Arlenis Sierra (Astana Women's Team) is a versatile rider. Although often labelled a sprinter, the Cuban is a strong climber too. That versatility brought her success in the final UCI Women's WorldTour race of the 2018 season. She won the sprint at the Tour of Guangxi after two climbs had reduced the peloton, shedding several other fast finishers.
There were more difficulties to overcome than the climbs alone with the race run in rainy and foggy conditions. Mechanical issues also provided an additional challenge for the Cuban.
"I had a puncture a few kilometres before the first climb but managed to come back to the bunch," Sierra explained. "In the final kilometre I chose to follow Barnes' wheel, I did a good sprint and got this wonderful victory. I'm incredibly happy, it is the best way to end the season. I thank God for making me capable of doing this and obviously the whole team for their support."
The win in Guangxi caps off a strong season for the 25-year-old. It is Sierra's second WorldTour victory of the season after she won the final stage of the Women's Tour of California in May. She also took the Pan American road race title a week before California.
Astana Women's Team sports director Aldo Piccolo was overjoyed with the result as well, praising his star rider for staying competitive to the end of the season. "After the World Championships it is easy to lose a bit of focus, but Arlenis has been great these last weeks. Despite the rain we saw a lot of people on the road cheering for the riders, and it was nice to have the award ceremony together with the men's race."
At the award ceremony, the team could also were also able to celebrate Sofia Bertizzolo, who received the light blue jersey as winner of the UCI Women's WorldTour youth classification, after a strong showing through the whole year.
Mitchelton-Scott rider Lucy Kennedy also enjoyed a trip to the podium, capping off a difficult season on a positive not. Kennedy had attacked in the hills to try and make the race hard and won the mountains classification in the process.
"The climbs were just steady, not particularly long or hard. We knew I would have to go hard from the start to get a gap," explained Kennedy. "The whole team did a great lead-out into the first climb, allowing me to attack right at the bottom and get away immediately. One other Astana girl came across after the first climb and she gave me a bit of help in between the climbs. I am not surprised it came back on the flat roads afterwards, but my move allowed the others to follow wheels and forced other teams to chase."
Team Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank were probably the most active team of the day, launching multiple attacks. Later, the team put Alison Jackson in a good position to win the second intermediate sprint and then protect Jackson to the finish where she got a ninth-place finish, winning the sprint classification.
"In spite of the steady rain, we started animating the race early and the girls kept the pressure on throughout," said sports director Ed Beamon. "The two climbs thinned out the bunch, but we kept the team together and came to a bunch sprint. I'm happy with the performance, it was a really strong team effort and a positive way to end a successful season. I think the team really matured throughout the season, and it has been a rewarding year."