Apparently, the rainbow jersey isn’t always cursed.
UCI road world champion Annemiek van Vleuten won Friday’s Clásica Femenina Navarra in a similar fashion to her win at Thursday’s Emakumeen Nafarroako Klasikoa, with a solo breakaway on one of the race’s final climbs. After working with breakaway companion Elisa Longo-Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) for nearly 50km, van Vleuten attacked just before the El Perdón climb and then flew to a solo victory 20 km later.
“I didn’t expect to win, it is very special for me to win two-times in a row,” van Vleuten said. “I can’t almost remember winning two-times in a row so it a very special day for me.”
The victory continues van Vleuten’s unbeaten streak in 2020. So far, she is three-for-three in pro road races after winning the 2019 UCI road world title.
After testing their legs during Thursday’s race, the peloton was off to a fast start on Friday. The difference in the elevation profile of Friday’s 122.9 km race was immediately clear; much of the group covered almost 40 km in the first hour. However, mid-way through the race a series of short and steep climbs broke up the bunch, and Longo-Borghini made a decisive move on the 7.9 percent Muro de Tirapu. When van Vleuten saw the Italian crushing the climb, she quickly accelerated to the front to join her. The duo worked together to put a significant lead on the chasers, at one point establishing a lead of just under two minutes.
However, between the penultimate and final climbs, Longo-Borghini punctured, and the world champion had to decide whether to wait or carry on.
“At the moment when Elisa had a mechanical, we had around one and a half minutes,” van Vleuten said. “I was thinking ‘should I stop or is it better to continue with a solid pace and hopefully she could come back?'”
Van Vleuten didn’t have to deliberate the subject too much; Longo-Borghini approached quickly and van Vleuten waited so that the duo could continue their work. They ultimately rode nearly 50 km together, yet riding into a headwind toward the final climb of El Perdón, the world champion made her signature move.
“It was hard but I know when I feel my legs and they hurt I have to think differently and know this is the moment to attack,” van Vleuten said of the pivotal break.
For her part, Longo-Borghini successfully held off the chase group to finish second, bettering her fourth place finish only a day before. Her aggressive command of the race early on shows that the Italian rider has come back from the extended break from racing in top form.
“Today was an adventure,” she said. “I am satisfied, I am feeling good, and I am surprised because I just came from altitude. This is a good sign for the upcoming races.”
After a one-day break, women’s racing resumes Sunday with the Durango-Durango Emakumeen Saria. The season is already proving to be an adventure.
Clásica Femenina Navarra
1. Annemiek van Vleuten, Mitchelton-SCOTT, 3:19:01
2. Elisa Longo-Borghini, Trek-Segafredo, at 1:14
3. Maria Giulia Confalonieri, Ceratizit-WNT Pro Cycling, at 2:06
4. Elisa Balsamo, Valcar – Travel & Service
5. Christine Majerus, Boels-Dolmans
6. Shelya Gutierrez, Movistar,
7. Marta Bastianelli, Alé BTC Ljubljana
8. Elena Cecchini, Canyon-SRAM
9. Ane Santesteban, Ceratizit-WNT Pro Cycling
10. Eugenie Duval, FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope, all at s.t.