Van Vleuten: Van der Breggen was smarter in GP Ciudad de Eibar

EIBAR SPAIN MAY 16 Annemiek Van Vleuten of The Netherlands and Movistar Team Anna Van Der Breggen of The Netherlands and Team SD Worx Elisa Longo Borghini of Italy and Team Trek Segafredo celebrate at podium during the 3rd Gran Premio Ciudad De Eibar 2021 a 1172km race from Eibar to Arrate Alto Usartza 581m III Eibarko Hiria sari nagusia CiudaddeEibar21 CCEibarres on May 16 2021 in Eibar Spain Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images
Final podium for GP Ciudad de Eibar (L to R): Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) second, Anna Van Der Breggen of Team SD Worx winner, and Elisa Longo Borghini of Trek-Segafredo third (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

After her solo victory in the Emakumeen Nafarroako Klasikoa three days earlier, Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar Team) was one of the top favourites for the Gran Premio Ciudad de Eibar, finishing atop the challenging climb to Arrate.

But although Van Vleuten was the most active rider on the final climb, victory fell to Anna van der Breggen (Team SD Worx), who attacked over the top of Van Vleuten just after the latter had dropped Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo).

In a tweet by her Movistar Team after the race, Van Vleuten thanked the organisers for putting on a hard race and congratulated Van der Breggen: “Thanks to the CC Eibarres for this Arrate finish – not so common for us to contest such hard uphill finishes. The race wasn’t an easy ride to the bottom of Usartza; hard from the start and really tactical. Van der Breggen? She was smarter – congrats.”

The peloton faced wet conditions on Sunday, riding a total of 119.4km with the final climb up the steep Alto Usartza, cresting 2.5 km from the finish at the Santuario de Arrate.

Starting the final climb, things had looked good for Van Vleuten as her teammate Katrine Aalerud set the pace in preparation for an attack. When the attack came, Van der Breggen and Longo Borghini were the only ones to stay with the European champion. But Van Vleuten eventually over-extended herself and had to let Van der Breggen go.

“A group of three with Annemiek and Anna went away, and I was there with them. They actually caught us back because we were watching each other a little bit, but then Annemiek attacked again, and we went away together once more. Anna then made the final move and I just had to defend my third place,” recounted Longo Borghini.

Mikayla Harvey (Canyon-SRAM) was one of the riders who briefly caught the top three. When they did, the New Zealander immediately went to the front of the group, but she did not follow the attacks, explaining that she set her own pace on the climb.

“I decided to ride my own pace up the climb as I am lacking power in the quick accelerations,” Harvey said after her fifth place. “Halfway up the climb, our group caught the leading three. I went to the front to keep at my own pace. When the next attack went, I couldn't follow but I just kept chugging along at my own tempo. 

"With a bit more work, I hope I can follow the moves for a podium result on finishes like this. However, I am really happy with the result today.”

One place further down was the first Basque rider, as Team BikeExchange’s Ane Santesteban finished sixth, narrowly beating Eider Merino (A.R. Monex), who was eighth, to the special prize for the best local rider.

“I am happy because I give it all on the climb and I have no regrets. The three riders in front were just stronger today. The team did some impressive work, we had Arianna [Fidanza] in the breakaway and the leadout into Arrate was perfect. We had hard conditions again, but I think it affected the race today less than the races in Navarra. Today we knew it was all about the legs you have in Arrate,” Santesteban said after her trip to the podium.

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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.