Trek-Segafredo put down a marker by winning the opening stage team trial at the Ceratizit challenge by La Vuelta on Wednesday.
The US registered team covered the 19.9km race in northern Spain in a time of 23.31, beating their nearest challengers, BikeExchange-Jayco by six seconds. FDJ-SUEZ-Futuroscope finished third, a further five seconds down.
After winning the Vårgårda team time trial just under five weeks ago Trek-Segafredo started the day as the squad to be and so it proved, finishing with only the required four women from their six starters, they covered the final kilometre in less than a minute, setting a time of 23-31.
Elisa Longo Borghini was first across the line and will wear the red leader’s jersey going into the second of the race’s five stages, and as their best climber, has a genuine shot at overall victory.
Defending champion Annemiek van Vleuten got off to a good defence of her title, her Movistar team finishing fifth, only only 25 seconds behind the winners. Two stage wins saw the Dutch rider win last year’s race conclusively, and she will be hoping for a repeat this year.
Victory would be a remarkable achievement, and mean she had won the women’s versions of all three grand tours in one year, all within 10 weeks of each other, and on the first time such a feat was available.
How it happened
For 2022 the Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta has expanded once again. First ran in 2015 the opening three editions were one day races ridden around the men’s Vuelta finish circuit in Madrid. In 2018 organisers added a team time trial in a Madrid suburb, switching that to an individual effort on the same course the following year.
In 2020 an opening road stage was added before it became a proper gnarly four stage race with a mountain time trial and very tough hilly day around the north-western province of Galicia.
This year’s five day race is the last to be run alongside the men’s Vuelta, as next season’s race will grow more and move to May as part of a block of Spanish WorldTour stage races next spring.
For 2022 though, the race began with a 19.9km team time trial starting and finishing in Marina de Cudeyo, just a short ride east of Santander on the country's northern coast, the race looping clockwise to the coast and back.
First down the ramp were Rio Meira-Cantabria Deporte. Riding in their home region, they have not raced a UCI event outside Spain this year, and Wednesday was their first WorldTour race for the year. And that showed, their six women eventually finishing last, almost five minutes down.
Another Spanish team, Soltec were third down the ramp, and included Olympic road race champion and time trial specialist Anna Kiesenhofer among their international squad. But even with Kiesenhofer’s talent they managed only 20th place.
Sixth to start, Human Powered Health were the first WorldTour team to start, and briefly took the lead with 25-49, but they were bested first by UNO-X and then by Ceratizit-WNT, whose 24-52 saw them settle into the hot seat.
But they had little time to get comfortable, as BikeExchange-Jayco smashed their time, clocking 23-37, an average of more than 48kph. They were pushed close by FDJ-SUEZ-Futuroscope, the French team finishing only five seconds down, but the Australian squad’s effort was good enough for the day’s podium, putting Ane Santesteban and Kristen Faulkner in strong positions for the rest of the race.
For its second stage the peloton remains in the northern region of Cantabria, heading a few kilometres east for a winding, circuitous 105.9 stage covering five classified climbs where the GC should begin to take proper shape.
Result Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta, stage one: Marina de Cudeyo - Marina de Cudeyo Race (19.9km)
1. Trek-Segafredo (USA) in 23-31
2. BikeExchange-Jayco (Aus) at 06 sec
3. FDJ-SUEZ-Futuroscope (Fra) at 11 sec
4. SDWorx (Ned) at 23 sec
5. Movistar (Esp) at 25 sec
6. DSM (Ned) at 44 sec
7. Canyon-SRAM (Ger) at 59 sec
8. Jumbo-Visma (Ned) at 1-01
9. Ceratizit-WNT (Ger) at 1-21
10. UAE ADQ (UAE) at 1-28
General classification after stage one
1. Elisa Longo Borghini (Ita) Trek-Segafredo in 23-31
2. Elynor Bäckstedt (GBr) Trek-Segafredo
3. Shirin van Anrooij (Ned) Trek-Segafredo
4. Elisa Balsamo (Ita) Trek-Segafredo all at same time
5. Georgia Williams (NZ) BikeExchange-Jayco at 06 sec
6. Alex Manly (Aus) BikeExchange-Jayco
7. Kristen Faulkner (USA) BikeExchange-Jayco
8. Ane Santesteban (Esp) BikeExchange-Jayco
9. Ruby Roseman-Gannon (Aus) BikeExchange-Jayco all at same time
10. Grace Brown (Aus) FDJ-SUEZ-Futuroscope at 11 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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