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Crosswinds can throw a cat amongst the pigeons on even the most unassuming of days, and that’s exactly what happened on stage 3 of the Vuelta Femenina.
The small gains and losses from the opening team time trial quickly became irrelevant as the peloton exploded into echelons on the road from Elche de la Sierra to La Roda.
Trek-Segafredo and Jayco-AlUla were the biggest losers of the day with both teams failing to get riders into the first group. Meanwhile, Movistar, Jumbo-Visma, SD Worx, Team DSM, and Canyon-SRAM all placed their top riders into the 29-rider leading group.
Both U.S. hopefuls Veronica Ewers (EF Education-TIBCO-SVB) and Kristen Faulkner (Jayco-AlUla) gave away significant time in the overall classification, giving themselves a lot of work to do over the remaining four stages.
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Ane Santesteban, who managed to get into the chase group, was the first Jayco-AlUla rider over the line at 1:32 behind the winner, while Faulkner didn’t finish until over a minute later. The team could still pull back a top-10 GC finish once Lagos de Covadonga shakes things out at the end of the week, but an overall podium is going to be a really tough ask.
“It was a tough one,” Jayco-AlUla’s stage win contender Nina Kessler said after the finish. “It started off pretty easy and nothing really happened. We knew it was windy and after a little town the echelons started. Me, Teniel [Campbell], and Ane were on the front and then it split into three groups.
“We were really on the front, really good, and then I had a puncture on the worst moment. The car was really far behind and I had to wait for a long time. Teniel was waiting for me, but then I told her to keep going. I got a wheel, I chased back but from then on it was about trying to save as much as possible. With these groups in the wind, it was hard.”
If Jayco-AlUla had a bad day, then Trek-Segafredo had an even worse one. The team was already slightly hindered by the loss of Elisa Longo Borghini before the race even started, but it did well to really limit its losses in the opening time trial.
Things unravelled dramatically Wednesday with Amanda Spratt and Gaia Realini both failing to make the first two major groups on the road. The pair ended up in the same bunch as Faulkner and ultimately gave away 2:41 on the riders that made it to the front group.
Spratt confirmed afterward that, like Kessler, she had suffered a puncture as the race was blowing apart, leaving her to spend the rest of the day chasing hard.
FDJ-Suez got two riders into the front group, but neither of them were its GC hopefuls. Evita Muzic and Marie Le Net made it into the 1:32 group, but Marta Cavalli trailed across the line with Realini further back.
While there were plenty of riders left licking their wounds, there were just as many feeling buoyed by a good day out. Among the 29 riders that made it into the key leading group, Movistar got five of its riders up there after burning two to help force the splits.
Annemiek van Vleuten and Liane Lippert were among the five and ensure that Movistar still has two options heading toward the mountains later in the week.
“It was long ago that I had a day like this with so much wind and echelon action. Yesterday was already super nervous, but nothing happened, and then today we had a lot of action,” Van Vleuten said after the stage. “I was really enjoying it, because as a team we were really prepared and Lourdes [Oyarbide] set it up. She did a perfect job, together with Paula [Patiño], and then we went together with the five of us full gas out of the town and then I think it split immediately. Then, it was a long way to the finish.
“It was a fast and hard day, but also a beautiful day for us for the team effort. Those days are beautiful and we really need to do it together. I think that everyone will go to bed really tired tonight.”
Team DSM also got five up front with Charlotte Kool targeting the stage win, and only being pipped by Marianne Vos to the line. As well as keeping Kool in contention, the team got Juliette Labous through the chaos without losing any time.
Demi Vollering made the cut for SD Worx, along with Marlen Reusser and Niamh Fisher-Black. Meanwhile, Chloe Dygert and Elise Chabbey helped to keep Kasia Niewiadoma in the prime position to grasp the red jersey next.
Jumbo-Visma continued its good start to the week with Vos claiming the team’s second win and extending her lead in the overall classification. Vos is expected to fall away as the terrain gets tougher, but the team can look to Riejanne Markus to keep pick up the baton.