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Vuelta a Burgos Feminas: What we learned in Spain about the state of women’s racing

It’s not just men’s racing that’s seeing a youth movement — the increasing depth and professionalization of the women’s peloton are bringing some precociously talented riders to the fore. 

Young talent is coming through

A gritty ride from 20-year-old Niamh Fisher-Black saw her bridge to a three-up move with Grace Brown (Canyon-SRAM) and Elise Chabbey (Team BikeExchange) to take the young rider’s jersey and third on GC.

By the end of stage two, she was up to second, thanks to a higher-placed finish than Brown. Once Chabbey was called back to domestique duties for Kasia Niewiadoma — including a searing attack on a descent — Fisher-Black was on top at the end of stage three.

Wearing the leader’s jersey in a WWT race as a 20-year-old is no mean feat, but Fisher-Black’s efforts also paid dividends for her team — allowing Anna van der Breggen to take the win and the overall on the fourth and final stage.

Elsewhere, 21-year-old Évita Muzik of FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope, winner of the final stage of the 2020 Giro Rosa, rode an impressively consistent race while working hard for teammate Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig and setting the Danish rider up for the first WWT win of her career.

Honorable mentions must also go to Mikayla Harvey of Canyon-SRAM and Anna Shackley of SD Worx as well as Shirin van Anrooij of Trek-Segafredo who all pulled off strong team efforts.

SD Worx still have the power

Demi Vollering of team SD Worx. Photo: Luc Claessen/Getty Images

It’s been the case for most of the races this season but, at Vuelta a Burgos Féminas, SD Worx cemented their position as the team with the most options and firepower in the women’s peloton.

As well as the aforementioned van der Breggen and Fisher-Black, the squad are awash with talented riders who are willing to lay it all down for a team result. Canadian national champion Karol-Ann Canuel spent time on the front of the bunch and in breaks to soften up the peloton for her team leader. Anna Shackley — the other “puppy” as she and Fisher-Black are affectionately known within the team — also put in huge turns working for the team.

Ashleigh Moolman Pasio, one of the peloton’s most talented climbers, was on hand on the hilltop finishes and Liege-Bastogne-Liege winner Demi Vollering demolished the field on the final climb on stage four, putting in an effort that only the world champion and Annemiek van Vleuten could follow. Van der Breggen had no choice but to finish off with a win after such a strong performance from her protégé.

UCI WWT leader’s jersey has changed hands once again

Elisa Longo Borghini has traded the WWT purple leader’s jersey with Marianne Vos in the first half of the 2021 season. Photo: Luc Claessen/Getty Images

During the spring, the Women’s WorldTour leader’s jersey was being swapped between Elisa Longo Borghini and Marianne Vos after almost every race. Longo Borghini took the overall lead after Liege-Bastogne-Liege and so went into Burgos with it on her back.

The purple leader’s jersey — seemingly the color du jour for the women’s peloton — is a consequence of consistent results rather than a goal that riders strive for itself but it does serve to add another level of competition to WWT events.

After Burgos, it is Annemiek van Vleuten who will replace her European Champion’s stars for the WWT leader’s jersey for the first time in 202 — at least Elisa Longo Borghini will be easy to spot in the peloton again in her Tricolore kit.

Dutch dominance reigns

The first three stages of Burgos were really a build-up to the final day and its finish on an HC climb up to Lagunas de Neila and we saw little of Anna van der Breggen and Annemiek van Vleuten in the preceding days before the final summit.

When they got there, however, the gloves well and truly came off on the steep gradients. The strongest riders on the day will all make up part of the Dutch Olympic squad for Tokyo, Demi Vollering, Anna van der Breggen, and Annemiek van Vleuten. The three were unmatched on the climb and Vollering proved invaluable to van der Breggen. The question for Tokyo will be whether loyalties remain outside of trade teams when individual ambitions are on the line.

The sheer supremacy of the Dutch — even fourth place was taken by Pauline Roojakkers — is going to be hard to shake for the rest of the season. The tier of favorites underneath van der Breggen and van Vleuten are reasonably well-matched, but the likes of Elisa Longo Borghini and Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig will have to take the fight to them if they want to unseat the dominant pair. Waiting in the wings, however, will be Vollering and Vos.