Annemiek van Vleuten secured the win at the Ceratizit Challenge today after not losing any time, with Elisa Balsamo winning the final stage. In her final race in this spell in the rainbow bands, Elisa Balsamo comfortably took the sprint, arms aloft as she crossed the finish line. The centre of Madrid saw the final stage of the 2022 edition of the Ceratizit Challenge and the centre stage for a triple crown victory by Annemiek van Vleuten, who has won the Ceraitiz Challenge, Giro Donne and Tour de France Femmes in the same season – a first.
This stage was expected to finish in a sprint and it went to plan. A break containing Karlijn Achtereekte, Sara Poidevin, Sandra Alonso and Nina Buijsman was left to dangle in front of the peloton for most of the 100-kilometre stage. The circuit contained slow hairpins, that bunched up the group and naturally let to small splits on the exit each lap. Van Vleuten was even seen holding onto one of the barriers as the peloton crawled round the corner.
The peloton didn’t give the break the amount of space that it gave Anna Kiesenhofer the other day and with 4 laps to go (22km) the gap was only 30 seconds. A small crash saw Maria Giulia Confalonieri fall but she was able to catch back up. With 10km to go, the bunch was caught and the sprint trains began to fire into action. Marlen Reusser did a big turn for her sprinter, Lotte Kopecky until Movistar took over with ambitions for Emma Norsgaard.
Demi Vollering was the last to lead out for Kopecky but Trek Segafredo came from left-field with a late attack from Elisa Longo Borghini. The Italian almost saw it through to the line as the sprint teams all looked at each other for a time. As they closed the gap, Elisa Balsamo timed her sprint to perfection to take a clear victory. Lotte Kopecky was second and the now not retiring Marta Bastianelli was 3rd in Madrid.
After a couple of splits from riding at the back of the peloton, Annemiek van Vleuten was able to safely finish in the pack and complete the victory for a remarkable year.
“The question marks I had are gone. I’m actually in my Tour de France form. That is good for self-confidence. Who are my competitors and how am I doing? There was a bit of a wait after I didn’t do anything for two weeks. I had some fatigue in my body, so I was curious about how I was doing.
But I’m going to Australia with a good feeling. Those question marks are gone. I’m actually in my Tour de France form. The World Championships is really my last big goal of the year: spring, the combination Giro-Tour and the World Championships. The road race has a nice course, but that’s not quite right for me. But there are certainly opportunities for the Netherlands.Annemiek van Vleuten