As we previewed yesterday, Orica-Scott was coming to the Basque roads to win. And so they did. Annemiek van Vleuten did not seem to be the main card of the Australian squad today as the race went on, as we saw her working in front of the bunch when the race really started. Femke Vertichelen, the Belgian from Bizkaia Durango, was the one to survive the longest to the thirst of the peloton. She was joined by Margarita Syrodoeva (BePink Cogeas) and Marta Bastianelli (Alé Cipollini) later on, who managed to cross first the only bonus sprint of the race (there was another one 25 k before, but the commisaires were absent when the race passed on). Yes. You read well. Just like that.
In the second ascent to the fierce Goiuria, the peloton broke into pieces and only the strongest 16 survived at the front. Orica was increasing the pace and, in a master tactical movement, Dutch Annemiek van Vleuten launched her final attack when her other 3 breakaway mates (her team-mate Katrin Garfoot, FDJ’ s Shara Gillow and Spanish Eider Merino (Lointek Team) were taking a little break after the hardest slopes of Goiuria climb. With just 10k to go, her advantage was 15 seconds and it seemed unlikely that both the Spaniard and the Australian could catch her in the tricky and fast descent to Durango. Only the shadow of Rio could prevent her from raising her arms in the streets of Durango … but she did not hesitate, fear is long gone and turned into 24 seconds advantage on the finish line. Race favourite Katrin Garfoot could not follow the trio and managed to get 4th in the stage. Amanda Spratt finishing 5th. A perfect day for Orica-Scott, who will try to prolong the winning streak at Emakumeen Bira tomorrow.
A final note dedicated to the impressive ride by 24 year old Eider Merino. The little Basque rider managed to make the hardest and definitive move in the steepest ramps of Goiuria (16% at some points) and only the strongest could follow her. She rides in home soil and after today’s success, teams will better take a close look on her. However, she feels better in long stages, so expect her to perform better on Saturday and Sunday, when the race has to be won.