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After the race opened with a 20km team time trial, gaps are already opening up on the overall classification of the Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta after just one stage.
Pre-race favorites and Tour de France Femmes rivals Demi Vollering (SD Worx) and Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) lost time on winners Trek-Segafredo but managed to limit the deficit. Vollering is now 23 seconds off leader Longo Borghini, while Van Vleuten has a deficit of 25 seconds.
Compared to other GC hopefuls, though, the Dutch pair had a good day. Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) lost 59 seconds, while Mavi García (UAE Team ADQ) is already nearly a minute and a half down at her home race.
Though SD Worx delivered Vollering to the line with only a small gap, possible plan B Niamh Fisher-Black was distanced from her team out on course, losing a minute and 27 seconds.
FDJ-Suez-Futuroscope also had a similar fate, finishing third on the stage but seeing climber Évita Muzic drop out of the overall, finishing 4:18 down. Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig and Grace Brown had a positive day, however, only 11 seconds off the lead.
Even winners Trek-Segafredo sacrificed a possible GC rider in Lucinda Brand. After winning the Tour de Suisse in June, the Dutch rider may have been an outside hope for the overall, but lost over four minutes on Wednesday after losing her teammates’ wheels.
The clear winner from the GC riders was Longo Borghini, who has a six-second advantage over her nearest rivals after the first stage. After winning the Women’s Tour in June and finishing sixth at the Tour de France Femmes, Longo Borghini is a serious contender for the overall, and could hold red all the way to Madrid.
Closest to Longo Borghini is Kristen Faulkner, who had a positive start to her GC assault after her BikeExchange-Jayco set the second fastest time of the day.
Without any proper mountains on the course, it may be hard for riders to take back large amounts of time over the coming days, but the medium climbs on stages 2 and 3 leave plenty of opportunities to make the race difficult and force gaps between the favorites.
25 seconds shouldn’t be too much for Vollering and Vleuten to reverse, but an in-form Longo Borghini won’t make it easy for them.