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Gaia Realini takes first WWT win and Van Vleuten steals the red jersey away from SD Worx

Gaia Realini

Gaia Realini pipped Annemiek van Vleuten on the line after a hard-fought day that saw the experienced head of Van Vleuten steal a march on her rival Demi Vollering in the general classification fight. The biggest DNS of note today was Chloe Dygert, whose team pulled her from the running after 5 full-on stages to save her for future races. The win from Realini wasn’t without some controversy though, as Movistar fired up a planned attack whilst SD Worx were stopped for a natural break and sorting out a puncture for Femke Markus. Despite the team putting the hammer down to chase, they were offered no assistance for the 2nd day running from the commissaires and a gap was allowed to form.

With Movistar expending teammates to the full at the front and getting some assistance from other teams, there was no closing the gap for SD Worx who were put on the back foot for one of the few times in 2023. As the peloton reached the first climb of the day, Liane Lippert dug deep and set a pace that Annemiek van Vleuten could attack from. She was initially joined by GC rivals but such was the relentless pace she set, even they weren’t able to stick with the retiring star. The only rider who could was Trek Segafredo’s Gaia Realini who finds herself a bit further down the general classification due to missing out in the crosswinds on Stage 3.

Meanwhile, Demi Vollering was busy trying to close the gap and now out of teammates, so forced to do a hill climb effort to get close to the GC contenders group again. Marlen Reusser sat in that group waiting for her leader to come back up to her. A group containing Erica Magnaldi, Evita Muzic and Juliette Labous were between the lead pair and this group and their positioning allowed SD Worx to get some solid assistance from Canyon SRAM. Even though that came at the expense of Elise Chabbey’s GC hopes as she was shelled out of the back of the group whilst Kasia Niewiadoma was drilling it on the front.

Annemiek van Vleuten. 2023 La Vuelta Femenina. Stage 6: Castro Urdiales – Laredo. 6.5.2023.

When the trio ahead were caught, Canyon SRAM still generously helped out SD Worx, although Demi Vollering was seen remonstrating her breakaway companions to inspire them to work for her GC chances. As it was, the gap to Realini and Van Vleuten was coming down but much too slowly. As the pair entered under the flamme rouge, it was still around 75 seconds from them to Vollering. Van Vleuten led it out but it was the young Italian who was able to power to the line and take her first WWT victory.

The GC is now flipped on its head, with Van Vleuten in the red jersey, 61 seconds ahead of Demi Vollering in 2nd place. Riejanne Markus stays 3rd but 1’23” back, and the rest of the top 10 move up a spot due to the fall in the rankings of Elise Chabbey. Gaia Realini moves up to 11th place in GC, still 3’08” behind Annemiek van Vleuten.

Demi Vollering gave a fairly scathing interview to NOS post-stage.

“This is incredible. I really don’t have any words to describe how I’m feeling right now. I want to thank my teammates because they really have worked so hard for me, and Spratty, all week and even today, they were amazing pacing us into the climbs. It’s thanks to them that I was able to perform so well today. When the gap opened up to [Demi] Vollering, many teams were working to increase the distance between us and her group, to make sure it didn’t come back.

I was in a great position and then I was part of a strong five-rider front group. When Annemiek [van Vleuten] attacked, there was no cooperation to follow her so I knew I needed to bridge across to her. It was a now or never moment if I wanted to fight for the stage win. I just followed, followed, followed and stayed on her wheel.”

Gaia Realini

2023 Vuelta Femenina Stage 6 result

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Photo Credits: Sprint Cycling Agency