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Katrine Aalerud wins GC, Ottestad the stage in great day for Norway in Andalucia

Heading into the final stage of the 2023 Vuelta a Andalucia, it looked like Tamara Dronova had done enough yesterday to secure the GC win and just needed to see it home for the win. However, a poorly timed dropped chain near the summit of an early Cat 1 climb allowed her GC rivals Katrine Aalerud and Mie Bjørndal Ottestad to get clear and gain a gap. With no teammates and the chase marked by Movistar riders, there was no way back for Dronova who went from a strong GC position to finishing 3rd, 29 seconds behind Aalerud.

The final stage of 93.9km included an early hazard in the Hancho de Gaucín climb. A hard stint from Agua Marina Espinola reduced the peloton to just 25 riders and then handed the pace-setting to Stade Rochelais rider Lotte Claes. The mechanical around 1km from the summit affected Dronova who had looked otherwise secure and found herself back in a chasing group with a job to do. Lotte Claes led over the summit joined by Aalerud and Ottestad and the trio had a gap of 40″ back to Jessenia Meneses, who was confirmed as the QOM winner on the climb, Yulia Biriukova and Sara Martin. Dronova was another 20″ behind with Debora Silvestri and Maeva Squiban (a teammate of Claes’).

After the descent, the chase group had a regrouping and whilst only 35″ behind the lead trio, the group politics where Dronova as race leader had to do the bulk of the work for her own chances negated any numerical advantage. Especially with Sara Martin and Maeva Squiban in there no prepared to work to chase down their own teammates. Whilst the balance hung until quite late on, once the gap started to trend outwards on the final lumps instead of closing, it became a done deal. With bonus seconds available on the line, the GC hopes of Dronova now looked terminal.

The Norwegian pair had managed to distance Claes, who was set for 3rd place. In a hard sprint, it was Mie Bjørndal Ottestad who had the fastest finish to take the stage win whilst Aalerud took the GC honours.

“I feel super good. This is my first professional victory and on top of that, I finished second overall. It has been a very good day and I am very happy to have won today. After the climb, we had a considerable advantage and we worked well as a team. In the end, we kept extending the gap and managed to maintain it until the finish. I only attacked in the last kilometre, trying to leave Aaelrud behind to surpass her in the overall standings. However, she was very strong. I had never been to Andalucía before. It is a very beautiful, warm and sunny land. I would love to come back soon: it is a beautiful place for cycling.”

Mie Bjørndal Ottestad

“This stage has been very tough. We wanted to wear down Israel yesterday so they would come into today’s stage more tired, thinking that longer climbs like the Hancho de Gaucín suit me well. My team supported me and it has paid off. We came here to win stages and the overall… and we have achieved it. Once in the breakaway, my compatriot Ottestad and I worked together to reach the finish. We know each other, how could we not! Even though we were on different teams, we are from the same country and it was fun riding together.”

Katrine Aalerud

2023 Vuelta a Andalucia Stage 5 result

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