The first stage of the Setmana Ciclista Valenciana led the riders over 107km from Gandia to Cullera. The stage was predominantly flat, and was expected to be concluded in a bunch sprint. The final few kilometres provided for some hectic racing, and there was a crash with 4km leading into the finish. However, Emma and her teammates were able to navigate their way around this safely, to go on to contest the bunch gallop in Cullera. After a superb lead-out, our Danish sprinter proved that she is well and truly back after a period away from racing due to injury last year, as she crossed the line in first place. Team Bigla-KATUSHA also won the prize for the best team on today’s opener.
After the stage, she concluded: “My team supported me really well the whole day, and it was very encouraging that they had faith in me to get a good result. It was also important that we knew that the finale was difficult, with some tricky corners and a dangerous downhill section, so we knew we had to be careful there. Thanks very much to my teammates, who protected me heading into the finale, and then did a perfect lead-out. I’m happy that I was able to reward all their hard work with the win today.”
Team manager Thomas Campana said: “We did a recon of this stage, and we knew that there was a very dangerous downhill section 4.5km ahead of the finish line. We practised this section several times in training, as we knew it could be dangerous. During the race, there were several crashes at this point in the course, but our riders managed to stay on the bike, and deliver Emma to the final kilometre in a good position. She then launched the perfect sprint in the finishing straight. It’s very rewarding to see a rider, who had been away from racing for almost a year, already come back to take a sprint victory in February. This win is very well deserved, both for Emma and the team. We are also leading the team classification, so it’s a perfect start to the race. When the race heads into the mountains, we’ll also have an opportunity to see what our climbers are capable of here, which we’re looking forward to very much.”
Image credit: Bettini / Photo Gomez Sport