This year’s Vuelta Femenina took a turn into a new phase with the first summit finish of this year’s race. Demi Vollering took the victory in a head vs head sprint against Annemiek van Vleuten. The theme of 2023 continued though with Vollering just too strong for last year’s triple-GT winner. The victory places Vollering into the leader’s red jersey for the first time with a gap of only 5 seconds on Van Vleuten, leaving everything still to ride for.
The early riding was dominated by the major climb of Puerto de Navafría – a long one of 11.5km at 5.8% – that created chaos in the peloton. FDJ-Suez set the tempo and whittled the peloton down and down, with Marianne Vos dropping around 4km from the top. Big names like Liane Lippert and Kasia Niewiadoma were also distanced and only a group of around 20 riders were left over the summit. That meant a long long chase to the finish, mostly led by Movistar which did eventually get them almost onto the back of the lead group late on.
It was about 60 kilometres of racing between the pair of major climbs, often on rolling terrain, that saw the gap between the groups managed effectively. A crash in this section for Niamh Fisher-Black harmed the strength of SD Worx. It happened whilst taking a bottle from team leader Vollering, only for Mavi Garcia to move across and accidentally swipe the New Zealander’s front wheel leaving her nowhere to go. Ane Santesteban also went down but was able to quickly rejoin whilst Fisher-Black had to wait for a slow bike change and then have the convoy of cars provide no assistance due to a call by the commissaires. At the end of the stage, she was visibly distraught at having lost time in such a fashion.
At the intermediate sprint, Riejanne Markus took the full 6 bonus seconds ahead of Dygert and Uijen. The positioning of that sprint was a tough odd, coming barely 2km before the base of the final climb. The Vos/Lippert group could see the lead group just ahead but never quite joined up before the pace increased but picked their way through riders falling backwards up the climb.
That was largely down to the pace of Gaia Realini and Demi Vollering on the front. However as the pace increased on a steeper section it came down to just Vollering, Van Vleuten and Bauernfeind on the front. Van Vleuten tried to lead it out and close out the angle of attack but Vollering found a gap and set a strong pace that had her rival out of the saddle sawing the bars from side to side in a desperate attempt to get back on terms. It wasn’t to be though as Vollering won by a handful of seconds on Van Vleuten ahead of Bauernfeind in 3rd – her strongest WWT result in her young career. Yesterday’s winner Marianne Vos slid down to 13th in GC.
“This was a very tough day. Initially, it looked good, because we were with three riders at the front. Unfortunately, Niamh fell, while she was very strong. That was not good for us and we hoped she could still come back, but yes…I was therefore determined to win this really tough stage.
I wanted to ride my own pace, because I knew I could keep it up for a long time. I wanted to release as many riders as possible there. In the end, we were three left. When Annemiek wanted to get over me, I knew I had to give it my all. I thought I started my sprint too early, but was lucky enough to win.”Demi Vollering
“I’m really happy to get third place at La Vuelta Femenina by Carrefour. The climb was hard, and I was happy to look around at one point and see that we had only about ten riders left in the front group. I could keep the pace until Demi started the sprint to the line, and I couldn’t go with it. But overall, it was a good day. We also now have Elise in a good position on GC, and I think that she can aim for even better. We’re looking forward to another two stages.”Ricarda Bauernfeind
2023 Vuelta Femenina Stage 5 result
Results powered by FirstCycling.com
Main photo credit: Getty Images