The Australian squad looked to make the 100km route around Madrid as hard as possible, with endless attacks from various throughout the stage, but they couldn’t prevent the stage from coming down to the usually sprint finish.
On the Move
Mitchelton-SCOTT were active on the front of the peloton in the early kilometres, with Dutch rider Janneke Ensing driving the pace, while Jess Roberts followed attacks before going solo herself with 70km to go. The British rider was eventually reeled back in as the general classification contenders sprinted for the immediate sprint.
Ensing and New Zealander Georgia Williams then tried their best to escape, but the bunch prevented the duo from getting away. With a brief lull in action, European champion Annemiek van Vleuten stormed to the head of the pack and opened up a small advantage with 50km remaining.
The attacks caused a reaction in the bunch and a strong group of riders joined the 2019 world champion off the front. However, the peloton were alert to the danger and with a lack of cooperation within the breakaway group, the move was shutdown with 45km to go.
Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) immediately launched a counter attack and the Italian went on to open up a gap of 25 seconds. The peloton could always see the lone attacker on the wide-open roads in Madrid and it finally came back together with 12km to go.
It then looked set for the usual sprint finale to the race, but Mitchelton-SCOTT were still keen to animate the race with Van Vleuten attempting to escape once again and Ensing also having ago inside the final three kilometres.
But there was no preventing a sprint finish, with Roy moving into position as the line approached. Stage one winner Lorena Wiebes (Team Sunweb) was the first rider to launch her sprint, but the Dutch rider was pipped on the line by Elisa Balsamo (Valcar – Travel and Service), while Roy crossed the line in 12th to secure seventh overall, one place behind teammate Van Vleuten.
“The team rode really well today, they were so aggressive as planned and really put Sunweb under pressure. We had hoped for a different situation coming into the final laps but the girls did everything they could.
“I set Vleuty up for a big attack in the last three laps, but unfortunately she didn’t get a gap with her effort. It was a fast race and I thought I had saved my legs well for the sprint finish but my legs had nothing at all left in them. I couldn’t even get out of my seat.
“I tried to find my way myself up the long uphill drag but there were a lot of sprint teams here fighting hard. I found myself on the edge in the wind, I was even pushed by another rider with their hand which is different.. not what you expect in a fast finish like that so I’m glad I’m upright and safe, but not at all how I would have liked to end the season.”
Madrid Challenge by La Vuelta – Stage 3 Results:
1. Elisa Balsamo (Valcar – Travel and Service) 2:16:49
2. Lorena Wiebes (Team Sunweb) ST
3. Marta Bastianelli (Alé BTC Ljubljana) ST
12. Sarah Roy (Mitchelton-SCOTT) ST
Madrid Challenge by La Vuelta – General Classification:
1. Lisa Brennauer (Ceratizit-WNT Pro Cycling) 4:29:21
2. Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) +0:12
3. Lorena Wiebes (Team Sunweb) +0:13
6. Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-SCOTT) +0:44
Photos Courtesy of Baixauli Studio.