Giorgia Bronzini (Cylance) bowed out from her professional career in style by winning the second and final stage of the Madrid Challenge on Sunday.
It had long been known that 2018 would be Bronzini's final season of racing, and in August the 2010 and 2011 road race world champion announced that she would be moving into a team car, becoming a sports director with the new Trek Factory Racing team, which sees the light of day in 2019.
Stage 2 of the Madrid Challenge was a fairytale finish to Bronzini's 16-year career as she joined a strong breakaway and sprinted to victory in her last-ever UCI Women's WorldTour race.
"It's an amazing feeling – the best way to finish my career," Bronzini said. "Everyone would like to finish like that, winning a WorldTour race. Many of my opponents were happy for me and congratulated me, and that makes me happy because it means that I've left my mark in a good way. To end my career in this way is really magical. If I could sign up for another life with this same career, I'd do it. I have no regrets."
Bronzini's race craft was put to full use one last time during the race when she bridged to a breakaway initiated by her teammate Rossella Ratto. Ratto did a lot of work to keep the break going, and Bronzini took over for the sprint to the line.
The Italian said that she knew Olga Zabelinskaya (Cogeas-Mettler) would be an excellent 'locomotive' on the final lap.
"I was really hoping we would stay away. It was our best chance to win, and I got a bit scared when the peloton came close," Bronzini admitted. "So we dug deep to make sure the break stayed away. In the final, I tried to stay on Olga's wheel so that I could close the gaps from there. And in the last 100 metres, I ended up in just the right place."
Part of the Sunweb squad that won Saturday's team time trial and finishing with the break on Sunday, Ellen van Dijk won the race overall in what was her last stage race with her current outfit. The Dutchwoman isn't retiring from racing; Van Dijk will join Bronzini at the Trek Factory Racing team as a rider next season.
"I'm happy to finish my time with the team on a high," said Van Dijk. "With 18 seconds in hand after the team time trial, we wanted to go for the GC as well as the stage win. But we had to adjust the plan when the big group went away. It was still a pretty good situation with me up there, but I always expected it to be brought back."
Becker showed her tactical nous at the Tour of Chongming Island in April when she was part of a break of five that extraordinarily stayed away in the flat Chinese race, winning the stage and eventually the race overall.
In Madrid, Becker again joined the winning break in a race that was expected to end in a mass sprint. She launched her sprint in the last sweeping corner with 300 metres to go, and, although Bronzini and Sarah Roy (Mitchelton-Scott) came around her to take the top two places, a podium place on the stage was a fine conclusion to Becker's time with the Norwegian team.