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When Astana’s Arlenis Sierra crossed the line to win stage 3 of the women’s Tour of California in downtown Sacramento, she scored the first WorldTour win of the season for herself and her Astana team. The Cuban National Road Champion came in as a heavy favorite following a strong performance in 2017, winning both the best young rider and sprint classification jerseys, as well as a third place overall.
“I didn’t feel great in this race, I had a few days with a bad molar that got infected and I was on antibiotics,” Sierra told VeloNews. “Truthfully, I am very happy that God granted me this win today because I haven’t been going very well. The first day I had a mechanical coming into the finish, I didn’t crash but had a problem with my wheel and gears.”
Astana was racing with four riders this week, compared to a full squad of six. Pierangelo Dal Colle, the Director Sportif had no idea what to expect from the team this week. Dal Colle explained, besides Sierra’s tooth problem, the girls were racing their first WorldTour race of the season. Rodriguez was also coming off a minor knee injury from a training accident involving a car.
Rodriguez and Liliana Moreno animated the race in South Lake Tahoe, leading the field into the final climb of the day with a pace that ended up shattering it to pieces, before Katie Hall (UnitedHealthcare) and Taylor Wiles (Trek Drops) launched their attacks. Rodriguez would finish 6th on the stage, and keep her spot on GC after the finish in Sacramento Friday.
“For Arlenis to lift her arms is a great satisfaction for us,” Carolina Rodriguez said at the finish. “Arlenis told me to wait until the final 8 laps before moving to the front because we also needed to protect my 6th place on GC. This is the first race for many of us, and for me personally, it was difficult after the energy that I spent yesterday. I know if Arlenis was feeling better, we could have won the race, but that’s how things go. It’s a great test to see how we will arrive for the Giro. For me, I am surprised.”
Sierra was happy but also surprised with the win. She had won gold in the road race earlier this month at the Pan American Championships in San Juan, Argentina, and was hoping to improve on her 2017 California performance.
“The season this year has been a little complicated. I began racing the season in Italy,” Sierra said. “I think this race is difficult, because of the stage yesterday. It’s a little complicated racing with four girls rather than six but we always try and race the best that we can and look for the best results possible.”
“I’m very grateful God granted me this win,” Sierra added. “I have a lot of preparation to do before the next race. I won’t be racing the Giro, but I have an obligation with the Cuban national team to race in Central America. I can’t be discouraged because I know there are many more races to come this season.”