The Trek-Segafredo women kick off the European season with a victory in stage one at the Setmana Ciclista Valenciana
The Trek-Segafredo women continued in Europe exactly as they started the season in Australia in January: It was first race, first win in the Tour Down Under, and first European race, first win again as Ruth Winder out-gunned her breakaway compatriots to win stage one at the Setmana Ciclista Valenciana.
The race was decided on the two climbs that came in quick succession near the end of the 126-kilometer first stage. The breakaway formed over the top and on the descent of the first climb and gained enough time on the second climb to just hold off the chasing peloton at the finish.
An ill-timed puncture for Winder – who recently arrived from the United States and was also fighting off sickness – nearly ended her race if not for the work of teammate Anna Plichta.
“I had a puncture right before the first climb, and Anna stayed with me, and she was great. I felt so calm to have a teammate stay with me, and she got me back to the front safely. Then at the top of the climb there was a break that went, and then before it really, truly went down, and I rolled alongside Elisa and said, ‘Oh Elisa, I want to go!’ And she said, ‘yeah go!’”
“It was pretty technical, and I really like descending a lot, so I attacked into the descent. I bridged to the leaders before the last climb. There were five of us going into the final climb, and I was a little nervous at first because I was not sure how I was climbing against the good climbers, so I took really short pulls. I didn’t try and do too much work too soon.”
“Anna did a super job,” echoed director Giorgia Bronzini. “She stopped with Ruth and then pulled her back to the peloton. Not once did Ruth see the wind, she was always in Anna’s wheel.”
Ruth played a savvy game in the breakaway, and when it appeared that the bunch was coming back in the last kilometer, she craftily chose her moment to launch her sprint.
It was that feeling that the finish line kept getting further and further away and I was certain the entire peloton was going to rush past me in the last second.
“Coming over the top of the final climb it looked like the gap was going to stay and we worked pretty well together,” continued Winder. “We lost one rider who crashed in the descent, and then coming into three kilometers to go I knew that the gap was around 20 seconds and with under one kilometer to go I looked behind me and I could see them drilling it on the front. I knew it was going to be so close and that they were probably going to catch us.
“We had reconned the course so I knew the finish really well and attacked full gas into the roundabout with 400 meters to go and I went as hard as I could to the line. It was that feeling that the finish line kept getting further and further away and I was certain the entire peloton was going to rush past me in the last second. But it didn’t and I held on for the win. It feels unbelievable to win the first race over in Europe – it’s exciting, and I am happy with the team – the spirit is so good.”
“Ruth was very smart to go for a long sprint because the peloton was coming,” added Bronzini. “It was a perfectly timed move. She was not sure how she would do against the climbers today, so she stayed near the back, and never showed the others in the breakaway how she was feeling.”
“Both Lauretta (Hanson) and Ruth were not at 100 percent health these past few days,” chimed in Director Ina Teutenberg, who was leading the training camp ahead of the race. “Ruth felt better this morning and we decided she was okay to race. It was a good decision!”
Earlier in the race, team captain Trixi Worrack crashed and was forced to abandon. X-rays later revealed a broken collarbone. She will return home Friday to undergo surgery.
Besides Trixi crashing and breaking her collarbone, the team did super well today. It feels good to get this win for them and for Trixi - I hope that she feels better soon!
Winder’s win also landed her the leader’s jersey. Elisa Longo Borhini (10th) and Ellen van Dijk (17th) finished with the first group that arrived five seconds behind Winder, giving Trek-Segafredo the top spot in the team classification.
The race continues Friday with stage two, tailored to the sprinters, while stage three will see a fierce general classification battle on the steep uphill that crests three kilometers from the finish.