‘Back-to-back’ by the Olympic champion and the “blues”
Dutchwoman + spectacular Telefónica-backed squad (Aalerud, Patiño, Martín, González, Oyarbide and Rodríguez) become first outfit to conquer two wins, and consecutive ones, in the cycling season’s opener
A solid, focused performance over the 118km stage four between Sagunto and Valencia took the Movistar Team and Annemiek van Vleuten to overall glory on Sunday at the 6th Setmana Ciclista Valenciana (UCI 2.1), becoming the first ever team + rider with two consecutive wins in the traditional opener of the women’s cycling season.
The efforts from Aalerud -close to an overall top-10-, Patiño, Martín, González, Oyarbide and Rodríguez, keeping ‘Miek’ away from trouble, and the work from sprinter-focused teams to secure the bunch finish against a strong attack from Brown (FDJ), allowed the Olympic TT champion getting through the day with no setbacks and reach 87 UCI wins -14 already obtained while in Blue colours-. This success also leads the Abarca Sports professional teams up to 998 victories since 1980, just two short of a milestone that could well end up on one of the women’s team’s hands.
Since sports are the most important thing from the least important things in life, Van Vleuten took advantage from her day in the leader’s jersey to share her joy, and take with her, two very special people: Gary Baños, a long-time carer of the Movistar Team who passed away exactly one year ago today, and Amy Pieters (Team SD Worx), who continues to recover from her serious injuries sustained during the off-season.
Reaction / Annemiek van Vleuten:
“It was super helpful to have all the team around me today. It makes easier to keep things under control in days like this one. We never panicked; we started riding immediately when Grace Brown left, kept it under two minutes and it was fine. It was really a team effort today.
“I can see that the team is stepping up compared to last year. For some of the riders here, it was the first time defending a GC lead. I can see now that my team-mates are getting more and more experienced, having won other similar races like Ardèche, so it’s good to see that the team is more able to defend a jersey and know how to do it.
“If you realise that it’s only four-and-a-half months ago that I crashed so badly in Roubaix, and left only my crutches behind in mid December – to be able to already do this… it’s so nice to start the season this way. It’s also nice to take the pressure off my shoulders, to show that both myself and the team are back. It’s also a Spanish race, which makes it for a bigger goal for the team.
“It’s nice to start here in the sun than in classics temperatures, also doing it in a little bit more relaxed way. You can work for four days with the team, keep learning, processing goals – which is important to take lessons for the Giro and the Tour de France. All in all, a great way to start my 2022 season!
“(Regarding what she wrote on her jersey for today) Our soigneur Gary Baños died one year ago today, so that’s why I had Gary on one arm and then #StayStrongAmy on the other one, for Amy Pieters, who is still in the hospital. I just wanted to think of both of them and dedicate my jersey to them.
“I look so much forward to racing with Emma in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad! it’s super cool to go with her, with her talent for the sprint and on a route with shorter hills than here, but it’s also nice to be meeting the whole team again so soon and get into the rhythm for the classics.”