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Anna Kiesenhofer almost repeats Olympic magic with another remarkable ride at the Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta

Olympic champion launches a 159km solo attack before being caught 1.5km from the line.

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When Anna Kiesenhofer (Soltec Team) crossed the finish line after stage 4 of the Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta, she came to a standstill and crumpled on the floor in exhaustion.

For most of the stage, it had seemed that the Olympic champion would finish jubilantly before the peloton rather than despondently behind it as she set out on a long, solo breakaway before being caught with only a kilometer and a half to race.

“I am SO DEAD,” Kiesenhofer tweeted after the stage. “But this is how I like to race. Attack at KM-0, 155km solo, caught 1km before the line.”

It was, of course, not Kiesenhofer’s first long solo attack in a high profile race.

At the Tokyo Olympics last year, she attacked from the flag-drop, made the early breakaway, built up an advantage of over 10 minutes, attacked the breakaway, evaded the chase of the Netherlands and Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar), and crossed the finish line alone to win a remarkable gold medal.

Also read:  Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta: Silvia Persico wins uphill sprint on stage 4 as Annemiek van Vleuten holds overall lead

Since her Olympic triumph, Kiesenhofer has rarely featured in the professional peloton as she balances cycling with her career as a mathematician, and her stint at the Soltec Team for this race is her first at a professional team since 2017 when she raced for Lotto-Soudal.

Her performance today had many of the same hallmarks as that day that she foiled the peloton to take gold: she attacked from the gun, built up an advantage of 10 minutes, briefly entered the virtual race lead held by Van Vleuten who chased on the front herself, determined not to let history repeat itself, and seemed to be heading towards another victory.

But the Austrian was ultimately undone by a difficult closing 10km of the race that included a category 4 climb, a gravel section and a final 2.5km drag up to the line, during which her advantage ebbed away and the peloton caught her.

She eventually finished 31st, at 43 seconds behind the winner Silvia Persico (Valcar Travel & Service).