Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott) lived up to her status as pre-stage favourite, winning the stage 2 individual time trial at the Emakumeen Bira in the world champion's jersey and putting time into the rest of the field on the 26.6km course.
Nine seconds slower than Anna van der Breggen (Boels Dolmans) at the intermediate time check, Van Vleuten gave it her all on the second half and won the test with a time 14 seconds faster than her rival.
"I wanted to go as hard as possible to gain as much time as possible, just do an optimal time trial. I did a warm-up on stage 1 with a solo in the finale," Van Vleuten joked.
"I put everything out there that I have at the moment. I know I can be slightly better, but it gives me a lot of confidence already to have this level. And winning in the world champion's jersey is special. I did it already in Australia; that was a really short one. It was really nice to win in the world champion's jersey for my team in a European race."
Van der Breggen looked strongest on the steep climb to Atagoiti on stage 1, where only Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (Cervélo Bigla) was able to stay with the UCI Women's WorldTour leader over the top. Van Vleuten followed a few seconds down but caught up on the descent. The stage 2 winner acknowledged that Van der Breggen may be stronger on the climbs.
"Now we will take it day-by-day. I got the better of my competitors today in the time trial and I have a very strong team behind me. Anna showed that she is really strong on the climbs, so we'll see. I don't have a massive advantage, but she will have to attack me. I think it will be a very interesting race."
As a lightweight climber, Moolman-Pasio feels most at home in the hills and mountains. But the South African is also capable of a good time trial and showed that with a fourth place on Sunday, losing only 53 seconds to Van Vleuten. Moolman-Pasio promised that she would go on the attack on the stages to come.
"I’m really happy with my result. It was the first long TT of the season, a world champs-style course with almost 27 kilometres from point to point. Years ago, this would not have suited me with the long straights and wind but as a lightweight rider, I can be proud of today. The first part of the course suited me, but towards the end, the crosswinds threw me around a bit. There’s lots of climbing to come. We are very motivated for the next two stages and it will make for some exciting racing."
Having survived the hills and won the group sprint for second place on stage 1, Lisa Brennauer (Wiggle-High5) showed another good performance in the time trial. The 2014 time trial world champion was third-best, 44 seconds slower than Van Vleuten. But the German conceded that the last two stages of the race could be too challenging for her.
"It was a nice course for me, a high-speed course, and I had a good day. I can be happy with third place. The last stage will be hard for me, not being a super-climber. So I think it’s best to look from day to day and take it from there because I think I might face some problems on the last day."
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