The Setmana Ciclista Valenciana kicked off today with a tricky stage with a number of possible options available. The parcours looked to reward attacking racing with puncheurs and GC riders are given the chance to distance sprinters on the Alto Barx. The 2nd Category climb was the launchpad for Annemiek van Vleuten’s solo victory last season, so it seemed like the balance would be in favour of the climbers.
Setmana Ciclista Valenciana Stage 1
Today’s 114km stage from Tavernes de la Valldigna to Gandia offered chances for GC riders prepared to attack on the Alto Barx. The climbing was surely also huge enough to completely distance all of the sprinters either. The first attacks came from Bingoal’s Naomi De Roeck attacked and had 20 seconds before being caught. Agnieta Francke then counter-attacked with Antri Christoforou and they got a gap of 30 seconds before Francke dropped back to the peloton. Christoforou herself was caught shortly before the summit of the 3rd Category Alto Serra Grossa. An attempt was made by Victorie Guilman and Karlijn Swinkels to bridge across but the peloton kept a tight rein.
Erica Magnaldi crested the climb first and took off with a small gap. That grew as the peloton allowed the Italian to ride solo. The gap increased for a long time before the peloton began the chase on the descent to Llocnou d’en Fenollet. Elena Pirrone, Lourdes Oyarbide, Elynor Backstedt, Linda Riedmann, Katia Ragusa, Neve Bradbury, Georgia Baker and Danique Braam attempted a break to bridge the gap but the peloton wasn’t prepared to let such a strong group go.
Magnaldi was caught on the final climb and then the attacks from the peloton started. The live coverage got a bit spotty but each time we returned to the race there were riders dropped. Rooijakkers and Longo Borghini were dropped from the front and then we saw a lead trio. Who else but Annemiek van Vleuten was leading the charge, with Marta Cavalli and Mavi Garcia hanging on. Cavalli stopped working to help a chasing trio including FDJ teammate Uttrup Ludwig, Santesteban and Ewers to catch. They build up a decent gap of about 40 seconds.
A decent-sized group of 20 riders were putting in a turn to close the gap. Ellen van Dijk was hammering it on the front, with Elisa Longo Borghini also putting in big turns. Any sprinters in that group would become favourites for the win, so when Elisa Balsamo and Ruby Roseman-Gannon were spotted, they were in a great position.
As Van Dijk powered a lead out to the finish, Balsamo came off Longo Borghini’s wheel to take the wind. Despite the efforts of Ruby Roseman-Gannon, she couldn’t come around Balsamo who took her first win for her new team, Trek-Segafredo. A small gap was created just before the finish line by Van Dijk, which saw Annemiek van Vleuten lose 6 seconds on GC to a number of other GC contenders.