Henttala takes stage 1 victory at Vuelta a Burgos Feminas as Balsamo crashes out

Lotta Henttala of EF Education-Cannondale sprinted to victory in the first stage of the Vuelta a Burgos Feminas, overcoming a chaotic final sprint that saw Elisa Balsamo suffer a serious crash. Henttala surged past late attacker Carina Schrempf in the final metres to claim the win.

The 123.3-kilometre stage began with several attempts to break away from the peloton, but none succeeded in the early kilometres. Strong southwesterly winds kept the riders vigilant, anticipating echelons. After the first classified climb at 52km, the peloton split into three groups, during which Katrine Aalerud of Uno-X Mobility made her move.

Aalerud built a significant lead, extending her advantage to 3:30 minutes with 30km remaining. She maintained this gap for a considerable time as the peloton seemed reluctant to chase her down. She was first over the Alto de la Nuez and Alto del Aguilón, earning the red mountain jersey for stage 2. Floortje Mackaij attempted to bridge the gap but failed, and her teammate Claire Steels was also unable to catch Aalerud, being reeled in 15km from the line.

Demi-Vollering-2024-Vuelta-a-Burgos-Stage-1

By the final ten kilometres, Aalerud’s lead had reduced, and Femke Markus of SD Worx-Protime started chasing, eventually joined by her teammates Demi Vollering and Marlen Reusser. With 5km to go, the gap dropped below one minute. Agnieszka Skalniak-Sójka of Canyon-SRAM then attempted an attack from the peloton but was caught with 3.5km remaining, leaving Aalerud’s lead at just 20 seconds.

As the race neared the finish, the final rise to the 2km mark saw Aalerud’s solo effort come to an end. She was awarded the combativity prize in addition to the mountain jersey for her effort. Schrempf then launched a counterattack, creating a seven-second gap with her signature late move.

In the final kilometre, Lucinda Brand of Lidl-Trek pulled Clara Copponi off the front, but Liv-AlUla-Jayco closed the gap. Karlijn Swinkels began her lead-out for Sofia Bertizzolo with 300 metres to go. However, a crash involving Bertizzolo and Balsamo occurred after a late turn, pushing Balsamo into the barriers at high speed. Balsamo’s team later confirmed she had fractured her nasal bone and sustained a concussion, while Bertizzolo was taken to hospital for checks.

Swinkels briefly hesitated at the sound of the crash but then sprinted again. Meanwhile, Henttala jumped from Swinkels’ wheel, chasing down Schrempf and overtaking her in the last 50 metres to win the stage. Lorena Wiebes, who narrowly avoided the crash, sprinted to third place.

Henttala praised her team’s support after the race, saying, “There were some crosswinds today and I had a lot of help from my teammates, especially Nina [Kessler]. In the last 10 kilometres, she kept me calm, so I just wanted to stick to her wheel. She dropped me off at the front for the last little kickers, and Noemi [Rüegg] and Letizia [Borghesi] were there also helping me out on the front.”

Reflecting on the crash, Henttala added, “There was that unfortunate crash, so I hope everyone is OK, but when that happened, I decided to go then. I didn’t want to be on the ground.”

Wiebes, who had been on Balsamo’s wheel, expressed relief at avoiding the crash. “I sat in Elisa Balsamo’s wheel and was lucky that no bike fell my way. I could just avoid it and still managed to sprint to third place. I hope Elisa Balsamo and Sofia Bertizzolo are okay,” she said.

Henttala’s win marks her first victory since 2019, after taking a break for the birth of her son. She now leads the race as it heads into the second stage.

Lidl-Trek confirmed that Elisa Balsamo had suffered a fractured nasal bone, a concussion and a fractured metatarsal. Sofia Bertizzol was taken to hospital and her current situation in the aftermath of the crash is unknown.

2024 Vuelta a Burgos Feminas Stage 1 result

Results powered by FirstCycling.com

All photo credits: Getty