The 82km opening stage of the Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta from Toledo to Escalona finished in a bunch sprint today with Alice Barnes sprinting to fifth and Alexis Ryan also in the top ten in seventh place. The stage was won by Lorena Wiebes (SUN) from Elisa Balsamo (VAL).
“The plan was for Alice and I to go for the sprint finish. The wind made for a very fast race, but the peloton wasn’t organised enough to establish an echelon, and the few attacks that went were futile,” explained Alexis.
“Towards the end of the race we decided I would lead Alice out. We were both feeling good, but Alice has a good chance at doing well in the time trial tomorrow. I knew that giving her a chance at a top result would be our best chance at a GC podium. Unfortunately, we were separated coming into the last kilometre and my positioning was not good. I did my best to make up ground, but it wasn’t helpful to Alice which is disappointing,” said Alexis.
It was Alice’s second top ten result in a Women’s World Tour sprint finish in as many months after sprinting to fifth at Driedaagse Brugge – De Panne in October.
“The final 5km were fast with a left turn into a narrow bridge with 1km to go. I was in a good position still into the final right corner where it started to climb with 600m to go. It was a long, hard sprint up the last climb and then a grovel to the line” described Alice.
“I am fairly happy with the result and to be in the mix before tomorrow’s ITT stage. I just didn’t have the kick I needed out of the bottom corner with 600m to go.”
Alice’s teammate Ella Harris had her first race back after breaking her femur three months ago and was quietly pleased with her return.
“I felt far more comfortable in the bunch than anticipated and could move around fairly easily. Was a bit rude to have crosswinds in my first race back and I made a mistake in a roundabout which forced me to chase for a while, but according to my Garmin I set a new FTP so that’s a nice consolation prize,” joked Ella.
“I struggled a little when the pace was really high and had zero acceleration out of corners, but other than that I was pleasantly surprised with how normal it all felt,” said Ella.
The first rider in the ITT stage two will start at 11:00CET and the stage can be followed on Twitter with #UCIWWT and #CertizitChallenge20. Stage two and three will be broadcast live or with daily highlights on RTVE, Eurosport, ESPN, Supersport, ZhiboTV, FloBikes, DKTV2, GCN, JSports, TV2, Olympic Channel, RTVC Señal, SBS and SkySport.