Annemiek van Vleuten won her 4th major tour in a row with victory at this year’s Vuelta Femenina, although it was a close-run thing as her advantage earned yesterday was nearly overtaken by the efforts of Demi Vollering. Gaia Realini gamefully hung on to claim 2nd on the stage and boost herself up to 3rd overall as well. The Italian’s first major tour podium result.
The shortest stage of the Vuelta Femenina also had the toughest climb to balance things out and a solid summit finish. Going into the day, Van Vleuten had a lead of 71 seconds over Demi Vollering from yesterday’s stage, potentially enough of a buffer to defeat her younger rival. The early climb of Collado Moandi (12km at 4.6%) was a nice aperitif and an early break had gone clear but it was caught on this climb. SD Worx put to work to thin out the group and by the summit, only 15 riders were still in the bunch but the descent allowed some to regain contact. A fresh attack from Kasia Niewiadoma and Marlen Reusser was allowed to get a gap of a minute.
The two teams have worked hand in hand this Vuelta and their presence off the front forced Movistar and Jumbo-Visma to chase and us up their riders to make the pair of riders sitting in the top 10 on GC. Their attack lasted until the base of the final climb – the Lagos de Covadonga. The first attack from Vollering came around 10km from the summit and a second attack was launched at the moment when Van Vleuten had her arm aloft wanting to change bikes. Evita Muzic and Gaia Realini were gamefully hanging in there still but Riejanne Markus and Juliette Labous were already dropped.
The steepest section of the climb saw Muzic drop and Realini make a small error in shifting that saw her have to regain ground. The next rider to struggle was Van Vleuten herself and that meant Demi Vollering attacked again, sensing a chance to gain the time she needed. However, the world champion turned herself inside out to keep the lead pair within sight and within the time buffer she had. With 2km to go, the gap was up to 40 seconds and properly in the balance. However much of the final km doesn’t see as much climbing. The bonuses for the stage win at the finish were also going to come into play.
The thick fog on the summit meant that it was tough to establish gaps and what the time gaps might be. A short descent allowed Vollering to go clear and she comfortably took the stage victory and the stopwatches were started to see when Van Vleuten might appear. She crossed the line 56 seconds down on Demi Vollering, which when all was said and done saw her win the GC by just 9 seconds over her rival.
“I am super happy and very tired. But I kept fighting to the end. I didn’t have my best day either, maybe I still felt the efforts of yesterday. But I have not given up. In the end, it was very close. The team was great today, this is a real victory for the team.”Annemiek van Vleuten
“I am very happy that I could win here. The team fought very hard for it, because we had to make up for something after yesterday. Two stage victories with the team is very nice. The battle for the standings was very close, but if things had turned out differently yesterday, we would have won it too. It’s a pity I couldn’t compete against the best yesterday. But today I showed what we are worth and I am very happy with the fight we fought today.”Demi Vollering
2023 Vuelta Femenina Stage 7 result
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