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Echelons disrupt favourites in Vuelta a Burgos Féminas opener

Pauliena Rooijakkers of Canyon-SRAM Racing rides alongside Nina Kessler of Team BikeExchange-Jayco during windswept opening day at Vuelta a Burgos Feminas
Pauliena Rooijakkers of Canyon-SRAM Racing rides alongside Nina Kessler of Team BikeExchange-Jayco during windswept opening day at Vuelta a Burgos Feminas (Image credit: Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)

At a glance, stage 1 of the Vuelta a Burgos Féminas looked like the quintessential sprint stage, with a small breakaway of three riders sitting about a minute ahead of the peloton for most of the day and in the end, Lotte Kopecky (Team SD Worx) sprinting to the stage victory. But in between, there was chaos and frantic action on the last 30 kilometres when crosswinds played havoc in the peloton.

Having travelled mainly south into a headwind for the first 90 kilometres, the peloton turned south-east towards the finishing town of Aranda de Duero with 30 kilometres to go, and this coincided with the wind turning to south-west and increasing in strength, making for almost full-on crosswinds.

Several GC hopefuls were caught in the second split of 22 riders: Pauliena Rooijakkers (Canyon-SRAM), Itzulia Women runner-up and winner of Durango-Durango; Veronica Ewers (EF Education-TIBCO-SVB), 10th in the Basque stage race and runner-up in Durango-Durango; and Olivia Baril (Valcar-Travel & Service), winner of Gran Premio Ciudad de Eibar. This second group found themselves trailing the first peloton by about half a minute at the 25-kilometre mark.

Ewers and Baril both had teammates in the group who went to the front to reduce the gap, but Rooijakkers was on her own as the rest of her team was in the first peloton. Because of that, the 29-year-old Dutch climber took the unusual decision to attack from the second group with 23km left to race in an attempt to bridge to the front group.

Rooijakkers received help from her teammate Alena Amialiusik, who had dropped back to take her under her wings, and they reached the first peloton with 20km to go. The remainder of the group also made it back four kilometres later.

However, the danger was not over, and Rooijakkers, who had been sitting near the back of the group, found herself distanced once more with 13km to go, this time with only eight companions. Together with Georgia Williams (Team BikeExchange-Jayco), Rooijakkers made it back to the peloton where Amialiusik was waiting and took her around the group to the very front of the race.

Not running any risks, Canyon-SRAM took control of the race in the last 10km to keep Rooijakkers at the front - all six riders lined up at the front of the peloton to set the pace and keep the Dutch climber at the front, only relinquishing control to the sprinters’ teams in the final two kilometres.

Ewers and Baril also stayed in the peloton to the final and did not lose any time in the end, though both they and Rooijakkers will have expended more energy than they would have wanted. Therefore, the most prominent rider to lose time was 20-year-old Swiss climber Petra Stiasny, 18th overall in last week’s Itzulia Women, who came in 6:36 minutes behind.

Stage 2 from Sasamón to Aguilar de Campoo is forecast to be raced with a tailwind for most of the day, but the final 25km could see crosswinds again.

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