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Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta: Trek-Segafredo take team time trial victory on stage 1 

Elisa Longo Borghini takes first red jersey of race.

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Trek-Segafredo took their second team time trial victory of the season on the opening stage of the Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta, finishing the 19.9km course in 23 minutes 31 seconds.

Elisa Longo Borghini crossed the line first to claim the first red jersey of the five-stage race.

“I feel really really happy,” the Italian said at the finish. “Because it’s again another team victory. The team did really well, we had a good plan. I have to thank the entire staff from Trek-Segafredo and all the girls because they were really committed today.”

“We knew that we were generally really strong and there was nobody really standing over the others, so we were compact and we tried our best to start fast and to finish faster.”

Early leaders BikeExchange-Jayco took second place, six seconds down on the winners, while FDJ-SUEZ-Futuroscope completed the podium with a time of 23:42.

Movistar, the team of defending champion and pre-race favorite Annemiek van Vleuten, finished in 23:56, leaving the Dutch rider with a 25-second deficit on the red jersey after the first day of racing.

How it happened

The 2022 Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta got underway on Wednesday evening with a team time trial around Marina de Cudeyo in Cantabria, in the north of Spain. Just shy of 20km in length, the course was almost entirely flat with just a few gentle rises and not many technical challenges to tackle. With the wind holding off, it would be down to the strongest and most disciplined team to take the win and start to carve out the overall classification.

The early reference times were set by the five Spanish Continental teams starting the race: Rio Miera-Cantabria Deporte, Laboral Kutxa Fundación Euskadi, Soltec, Bizkaia Durango, and Massi Tactic. Massi Tactic set the best early time, stopping the clock at 25:58, but these times would not survive at the top for long.

also read: Olympic champion Anna Kiesenhofer signs one-off deal to race Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta

The first Women’s WorldTour team to finish was Human Powered Health, who finished with four riders to post a time of 25:49 and go to the top of the standings ahead of the Spanish teams. That time was soon beaten, though, when Uno-X crossed the line in 25:14, led by the efforts of former Hour Record holder Joss Lowden. The time was an early benchmark, particularly among the small WorldTour Teams, but wouldn’t be in contention for the stage win.

The first team to go under the 25-minute mark was Ceratizit-WNT, taking 24:52 to complete the course. However, when the GC teams started to arrive at the finish, this time fell dramatically. BikeExchange-Jayco took over a minute out of Ceratizit-WNT’s time, powering to the line in 23:37. New Zealand national champion Georgia Williams and Alex Manly showed their power from the track to help get Kristen Faulkner’s GC effort off to a good start.

The strength of BikeExchange’s performance was proved when Jumbo-Visma crossed the line, trailing the Australian team by 55 seconds. Canyon-SRAM looked slightly disorganized entering the final part of their effort, but pulled things together to finish with five riders and a time of 24:30, limiting the losses for their GC leader Kasia Niewiadoma.

Led to the line by Grace Brown, FDJ-SUEZ-Futuroscope came close to beating BikeExchange, but it was Vårgårda TTT winners Trek-Segafredo who managed to knock the Australians off top spot, clocking a time of 23:31. The team lost Amalie Dideriksen and Tour de Suisse winner Lucinda Brand out on course, leaving Elisa Longo Borghini to be their GC leader and cross the line first. The team had to wait for SD Worx and Movistar to finish, but Trek-Segafredo’s time proved unbeatable, awarding them their second TTT win of the year.

As the race culminated, SD Worx finished at 23:54, with Movistar coming in just two seconds slower at 23:56. Though not competing from the podium, both teams limited the losses for their GC riders, Demi Vollering and defending champion Annemiek van Vleuten. Longo Borghini, Uttrup Ludwig and Kristen Faulkner were among the GC riders to start the race well, whilst the likes of Kasia Niewiadoma and Mavi García are perhaps already on the back foot after the TTT.

As the first Trek-Segafredo rider to cross the line, Elisa Longo Borghini took the red leader’s jersey, while Elynor Bäckstedt will wear the points jersey on stage 2.

“I will try to enjoy the jersey tonight with the team, because every time you win you need to enjoy it and tomorrow is another day. There are really strong riders here. I know I’m in good shape, but I don’t underestimate my rivals because I have a lot of respect for them.”

Tomorrow, the GC riders will have a chance to try and take back any time they lost today as the race heads to the Cantabrian hills. Stage 2 starts and finishes in Colindres, and features five climbs, the toughest of which being the 6km category 1 climb to Alto Fuente Las Varas, averaging at 6%. The finish is flat, but the climbing packed into the 106km route should whittle down the peloton.