Baril set to attack from second place in Itzulia Women finale

MALLABIA SPAIN MAY 14 LR Marta Cavalli of Italy and Team FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope and Olivia Baril of Canada and Team Valcar Travel Service cross the finishing line during the 1st Itzulia Women 2022 Stage 2 a 1179km stage from Mallabia to Mallabia 262m ItzuliaWomen UCIWWT on May 14 2022 in Mallabia Spain Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo MorenoGetty Images
Olivia Baril of Valcar-Travel&Service crosses the finishing line ahead of Marta Cavalli of FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope (Image credit: Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)

Within a week, Olivia Baril (Valcar-Travel & Service) achieved the best results of her career so far as she won the GP Ciudad de Eibar and following up with second place on stage 2 of the Itzulia Women. 

Following the attacks of overall race leader Demi Vollering (Team SD Worx) and Marta Cavalli (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope) on the category 1 Karabieta climb, Baril was part of a five-rider front group that also included Pauliena Rooijakkers (Canyon-SRAM) and Juliette Labous (Team DSM) and played her cards well in the uphill sprint where she was only beaten by Vollering.

“I am super happy with the position today. My team is trying to bring me up on GC in this race. It’s very humbling,” said Baril after the finish.

Making up time on most of her rivals, Baril moved up 13 places in the general classification and is now fifth overall, 1:01 minutes behind Vollering and only one second behind fourth-placed Cavalli.

“It was a really hard race, I found. The heat affects me a lot sometimes, and I knew that the race would happen on the last climb. I was just following attacks, following attacks, and it turned out that I had good legs today and I was able to follow Demi Vollering,” the Canadian was more than satisfied with her performance.

Baril is something of a newcomer at the highest levels of racing, but her career trajectory has been upwards for some years, being interrupted by COVID-induced race cancellations in 2020.

Having raced exclusively in Canada until then, Baril joined the Canadian/French Macogep-Tornatech-Girondins team for 2018 and stayed with the team until 2020. Her first noticeable results in Europe were 19th places in the 2019 Vuelta a Burgos (before the race moved up to the Women’s WorldTour) and Kreiz Breizh, a two-day stage race in Brittany.

Her 2020 season was cut short after a sixth place in the Dubai Women’s Tour as the Covid-19 pandemic shut down the cycling calendar, but Baril made an important change later that year when she moved to the Basque Country.

“I have lived in Donostia since September 2020, and I just love the Basque Country, I love riding here. The fans are also great, and wherever we travel in the world, in Belgium or in Italy, we always see the Basque fans, that’s great. They love cycling,” she was enthusiastic about her new home.

Baril signed with Spanish team Massi Tactic for 2021, her first full European season. Her best result was sprinting to a 12th place in the Vuelta CV Feminas, but the Canadian gained a lot of experience by racing the Vuelta a Burgos, La Course, Donostia Klasikoa, and Ceratizit Challenge, among others.

Ahead of the 2022 season, the 24-year-old moved to Valcar-Travel & Service, a team that has developed several top riders such as world champion Elisa Balsamo, Marta Cavalli, or Maria Giulia Confalonieri. Baril first showed herself on the big scene at the Tour of Flanders where she was in the breakaway for almost 120 kilometres. She added to this with decent results in the Ardennes, finishing 22nd in the Amstel Gold Race and 16th in La Flèche Wallonne Féminine before breaking into the top-10 at the Festival Elsy Jacobs with a seventh place overall.

The weekend before the Itzulia Women, Baril took her first UCI win at the GP Ciudad de Eibar in a manner reminiscent of Vollering’s stage 2 victory: Following Women’s WorldTour stars Mavi García (UAE Team ADQ) and Ane Santesteban (Team BikeExchange-Jayco) on the race’s final climb, she even dropped them on the descent before being caught again on the flat and going on to win the final sprint.

The third and final stage of the inaugural Itzulia Women on Sunday starts and finishes in Baril’s adopted hometown of Donostia, and the Canadian can be expected to feature at the front of the race again.

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Lukas Knöfler started working in cycling communications in 2013 and has seen the inside of the scene from many angles. Having worked as press officer for teams and races and written for several online and print publications, he has been Cyclingnews’ Women’s WorldTour correspondent since 2018.