Demi Vollering took an imperious second victory in stage two of Itzulia Women on Saturday, after yet another aggressive performance from her SDWorx squad.
The Dutch rider emerged from the final of six classified climbs leading a five woman group, which managed to hold off a concerted chase from behind. She then opened her sprint at the bottom of the final, steep 200m climb, eventually winning with relative ease.
Newcomer and French Canadian rider, Olivia Baril (Valcar Travel and Service) finished second, with Marta Cavalli (FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope) third.
Despite starting the three day race with only four riders, SDWorx dominated the latter stages of the day's parcours, all their riders making it onto the final classified climb, some 19km from the line.
On the lower steepest slopes they made their mark, Vollering, Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio and Niamh Fisher-Black all attacking, while Scot Anna Shackley worked on the front for a significant chunk.
With Vollering in the leading group, the Dutch based squad still had three remaining women in the chasing group, disrupting the pace and acting as an anchor.
With both stages now on her palmarès Vollering looks a good bet to take the GC after tomorrow’s closing stage, a 139.8km replica of last year’s women’s Donostia-San Sebastián Klasikoa, starting and finishing in the seaside city.
How it happened
In a route similar to stage five of the men’s race held last month, the second day of Itzulia Women began and finished in Mallabia, a brutal day in the Basque hills culminating with a Flèche Wallonne style climb to the line.
For the women’s race, though, that final was foreshortened, the race ending half way up the unclassified, but brutal ascent. Perhaps just as well, after the 117.9km stage covered six classified climbs among the otherwise hilly terrain making for a very tough test.
As with stage one, the first of the climbs came straight from the flag, the bunch staying together over the top, five kilometres in. On the next ascent though it began to fall apart, the peloton down to around 50 riders as they crested the second climb and 30 over the third.
Three women managed to sneak away on the descent, with Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (SDWorx), Anastasia Carbonari (Valcar Travel and Service) and Alicia Gonzalez (Movistar) getting a small gap.
They were soon brought back with the fourth classified climb sending another group up the road.
The only Ukrainian in the bunch, Yulia Biriukova (Arkea) led; she was joined by Marta Jaskulska (Liv-Xstra), Anastasia Carbonari (Valcar Travel and Service), Tatiana Guderzo (Top Girls Fassa Bortolo) and Sheyla Gutierrez (Movistar), the group leading the bunch by one minute with 50km remaining.
Behind them Shirin van Anrooij (Trek-Segafredo) and Nadia Quagliotto (BePink) were chasing, eventually making the catch and forming a leading group of seven with 43km left to race.
Biriukova was allowed to collect the bonuses across the intermediate sprint - which might have been a classified climb in other races - in Mallabia, but the seven women persevered, with the peloton closing them down ahead of the final climb.
Nearly seven kilometres at an average of 5.6%, Karabieta was the hardest climb of the day, early ramps of 15% and later slopes of 11% making it one where action was expected. Second overall with Pauliena Rooijakkers, Canyon-SRAM did much of the work to bring the leaders back.
The escapees were finally caught on the lower slopes where, almost instantly, overall leader Demi Vollering (SDWorx) lifted the pace to thin out an already diminishing peloton. Her team then played a one two, three and four with Niamh Fisher-Black then Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio attacking and British rider Anna Shackley working on the front, all further reducing the numbers in the bunch.
A move from Marta Cavalli (FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope) was the catalyst though. The Flèche Wallonne winner opened a small gap which Vollering closed, forming the winning group who went over the top of the climb and headed to the final with a gap of 35 seconds.
A larger group came close to catching the leading quintet, but when Pauliena Rooijakkers (Canyon-SRAM) upped the pace, they were unable to get back on. Knowing she didn’t have the explosiveness to win on the steep final climb, Rooijakkers attacked hard inside the final kilometre but was caught at the bottom of the final dig.
Result Itzulia Women, stage 2: Mallabia - Mallabia (117.9km)
1. Demi Vollering (Ned) SDWorx in 3-16-08
2. Olivia Baril (Can) Valcar Travel and Service at .02 sec
3. Marta Cavalli (Ita) FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope at same time
4. Pauliena Rooijakkers (Ned) Canyon-SRAM at .04 sec
5. Juliette Labous (Fra) DSM at same time
6. Niamh Fisher-Black (NZL) SDWorx at 17 sec
7. Elise Chabbey (Sui) Canyon-SRAM
8. Floortje Mackaij (Ned) DSM
9. Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (RSA) SDWorx all at same time
10. Kristen Faulkner (USA) BikeExchange-Jayco at 20 sec
General classification after stage two
1. Demi Vollering (Ned) SDWorx in 6-11-01
2. Pauliena Rooijakkers (Ned) Canyon-SRAM at 22 sec
3. Kristen Faulkner (USA) BikeExchange-Jayco at 42 sec
4. Marta Cavalli (Ita) FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope at 1-00
6. Olivia Baril (Can) Valcar Travel and Service at 1-01
7. Juliette Labous (Fra) DSM at 1-08
8. Elise Chabbey (Sui) Canyon-SRAM at 1-22
9. Niamh Fisher-Black (NZL) SDWorx
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.
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