the wind eased and the race headed towards the final 15km it all came back together.
Even then the attacks were not over, with regular aggressor Małgorzata Jasinska (Casa Dorada) breaking clear and entering the closing 10km with a lead of 30 seconds. Behind her though the bunch were set on a sprint, and she was caught with eight kilometres remaining, the race headed for the uphill sprint.
Tomorrow's second stage is a 9.3km individual time trial around the small commune of Boadilla del Monte, just outside Madrid. On her way to winning last year's overall, Brennauer won the identical stage in 2019, and after finishing on Friday's podium is well set to repeat her win in a race sponsored by her team's main backer.
Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta: stage one, Toldeo - Escalona (82.9km)
1. Lorena Wiebes (Ned) Sunweb in 2-00-16
2. Elisa Balsamo (Ita) Valcar Travel and Service
3. Lisa Brennauer (Ger) Ceratizit-WNT
4. Jelena Erić (Ser) Movistar all at same time
5. Alice Barnes (Gbr) Canyon-SRAM at 03 sec
6. Silvia Zanardi (Ita) BePink at 04 sec
7. Alexis Ryan (USA) Canyon-SRAM
8. Laura Asencio (Fra) Ceratizit-WNT
9. Vittoria Guazzini (Ita) Valcar Travel and Service
10. Sarah Roy (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott 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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