Neither Annemiek van Vleuten nor Demi Vollering, those of the most anticipated duel, were the protagonists of the 14.5 kilometer team time trial with which, in Torrevieja, between the beach and the beach, salt flats and townhouses, and spectators in bathing suits on 1 May, a flattening sun, began the first female Tour of Spain. The queen of the day and of the party was the third Dutch woman in contention, the great veteran Marianne Vos, who turns 36 on May 13 and who guided her Jumbo strong and hard to victory, and is from Hertongenbosch, where Bosch of the garden of earthly delights and where the Tour that Indurain did not win came from in 1996.
Elegant, Vos –three times world champion, one Olympic gold medalist, 32 stages of the Giro, two of the Tour, one GP Ciudad de Valladolid, and a cat named Flecha– gave way and the honor of passing the first of the team over the line in the final stretch to his British partner Anna Henderson, 24, who therefore wore the first red jersey of the Vuelta. Not far behind, and very close, Van Vleuten –his Movistar was fourth, 12s behind Jumbo– and Vollering –his SD Worx, fifth, 14s behind–, considered the day good. “I’m a bit surprised,” Van Vleuten says with a smile. “We lost only 4s in the intermediate step, but then several teammates stayed, and we ran a bit confused, and it’s a pity, but, despite this and having to wait for the fourth, which is the one that marked the time, we finished very good. So proud. I can’t wait to run another team time trial with this Movistar, and I hope they put one on at the Giro. We have the potential to win it.”
The first Spanish overall is Ane Santesteban, Gipuzkoan from Australian Jayco, 37th, 31s behind Henderson. Mavi García, from the Dutch Liv, is 47th, 42s behind.
“We are on the moon,” he says, happy It’s little, Henderson. “It is the first victory of the Jumbo in the whole year, and we do it all together, as if not to be happy and proud.” She says that the key was the perfect relay plan drawn up by all of them with the director, the North American ex-cyclist Carmen Small, after going around several times to recognize the circuit. It is the Jumbo seal, and also in the men’s team, which wins the Tour, meticulous preparation and budgetary insouciance. The team time trial showed a not very encouraging showcase for women’s cycling, two worlds far apart: that of truly professional teams, serious sponsors and decent salaries, more or less a dozen, half, and the remaining dozen, flood and fans, and enthusiasm, and tremendous scarcity of means.
After May 1, the day of solidarity and generosity, Vos prepares for May 2 of battle and individual triumph. It is a favorite on Tuesday, a stage that leaves from Orihuela, the town of Bernardo Ruiz, the winner of the Vuelta del 48, 75 years ago, who at 98 is the oldest living cyclist among those who have won a great tour. The route is flat, but few doubt that in the first scoring port, a series of slides, rather hard slopes, that lead to the El rebate restaurant farm, in Pilar de la Horadada, the Jumbo will accelerate to eliminate the sprinters heavier and open the way to stage victory and the red jersey for their natural leader, Marianne Vos.
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