Gaia Realini went head to head with the world champion on stage 6 of La Vuelta Femenina and WON after a spectacular sprint to the line.
The 21-year-old pipped Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar Team) to the line after a thrilling two-up sprint finish to secure the first UCI WorldTour win of her career.
Realini saw an opportuntiy and seized it on the Puerto de Campo El Hayal, the second of two cateogirzed climbs in the final 50 kilometers of the stage, jumping across to a move from van Vleuten which saw the climbing powerhouses leave the rest of the field left to chase them if they wanted to claim the day’s spoils.
Ultimately, the duo still had a strong advantage of more than one minute 15 seconds going into the final five kilometers and it proved to me more than enough to allow them to fight for victory with Realini doing what many might not have expected but Trek-Segafredo believed possible… winning!
However, what happened after the finish was potentially more complicated than the race itself!
At first, Realini was declared the winner in race radio and headed to the podium however, with the call on the line so close, the photo finish was put under a microscope.
The first look saw van Vleuten take the podium however upon closer inspection the jury declared that the young Italian was victorious after all and she got to have her moment on the top step.
The final decision…
Stage six in Gaia’s words…
“This is incredible. I really don’t have any words to describe how I’m feeling right now. I want to thank my teammates because they really have worked so hard for me, and Spratty, all week and even today, they were amazing pacing us into the climbs. It’s thanks to them that I was able to perform so well today.
“When the gap opened up to [Demi] Vollering, many teams were working to increase the distance between us and her group, to make sure it didn’t come back. I was in a great position and then I was part of a strong five-rider front group. When Annemiek [van Vleuten] attacked, there was no cooperation to follow her so I knew I needed to bridge across to her. It was a now or never moment if I wanted to fight for the stage win. I just followed, followed, followed and stayed on her wheel.”
The moment Gaia chased the rainbow 🌈
More from the stage winner…
“The moment after the finish was hectic. First, they give the win to me, then to her and then, finally, to me. Of course, it was not easy but I was ready to accept the decision of the jury and I wouldn’t have been too disappointed if Annemiek was the winner. I was just really happy with how I raced but, of course, I’m even happier to have taken the win.
“It has not been an easy Vuelta especially on the second stage when I lost time due to the echelons. It was disappointing but, as a team, we didn’t lose our confidence or our motivation to do our best and try to win, that’s why we came here. I think this victory is a reward for my effort and the effort of the whole team in these days.”