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García in the driver's seat ahead of decisive summit finish at Vuelta a Burgos Féminas

Mavi Garcia (UAE Team ADQ) at Vuelta a Burgos Feminas
Mavi Garcia (UAE Team ADQ) at Vuelta a Burgos Feminas (Image credit: Getty Images)

Stage 3 of the Vuelta a Burgos Féminas saw Mavi García (UAE Team ADQ) take the stage win and the purple leader’s jersey. The Spanish champion now leads the GC by 12 seconds over her closest competitor and goes into stage 4, the Lagunas de Neila mountaintop finish at an altitude of 1,870 metres, as one of the favourites for the overall victory.

The time gaps ahead of the final stage are larger in 2022 than they were the year before when 29 riders started stage 4 within five seconds of the overall lead. This year, only 31 riders are within a minute of the purple jersey.

García is an accomplished climber, and wearing the leader’s jersey will give her extra motivation. However, she suffered a Covid-19 infection only last week which forced her to skip the Itzulia Women as well as Durango-Durango.]

She had no trouble in the echelons on stage 1 and made the race in the final of stage 3, but more than 13 kilometres of continuous climbing serve up a test of a different nature.

After dominating the Itzulia Women by winning all three stages and the GC, Demi Vollering (Team SD Worx) was the big pre-race favourite to repeat last year’s victory by her then-teammate, now-sports director Anna van der Breggen. However, Vollering crashed out of the Durango-Durango one-day race and had to stay in hospital overnight for observation.

On stage 3, Vollering struggled in the final, not cresting the Alto Retuerta with the best, dangling off the back of the group in the final and eventually losing time on the finishing climb to cross the line 49 seconds behind García. Instead, Team SD Worx may look to their young climbers Niamh Fisher-Black and Anna Shackley. Both trail García by only 22 seconds and know the Lagunas de Neila climb from last year’s race.

FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine-Futuroscope had Marta Cavalli crash out of the race on stage 2 but remain one of the strongest teams in the race; all five remaining riders are within 49 seconds of the lead. Évita Muzic is closest to García at only 12 seconds and will wear the white U23 jersey on Sunday. In 2021, the French champion gained nine seconds on Fisher-Black on the Lagunas de Neila climb and finished only four seconds behind the New Zealander overall.

The French team’s strongest contender will be Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, however, currently 15th overall at 15 seconds. The Danish allrounder excels on long climbs, and her podium place in Durango-Durango indicated that she has fully recovered from her COVID-19 infection in April.

The Team DSM duo of Liane Lippert and Juliette Labous trails García by 15 seconds, too. Labous is generally the stronger climber of the two, and having two closely-matched riders can play to their favour on such a long climb.

Canyon-Sram had high hopes for Pauliena Rooijakkers who finished fourth on Lagunas de Neila in 2021, but the Dutch climber had to abandon the race after stage 2. But with Katarzyna Niewiadoma and Elise Chabbey both in striking distance at 15 seconds and Soraya Paladin at 35 seconds, the team still has several options for the final stage.

Although Tatiana Ducuara (Colombia Tierra de Atletas) lost her overnight race lead on stage 3, Colombia remains in with a chance of a top GC result. Ducuara is 29 seconds behind García but struggled on the Alto Retuerta and will probably not be able to climb with the best on Sunday, but Movistar Team’s Paula Patiño enjoys her team’s full support and is in excellent form: Fourth overall in the Vuelta Andalucía and ninth in the Itzulia Women, the long Lagunas de Neila climb suits Patiño well.

Team BikeExchange-Jayco have two cards to play with Kristen Faulkner and Ane Santesteban, as do EF Education-Tibco-SVB with Krista Doebel-Hickok and Veronica Ewers. All four sit at 15 seconds in GC, as does Trek-Segafredo’s Shirin van Anrooij. The young Dutchwoman has achieved decent results on mountaintop finishes in 2021, and her cyclo-cross background means that she knows how to produce a long effort.

Last, but not least, Hanna Nilsson (Ceratizit-WNT, at 0:22), Špela Kern (Massi Tactic, at 0:22), Alice Maria Arzuffi (Valcar-Travel & Service, at 0:35), and Nadine Michaela Gill (Sopela Women’s Team, at 0:35) are riders to keep an eye on in the final stage; all of them could finish in the GC top-ten with a standout performance on the Lagunas de Neila climb.

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