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The Dutch rider, who won the world championships road race in Wollongong two weeks ago, rode in support of Movistar teammate Arlenis Sierra on Friday, who took victory in Lausanne after outsprinting the reduced group.
As is expected on a hilly day, Van Vleuten was never far from the front during the 134km stage starting and finishing in Lausanne, repeatedly closing gaps and chasing down moves on what was a highly aggressive stage.
The difference, however, was that Van Vleuten did not attempt any of her infamous solo attacks, instead taking on a team role.
With fast finisher Sierra riding well over the climbs, the Cuban was clearly Movistar’s best chance at victory on the flat, long finish straight in Lausanne, and Van Vleuten appeared committed to this plan.
Van Vleuten’s best efforts were in the hills, but she also helped to close down gaps in the flat run-in as several riders tried to make opportunistic moves. Her support had run out by the sprint, but Sierra was able to follow the wheels of the Team DSM leadout to take victory after being helped by Van Vleuten for much of the day.
The opening stage of the Tour de Romandie marked Sierra’s fifth win of the season, and her first at WorldTour level in 2022.
After Sierra formed part of Van Vleuten’s winning squads at the Giro d’Italia, Tour de France Femmes, and Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta, Friday’s win paid back some of the support Sierra has given to Van Vleuten this year. The world champion was the first to congratulate Sierra after the finish.
— Annemiek van Vleuten (@AvVleuten) October 7, 2022
Despite only being less than three weeks post-elbow break after her crash in the worlds mixed team time trial, Van Vleuten seemed to be riding comfortably in Romandie as she showed off her new rainbow bands for the first time.
She may have ridden conservatively on stage 1, but Van Vleuten remains the favorite for stage 2 as the race heads towards two long climbs and an above-2000m summit finish on Saturday.
The big mountain stage is expected to decide the overall classification, which could see Van Vleuten win her fourth consecutive WorldTour stage race in 2022.