On paper, Stage 3 of the Vuelta Femenina looked like the easy day of the race. No real climbs to worry about, the longest stage sure but pretty much flat on straight roads through La Manche. The weather forecast put paid to any ideas of an easy sprint day however but serving up a strong tail-crosswind in key sections. Annemiek van Vleuten has made several references before today about the Giro Rosa she lost in 2017 by getting caught out in echelons, so it was no surprise that Movistar lit the touchpaper today.
After a few attempts to form a break, including by Kerry Jonker, the real racing of the day kicked in with around 90km to go. Movistar set things up through a town and as they exited the built-up area and the terrain became open, they took their chance. The peloton blew to bits with riders split into 3 groups initially and followers desperately trying to work out who was in each group via photos. It became clear that Gaia Realini and Kristen Faulkner were the major GC favourites who hadn’t made the split and Trek Segafredo spent the rest of the stage committing riders to a fruitless chase to try and get the diminutive Italian back to the front.
But it wasn’t all smooth sailing for the front group as the roads changed direction and another attack out of a town saw the front of the race split. This time Silvia Persico and Mavi Garcia were caught out, although Garcia was able to bridge back up to the front and didn’t lose time today. The front group maintained its advantage though and those stuck in Group 2 and Group 3 were forced to leak time in the general classification that they would have hoped to avoid before the mountains.
When it came down to the sprint, riders like Marianne Vos, Charlotte Kool, Clara Copponi and Emma Norsgaard were all there to contest it. There was no early move from Dygert today but Charlotte Kool opened up her sprint right on the limit of distance to the line. As Kool went left, Marianne Vos went right and there was to be no repeat of the inadvertent lead-out Vos provided for Kool yesterday. The hard day of racing had taken a little bit of firepower out of the legs of yesterday’s winner so Marianne Vos was able to take the win and strengthen her grip on the leader’s jersey. Chloe Dygert finished 3rd again and is still within touching distance but the gap has opened up to 13 seconds.
The biggest losers in GC today were Kristen Faulkner (+3’34”), Marta Cavalli (+3’28”), and the Trek pair of Gaia Realini and Amanda Spratt (both on +3’12”).
Also of note is that this stage was the fastest ever Women’s WorldTour stage/race. The riders covered the 159km in 3:27:38 for an average speed of 45.7kph.
“This feels really good. Yesterday I was not far from the victory, and today there was a new chance. It was a difficult day to stay in position all the time, but above all I am very grateful for the work the team has done and happy that they put me in this position. I am happy that I could finish it in the final. We were prepared for those echelons.
You have to be focused, but the opening phase was very relaxed. Not much happened there. But you have to be ‘on’ for when the action starts. From the first echelons, the pace was consistently very good and it was important to stay in the leading group.”Marianne Vos
“I’m disappointed that I couldn’t finish it, The whole team was great today. We were always there when needed. We were really on fire today. That was very special and that’s why I’m disappointed that I couldn’t finish it. I think she arrived with a little more speed and just had a better sprint, as a team we did everything right, like keeping the pace high in the last five kilometres to avoid late attacks.
I am very proud to be part of this team. I think we can be more than happy with today. We would have liked to have won, but in this case, you have to say that Vos was faster. That’s it for now, so we can be happy with second place.”Charlotte Kool
2023 Vuelta Femenina Stage 3 result
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Photo Credits: Cor Vos