An aggressive performance from her SD Worx team was rewarded with victory for Demi Vollering at stage one of Itzulia Women on Friday.
The Dutch rider had been part of a late three woman group who took a lead of 40 seconds into the final, uphill kilometre. Compatriot Pauliena Rooijakkers (Canyon-SRAM) opened her sprint first, but Vollering was able to match her, only coming over the top on the steepest section in the final few metres.
American Kristen Faulkner (Bike Exchange-Jayco), who instigated the move, came home third after sitting on the two Dutchwomen when they caught her 11km for the line.
The top 10 was notable for having only four teams represented. SD Worx, Canyon-SRAM and BikeExchange-Jayco each had four there, with Liane Lippert the sole woman from DSM.
With the early break caught on the final classified climb, SD Worx managed to place two women in a four woman move over the top, Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio joining Vollering. When they were caught the Dutch based squad were responsible for much of the ensuing action, setting the scene for Vollering’s second win of the season.
After Friday’s tough, hilly and eventually hot day, there’s more to come in the remaining two days, with the Basque Country serving up a typically tough parcours. Saturday sees the peloton tackling 117.9km starting and finishing in Mallabia, and while the distance might not be huge, the six classified climbs and another uphill finish are the perfect canvas for another entertaining day.
How it happened
In its first edition as a stage race, Itzulia Women has an odd history. First introduced as a women’s version of the Klasikoa Donostia San Sebastián in 2019, the second year fell victim to the pandemic.
Then, for last season it was announced as a three day stage race, taking the place of the defunct Emakumeen Bira, a four day race in the Basque Country. However, once again Covid-19 did its worst and the 2021 event reverted to the one day format, running with the men’s San Sebastián last July.
That cold rainy edition was won by Annemiek van Veluten, the Movistar rider taking victory with a trademark solo effort. This year, finally, at the second time of asking, the race takes its place as a three day WorldTour race, part of a busy period of Spanish racing.
As the national race of the Spain’s autonomous Basque region, stage one rightfully began in the capital, Vitoria Gasteiz, heading south, briefly entering the neighbouring Castilla y León region, before looping clockwise around the Basque finish town of Bastida.
As is typical for Basque races the route was far from flat, with three classified climbs, the first beginning after only one kilometre of the 105.9km stage. The middle of the day was dominated by the other two climbs, including the particularly nasty Herrera ascent, but the race contained a nasty sting in the tail, the final kilometre all uphill with ramps of 20%.
The first climb started the moment the flag dropped, the peloton staying together over the Zaldiaran. Shortly after four women escaped clear, Prisca Savi (BePink), Anastasia Lebedeva (Eneicat-RBH Global), Cristina Tonetti (TopGirls Fassa Bortolo) and Mireia Benito (Massi Tactic) building a gap of about a minute.
Tonetti took the points at the intermediate sprint before, on the second climb, Lebedeva was dropped, the remaining three leaders building a lead of 2-30 on a DSM led peloton.
Though the bunch split on the climb, the pace was such that it was allowed to reform on the descent, the approach to the day’s final classified climb, Herrera.
At 6.8km with an average of 5.3%, ramps in excess of 14% made this a tough challenge, the breakaway falling apart and the peloton thinning again. The final breakaway rider was caught just head of the summit, before an attack over the top by Elise Chabbey (Canyon-SRAM) led three others in a small break.
The former Swiss champion was joined by Lucinda Brand (Trek-Segafredo) and the SD Worx pair of Demi Vollering and Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio, the quartet eking out a lead on a committed though uncoordinated chase.
Brand took the intermediate sprint in Laguardia, 27km from the line, her surge increasing the leaders’ advantage to 30 seconds. Not for long though, as they were brought back around 10km later, though the race refused to settle.
BikeExchange-Jayco’s Kristen Faulkner took a small lead into the final 15km, with a number of small groups pursuing unable to close the gap, but the American was working hard and it took a while for Pauliena Rooijakkers (Canyon-SRAM), accompanied by Vollering, to close her down.
With three at the front and Faulkner suffering in esteemed company, the BikeExchange-Jayco rider began missing turns, something her finishing position entirely justified, the two Dutch riders doing the majority of the work.
Into the final five kilometres and the three leaders had built an advantage of 40 seconds and it seemed they would fight for the win.
Itzulia Women, stage one: Vitoria Gasteiz - Bastida (105.9km)
1. Demi Vollering (Ned) SD Worx, in 2-55-17
2. Pauliena Rooijakkers (Ned) at same time
3. Kristen Faulkner (USA) BikeExchange-Jayco at .02 sec
4. Liane Lippert (Ger) DSM at 41 sec
5. Ane Santesteban (Esp) BikeExchange-Jayco
6. Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (RSA) SD Worx
7. Amanda Spratt (Aus) BikeExchange-Jayco
8. Elise Chabbey (Sui) Canyon-SRAM
9. Alena Amialiusik (-) Canyon-SRAM
10. Niamh Fisher-Black (NZL) SD Worx, all at same time
General classification after stage one
1. Demi Vollering (Ned) SD Worx, in 2-55-05
2. Pauiliena Rooijakkers (Ned) Canyon-SRAM racing at .06 sec
3. Kristen Faulkner (USA) BikeExchange-Jayco at 10 sec
4. Lucinda Brand (Ned) Trek-Segafredo at 50 sec
5. Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (RSA) SDWorx at 52 sec
6. Liane Lippert (Ger) DSM at 53 sec
7. Ane Santesteban (Esp) BikeExchange-Jayco
8. Amanda Spratt (Aus) BikeExchange
9. Elise Chabbey (Sui) Canyon-SRAM
10. Alena Amialiusik (-) Canyon-SRAM, all at same time
Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
Join now for unlimited access
Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
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.
Going virtual: An 'outdoor' cyclist tries Zwift and indoor riding for the first time
After holding out against it for years, one Cycling Weekly writer finally braves the world of online cycling, with mixed results
By Adam Becket • Published
How I dropped the weight and won a Tour de France time trial
Our new Lifetime Achievement award winner reveals how a move to Nice in the south of France helped lift his career to the next level
By James Shrubsall • Published
As Cristiano Ronaldo puts the boot in, Jumbo-Visma talk to Manchester United about tactics and managing egos
The Dutch team’s senior sports director has spoken to Manchester United’s manager for sporting advice
By Owen Rogers • Published
'It's a really absurd way of racing' - EF boss Jonathan Vaughters on WorldTour relegation scrap
EF Education-EasyPost manager says he hated racing for UCI points
By Tom Davidson • Published