Annemiek van Vleuten is two-for-two thus far in 2020.
The reigning UCI world road champion won Thursday’s Emakumeen Nafarroako Klasikoa with a solo move, crossing the finish line 18 seconds ahead of Mavi Garcia (Alé-BTC Ljublijana) in the Spanish town of Lekunberri. It’s the second solo victory for van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott) in just the second professional race she has started this season.
Back in February van Vleuten dominated Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.
“I am super happy to begin like this,” van Vleuten said after the win. “It is a dream second start to the season, it’s my second race so I have won two out of two races, it can’t be better. To win solo is awesome too, I could really enjoy the last 500 meters.”
The win came after van Vleuten broke away from her rivals on the day’s final climb, the Zuarrarrate, the summit of which came just 9 kilometers from the finish. Van Vleuten followed an attack by Anna van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans) and then counter attacked the reigning Olympic champion to distance her rivals. On the ensuing descent she caught and passed Garcia on a slight uphill section, and then sped to the finish, where she coasted across the line solo, her arms raised in victory.
“I am of course happy I won but I am really very happy because I also raced tactically smart,” van Vleuten said. “On the final descent with five kilometers to go there was a small 300- meter uphill and I had that really in my mind. We did a recon and I knew it was a good opportunity. I caught Mavi (Garcia) by surprise because I was very prepared for it and then I held on for the final four kilometers to the finish.”
The decisive move came after a punishing day of hills and twisting roads through Northern Spain in what was the first international pro women’s race since the coronavirus shutdown back in March. The Emakumeen Nafarroako Klasiko is the first of three hilly races to be held this week, and it marks an early test for riders as they ramp up for Strade Bianche and the WorldTour schedule.
The 119-kilometer race started in the city of Pamplona and sent riders immediately into the hills, with the Category 1 ascents of Ultzurrun (8.7km at 5.1 percent) and Etxauri (6.5km at 6.7 percent), before two Category 2 climbs in the second half.
The race was one of attrition, and the lack of a breakaway saw the front group whittled down to 30 or so riders by its midpoint. The day’s break finally formed on the ascent of the Etxauri, with four riders escaping. Eventually van Vleuten, van der Breggen, and other top riders bridged to the break, setting up the dramatic battle on the Zuarrarrate.
Van Vleuten said the victory was somewhat unexpected; Amanda Spratt and Lucy Kennedy came in as the team’s leaders. She was unsure of how her legs would perform after a bloc of altitude training.
“I was a little bit nervous coming from altitude just two days ago so I didn’t know how I would feel but I love to race in Northern Spain so that’s also why I came here and it was great to test the legs after an altitude block,” she said.
Yet, the 37-year-old again showed why she’s the best in the world.
Emakumeen Nafarroako Klasikoa
- Annemiek van Vleuten, Mitchelton-Scott, 3:32:51
- Mavi Garcia, Alé BTC Ljubljana, at 0:18
- Anna van der Breggen, Boels-Dolmans, at 0:27
- Elisa Longo Borghini, Trek-Segafredo, at 0:48
- Erica Magnaldi, Eratizit-WNT, at 0:50
- Clara Koppenburg, Equipe Paule Ka, at 0:55
- Ella Harris, Canyon-SRAM, at 3:01
- Eider Merino, Movistar, at 5:14
- Elizabeth Deignan, Trek-Segafredo, at 6:03
- Amanda Spratt, Mitchelton-Scott, at s.t.