The Mitchelton-Scott team had an extremely successful Emakumeen Bira, winning two stages and putting three riders into the top four overall. Their greatest performance came on Tuesday's final stage 4 when Amanda Spratt went on a 54-kilometre solo break to win both the stage and the general classification. She took the leader's jersey off her teammate Annemiek van Vleuten, who finished second overall.
"It's a victory for the whole team; we couldn't have hoped for a better day. We came here with some good GC options with Annemiek and Georgia [Williams]. And we were in an ideal position coming into the last stage with three riders in the top 10. I think I was the one that people were probably not looking at as much, and I could use that to my advantage," Spratt said.
Spratt added that there was a split in the peloton in the run-up to the Urkiola climb that put their main competitors, Anna van der Breggen (Boels Dolmans) and Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (Cervélo Bigla), on the back foot.
"We really used our numbers, isolating Ashleigh and Anna in particular. There was a split in the peloton, and we had four of us in there. Anna, Ashleigh, and Annemiek were all in the second bunch. We got Alexandra Manly and Jenelle Crooks to really drive that group with Georgia and I. And as soon as we hit the bottom, I just attacked straight away."
Cycling is often about how you react to an unexpected situation. Spratt explained that this was not the tactic the team had laid down beforehand.
"It was not exactly the plan we had before the stage, but I was in a good situation. I did not think I would to get such a big gap, but I just kept going, and they never caught me from behind. I honestly did not expect to win, I am very happy."
Van Vleuten had taken the race lead after winning the stage 2 individual time trial, and she looked like the favourite to win overall. On the following days, the Dutchwoman saw teammates go up the road and into the virtual lead. While Williams missed the leader's jersey by three seconds on stage 3, Spratt dethroned her team leader on the final day. But van Vleuten had no hard feelings at all and was proud of the team's performance.
"I had goosebumps at the finish. It was such a strong team effort, we were in control all day. Our tactic was that we did not want a strong break up the road, so the girls took control of that. Georgia Williams, Amanda Spratt, and I could take it really easy until the Urkiola climb. I'm very proud of how we played it out."
Spratt concurred, praising van Vleuten's team spirit. "It is always great to have Annemiek as a teammate. She is a superb team player and just as happy to give us an opportunity. This was our first test in the preparation for the Giro Rosa, and it went pretty well."
The 10-stage Giro Rosa, in early July, will feature several road stages with challenging climbs in addition to a mountain time trial.
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