The ascent to Lagos de Covadonga has witnessed this Sunday the titanic fight of two Dutch cyclists to proclaim themselves champions of the first women’s Tour. The veteran Annemiek Van Vleuten, who started the last stage as the leader and with a comfortable advantage of 1m 11s, took the race despite losing in the day’s battle against her compatriot, Demi Vollering, who gave everything and more and has been at the gates of victory. The SD Worx cyclist was the fastest to complete the 93.7 km that separated Pola de Siero from Lagos de Covadonga, but she ended up only nine seconds away from making history.
Van Vleuten, 40, fought to maintain the advantage achieved on Saturday between Castro Urdiales and Laredo, in Cantabria, which ended up giving him the overall victory. The Movistar team rider was not able to keep up with Vollering, who broke away 5 kilometers from the finish line, and was able to gain almost a minute’s advantage, insufficient to snatch the red jersey, finally second on the podium. The two cyclists showed off their willpower during the ascent to the finish line to win the first Vuelta.
Vollering’s escape, accompanied by the Italian Gaia Realini almost until the end, forced them to take out their calculators. The Dutch flew and suffered to break the margin of her rival and compatriot, who did the same to resist. The SD Worx rider gained a second for every 100 meters she covered in the final kilometers of the climb and forced Van Vleuten to push himself to the limit to save the Vuelta in a fight against herself and against the clock. Realini, who took second place in the stage, completed the podium in the general classification. Mavi García was the best Spanish, slipping into the top 10 with a ninth place.
Already at the finish line, the winner of the Vuelta, who did not win in any stage, but who cemented the victory with her day-to-day perseverance, blamed the suffering of the day on the effort on Saturday to snatch the red jersey from Vollering. She also admitted that she was afraid of not being able to win. “I have come to think that she was losing the race because the truth is that they had a point more strength than me on the climb, perhaps because of yesterday’s effort. They have pushed me to the limit, they have known how to play their cards well, but I have not given up”, said Van Vleuten with a mixture of tiredness and happiness.
The duel between the two Dutch cyclists was one of the great attractions of the race, which started last Monday in Torrevieja. The two cyclists started as heavy favorites and it seemed clear that their matchup would be entertaining. Van Vleuten won everything that could be won in 2022: World Cup, Giro, Tour, Liège and the predecessor of the tour. Vollering, 26 years old and declared rival of the champion, has become the queen of the classics this season. She won at the Strade Bianche, Amstel, Flecha and Liège.
The first Women’s Tour leaves an image for history. The battle of two runners to prevail over their rival, to scratch a few seconds off the timer. The fight that Van Vleuten and Vollering fought today in a mythical setting for Spanish cycling such as the Lakes of Covadonga, but also throughout the week, evokes the film any given sunday. “Half a second slower or faster and you don’t get to pass it, half a second slower or faster and you don’t catch it”, is one of the phrases that Al Pacino, playing an American football coach, dedicates to his players in the classic motivational speech. And that was what the last stage was about, motivation and seconds, although this time it was nine seconds that separated Vollering from glory.
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