Race Report: Stage 1 of the Vuelta a Burgos Femenina 2024

Written by: Niels Goudriaan
Posted 1 week ago

The opening stage of the Vuelta a Burgos Femenina 2024 was an unpredictable race with an exciting and both dramatic finish. Covering 122.6 kilometers from Villagonzalo Pedernillas and finishing in the historic heart of Burgos, the stage featured a mix of flat sections, rolling terrain, and three categorized climbs: Alto de Coculina, Alto de la Nuez, and Alto del Aguilón. Despite the challenging course, the race ultimately came down to a chaotic sprint finish marred by a crash that reshuffled the contenders.

 

Early Race Dynamics and Breakaways

The race began with a moderate pace as the peloton remained compact through the early kilometers. With the riders conserving energy for the first categorized climb, there were few significant breakaway attempts initially. However, the action picked up as the race approached the first climb of the day, the Alto de Coculina.

At around the 35-kilometer mark, Katrine Aalerud (Uno-X Mobility) launched a solo attack, quickly gaining a significant gap on the peloton. Her strong riding saw her lead extend to over three minutes, with the peloton content to let her stay out front for the time being. Norwegian Aalerud’s effort earned her the first Queen of the Mountains points at the summit of Alto de Coculina, solidifying her status as the day’s most aggressive rider.

The peloton remained relatively calm until the halfway point of the race when teams began to organize for the chase. Movistar, SD Worx, and Canyon//SRAM took turns at the front, gradually increasing the pace and reeling in Aalerud’s advantage. By the 56-kilometer mark, the peloton had split into several groups due to the increased tempo and crosswinds, with about 60 riders in the leading group.

The second categorized climb, Alto de la Nuez, saw further attempts to break away, with riders like Agnieszka Skalniak-Sójka (Canyon//SRAM) and Floortje Mackaij (Movistar) trying to bridge to the front. However, their efforts were short-lived as the peloton, led by SD Worx and Lidl-Trek, remained vigilant.

The final categorized climb, Alto del Aguilón, proved to be a decisive moment in the stage. Claire Steels (Movistar) made a bold move, breaking away from the peloton and gaining a small advantage. However, with the descent and the flat run-in to the finish, the peloton, driven by the sprinter teams, quickly closed the gap.

As the race entered the final 10 kilometers, the peloton was strung out in a long line, with SD Worx and Lidl-Trek setting a blistering pace. Attacks continued to come from riders like Carina Schrempf (FDJ-SUEZ) and Demi Vollering (SD Worx), but none could establish a decisive gap.

 

The Chaotic Finale

With less than a kilometer to go, the race was poised for a mass sprint. However, disaster struck when Elisa Balsamo (Lidl-Trek) crashed into the barriers at around 150 meters from the finish. The crash caused a ripple effect, slowing the peloton and disrupting the sprint trains. Amidst the chaos, Lotta Henttala (EF Education-Cannondale) found herself perfectly positioned in the center of the road.

Henttala seized the moment, launching a powerful sprint that saw her surge ahead of the scattered peloton. She crossed the line first, securing an unexpected but very welcome victory for EF Education-Cannondale. The crash had a significant impact on the final standings, with several top sprinters unable to contest the finish.

Lotta Henttala was ofcourse overjoyed with her victory, attributing her win to quick reflexes and a bit of luck. “It was a crazy finish with the crash, but I saw an opening and just went for it. I’m thrilled to take the win for the team,” Henttala said in her post-race interview.

Elisa Balsamo, despite her crash, was fortunately unharmed but visibly disappointed. “It’s frustrating to crash so close to the finish, especially when I was in a good position. But that’s racing. I’m glad I’m okay, and we’ll focus on the next stages,” Balsamo commented.

With her victory, Lotta Henttala donned the leader’s jersey, marking a strong start for EF Education-Cannondale. Katrine Aalerud, with her aggressive riding and performance on the climbs, took the Queen of the Mountains jersey. The points jersey went to Henttala as well, adding to her successful day.

Stage 1 Results

  1. Lotta Henttala (EF Education-Cannondale)
  2. Carina Shrempf (Fenix-DeCeunink)
  3. Lorena Wiebes (Team SDWorx-Protime)

Looking Ahead

Stage 2 will take the riders on another challenging route, from Briviesca to Alto de Rosales over 123km, offering opportunities for climbers and puncheurs to make their mark. Teams will need to carefully strategize, balancing efforts to control the race with conserving energy for crucial moments.

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