Marta Bastianelli continued her excellent final year with general classification victory at the three day Festival Elsy Jacobs in Luxembourg over the weekend. The Italian former world champion won Saturday’s opening road stage, then held on for second place on the final day to seal the success.
After her stage win came on her 35th birthday, Sunday’s stage was far from straightforward though. She began the day in third place overall, seven seconds behind compatriot Silvia Persico (Valcar Travel and Service), with Dutch rider Demi Vollering (SDWorx) on the same time as the leader.
However, with both Persico and Vollering caught behind a crash on Sunday’s final 10km lap they were out of contention. The threat to Bastianelli’s victory came from an unlikely source, the stage won by first year professional, American Veronica Ewers (EF Education-Tibco-SVB), whose solo victory propelled her to second overall, just nine seconds behind the Italian.
In its 14th edition, the race has always had at least one stage starting or finishing in the village of Garnich, the birthplace of the woman who gave the race its name. Elsy Jacobs was a real pioneer of the women’s sport, she won the inaugural rainbows in 1958, the same year she broke the world hour record. she went on to race professionally around Europe, occasionally pitting herself against legend Beryl Burton.
How it happened
The three day event started with a short time trial in the organising club’s home town of Cessange, on the western edge of Luxembourg city. With a 14% opening slope, the 2.2km course was a tight and technical challenge.
Eighth down the ramp, Valcar Travel and Service’s Silvia Persico set a time of 3.13, less than one second slower than last year’s winning time, and was sat on the hot seat until Anna Henderson (Jumbo-Visma) crossed the line, third from last to finish.
Henderson, who raced in her British national time trial champion’s skinsuit for the first - and possibly last - time since winning the title last October, clocked a time of 3-09, enough to make her the first British stage winner in the race’s 14th edition.
Meanwhile, Demi Vollering, who was a late addition to the SDWorx roster, finished two seconds down, pushing Persico into third place.
The first road stage comprised a number of circuits around the Belgian border town of Steinfort, and the rolling terrain made for entertaining racing. An early solo breakaway didn’t last long, and SDWorx lit the race up on the testing classified climb, Scot, Anna Shackley and her New Zealand team mate Niamh Fisher-Black particularly aggressive.
Next time round young Italian Debora Silvestri (Top Girls Fassa Bortolo) headed up the road before being joined by Eugenia Bujak (UAE Team ADQ) and Marta Jaskulska (Liv-Xstra), the trio building a lead of 1-20.
However, they were never going to stay away as SDWorx once again lit it up, bringing them back and sending a six woman break up the road. Fisher-Black and Vollering were joined by Persico, Pauliena Rooijakkers (Canyon-SRAM) and the UAE Team ADQ pair of Marta Bastianelli and Sofia Bertizzolo.
Race leader Henderson missed the move and was leant on to close the gap, but was unable, while at the front Fisher-Black and Vollering worked for the latter’s GC chances. Led out by Bertizzolo, the uphill sprint was won by Bastianelli ahead of Persico and Vollering.
As so often is the case at Elsy Jacobs bonus seconds made the difference, and with a six second bonus for second place Persico took the yellow jersey, though only by fractions of a second from Vollering, setting up an exciting final day.
With the general classification so close the final day was expected to be a festival of attacking and so it proved.
Top Girls Fassa Bortolo were aggressive again, sending a rider in an early move, and when she was caught Silvestri attacked the climbs, besting Shackley and eventually taking the climber’s jersey from the Scot.
Then, for a second day Jaskulska was up the road, but after she was caught with 45km remaining the race refused to settle for more than a minute. SDWorx launched attack after attack, thinning the peloton, but they could not drop Persico or Bastianelli and a win for Vollering seemed increasingly less likely.
The Dutchwoman’s fate was sealed when she was caught behind a crash on the final lap which also ruined Persico’s hopes, but also took down a feisty looking Henderson looking for a second stage win.
Late in the stage Ewers made her move, and while time gaps were unreliable it seemed as though the young American might take the overall as well as a first professional win, but Bastianelli and her team were able to hold on eventually finishing with three in the top 10.
Result Festival Elsy Jacobs - Final General Classification
1. Marta Bastianelli (Ita) UAE Team ADQ in 6-12-31
2. Veronica Ewers (USA) EF Education-Tibco-SVB at .09 sec
3. Silvia Persico (Ita) Valcar Travel and Service at .16 sec
4. Demi Vollering (Ned) SDWorx at same time
5. Sofia Bertizzolo (Ita) UAE Team ADQ at .19 sec
6. Karlijn Swinkels (Ned) Jumbo-Visma at .20 sec
7. Olivia Baril (Can) Valcar Travel and Service at .27 sec
8. Maaike Boogaard (Ned) UAE Team ADQ
9. Mikayla Harvey (NZ) Canyon-SRAM all at same time
10. Pauliena Rooijakkers (Ned) Canyon-SRAM at 29 sec
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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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