Australian Sarah Roy was Mitchelton-SCOTT’s top finisher as the opening stage of the Madrid Challenge came down to a messy uphill sprint in Escalona.
Crosswinds had threatened to disrupt the day, but the conditions couldn’t prevent the race from ending in a bunch kick finish, with Roy getting up for 10th in a hectic finale.
Fast and Windy
It was a fast start to the stage with a strong tailwind propelling the peloton along in the opening kilometres. The first attack of the race came almost 30km into the day as a lone rider clipped off the front and opened up an advantage of around 40 seconds on the bunch.
Drama then struck as both the lone breakaway rider and the peloton were sent the wrong way, resulting in a brief neutralisation of the race. The action got back under with 45km left to race, with the original solo attacker given a 30 seconds head start over the pack.
The predicted crosswinds then played their part as the peloton split in the gusts, but it soon came back together, with the one-rider break also caught with 25km remaining. It wasn’t long before more attacks were launched and as the peloton raced under the 10km to go banner one rider sat 30 seconds clear.
However, nobody was allowed to escape, and the stage looked set for a sprint finish up the drag to the finish line. Jess Allen led Roy and European champion Annemiek van Vleuten into the final kilometre, with Roy picking her way through a chaotic sprint to grab 10th.
“The conditions were a little humid so it felt hard on the body despite there not being too much action out there. The strong wind was on our backs for the first half as we expected, so it was a fast race. Once we turned about halfway into the crosswinds we were really well-positioned ready for some action but nothing really happened.
“We had planned on giving it a crack late on, but the conditions just weren’t in favour of a split unfortunately, so it was a big bunch coming in really fast for the finish. The team rode really well helping to position Vleuty and I. Jess Allen did the final leadout and all was going to plan but unfortunately, we were on the wrong side of her wheel when she swung off and Vleuty wasn’t able to do her thing.
“I got out and tried to get on another wheel, but it didn’t work out. I think I ended up leading out Lorena into the last bend before the hilltop so hopefully she thanks me in her victory speech – just jokes. She did a great sprint and had I been on a wheel and not in the wind it could have been a different day for us but that’s racing.”
Madrid Challenge by La Vuelta – Stage 1 Results:
1. Lorena Wiebes (Team Sunweb) 2:00:16
2. Elisa Balsamo (Valcar – Travel and Service) ST
3. Lisa Brennauer (Ceratizit-WNT Pro Cycling) ST
10. Sarah Roy (Mitchelton-SCOTT) +0:04
Photos Courtesy of Baixauli Studio.