It has been a good season so far for Shirin van Anrooij (Trek-Segafredo). As part of her team's classics squad, the 20-year-old Dutchwoman played an important role in the victories of Elisa Balsamo, but Van Anrooij also collected good placings for herself – enough to lead the Women's WorldTour U23 ranking.
Wearing the light blue leader's jersey in the first WWT stage race, the Itzulia Women, Van Anrooij struggled with the weather on the first two stages but made amends on the third and final stage where she went on the attack and was the last rider to be caught on the steep Murgil Tontorra climb.
"Today was a real confidence boost towards Burgos next week. Markel [Irizar, Trek-Segafredo sports director] and the team kept believing in me and wanted me to try for the stage win. I knew it would be really warm again, so I was nervous, but I did feel that my body was able to push itself more compared to the first two days where I just didn't feel like myself," Van Anrooij finished the race on a high.
The course of the final stage was copied from the 2021 Clásica San Sebastián, and Van Anrooij explained that last year's race informed their tactics and her decision to attack with Jeanne Korevaar (Liv Racing Xstra) at the 25-kilometre mark.
"The plan was to try to be in the break between the Jaizkibel and the Murgil because last year the break also stayed away until the Murgil. I saw Korevaar going and thought it was a good moment to follow her as it was not too far to go till the finish. But to be honest, I was not expecting to really create a gap until the bottom of the Murgil," she explained.
Entering the climb with a 35-second head start on the peloton, Van Anrooij emerged as the strongest rider from the three-rider breakaway that also included early escapee Morgane Coston (Arkéa Pro Cycling Team), dropping Korevaar and Coston on the first half of the two-kilometre climb. But the steep gradients of up to 19% took their toll, and Van Anrooij was reeled in 300 metres from the top.
"That climb was really hard," she said. "It wasn't as bad as I remembered from last year, but it was really hard for sure. I tried to ride my own pace, but I could feel the chasing group coming closer."
Finding her place in a group of ten riders behind a dominant Demi Vollering (Team SD Worx) who soloed to her third stage win, Van Anrooij recovered enough to sprint for placings in Donostia and finished fifth.
"I really love these races with a lot of climbing. Last year was my first time racing San Sebastián, I really enjoyed that, so I was excited to race here again. It is a really hard race with all the climbs, and the heat made it even harder," said Van Anrooij.
Having extended her contract with Trek-Segafredo for the road and Baloise-Trek Lions for cyclo-cross until the end of 2025 at the start of May, Van Anrooij is now looking forward to the Vuelta a Burgos where she will continue to wear the light-blue WWT U23 jersey – although Team SD Worx climber Niamh Fisher-Black is closing in and clearly mounting a challenge for the ranking that the New Zealander won in 2021.
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