Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio beats Van Vleuten again for stage win and race lead

Moolman-Pasio Setmana Ciclista Valenciana 2023 Stage 3

Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio led home Amanda Spratt and Annemiek van Vleuten to take another victory over the World Champion after outclimbing her in the Tour de Romandie last season. The trio were able to gain a gap over all of their GC rivals before working together well enough to hold off the chase. Annemiek van Vleuten laid plenty of attacks but was unable to drop Spratt and Moolman-Pasio at the front of the race.

The day’s break saw the likes of Mireia Benito and Elise Uijen go clear, with Morgane Coston making headway into the Queen of the Mountains competition by picking off points all day. That moved her up to 3rd, just 1 point behind overnight leader Katia Ragusa. As the climbing got tougher, only Benito and Uijen remained at the front, and were caught by a trio of GC favourites bridging across.

As you’d expect, it was Annemiek van Vleuten trying to animate things in the peloton and whilst she managed to drop many, she also brought Moolman-Pasio and Spratt across with her. The expected solo blast was somewhat interrupted by having to play a different game. The final unclassified climb saw the last roll of the dice by Van Vleuten but there was nothing doing. The accelerations only dropped Uijen and Benito.

Coming into the finish, a final roundabout saw Moolman-Pasio the only rider to go round the left of it, an instruction from DS Jolien d’Hoore, and stole a march on her rivals. In what was a close sprint finish, it was enough for the South African to take the win. The bonus seconds awarded also took her into the race lead by 4″ on Spratt and 6″ on Van Vleuten. For Spratt, it’s her 5th second place of the 2023 season already.

“What a day! Oh, my word! The team was so incredible. Mireia was so committed. She went in the break which was the plan. She rode the race of her life and it couldn’t be more perfect. At the bottom of the climb to Tudons the gap her group had was still so big. It was clear the break would stick all the way to the top and it did. That gave me all the fighting spirit to stay with Annemiek van Vleuten.

Mireia was there at the top for me. It put our team at an advantage. Mireia fought so hard to come back and help me multiple times. Jolien also supported me from the car. She had done all the research for the final. She told me yesterday there is a roundabout at 300 metres to go and that I should go left if the stage ended in a sprint. That was the fastest line and it’s where I started my sprint. I did exactly what we planned.

It was such an amazing way to finish it off for the team. Everyone rode the most amazing race and I felt the support of the team. It’s something I have been missing for a while in my career. To have a team being so united and with such a great environment that believes in me 100%. Today it really shows and I am so happy to take the victory for this project.”

Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio

Main photo credit: Vicent Bravo

2023 Setmana Ciclista Valenciana Stage 3 result

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