Ruth Winder (Trek-Segafredo) judged her final sprint to perfection, launching herself into the final turn and coming out of it with a sizeable gap ahead of her breakaway companions, to win the opening stage at Setmana Ciclista Valenciana. The American's stage success brought with it the first leader's jersey of the four-day European opener. It was mixed emotions for the team as they lost Trixi Worrack to a broken collarbone sustained in a crash earlier in the stage.
"We had reconned the course so I knew the finish really well and attacked full gas into the roundabout with 400 meters to go and I went as hard as I could to the line," said Winder, who led the breakaway across the line by just four seconds ahead of a charging main field.
"It was that feeling that the finish line kept getting further and further away and I was certain the entire peloton was going to rush past me in the last second. But it didn't and I held on for the win. It feels unbelievable to win the first race over in Europe – it's exciting, and I am happy with the team; the spirit is so good."
Although Winder suffered a flat tire before the field hit the first of two main late-race climbs of the stage; Barxet (90km) and Barx (105km), she relied on her teammate to get her back into contention.
"I had a puncture right before the first climb, and Anna [Plichta] stayed with me, and she was great," Winder said. "I felt so calm to have a teammate stay with me, and she got me back to the front safely. Then at the top of the climb there was a break that went, and then before it really, truly went down, and I rolled alongside Elisa (Longo Borghini) and said, 'Oh Elisa, I want to go' And she said, 'yeah go!'"
It was the winning breakaway, and Winder bridged across to the move, which also included Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Bigla), Mavi Garcia (Movistar), Soraya Paladin (Ale Cipollini) and Karol-Ann Canuel (Boels Dolmans). The group lost Uttrup Ludwig inside the last 10km, but they pushed on together in an effort to get to the finish line ahead of the main field.
As they looked over their shoulders they could see the peloton looming behind but Winder decided to go for a longer, 400-metre sprint in hopes of securing the stage win. Trek-Segafredo director, former two-time world champion Giorgia Bronzini, praised her quick-thinking in the sprint.
"Ruth was very smart to go for a long sprint because the peloton was coming," Bronzini said. "It was a perfectly timed move. She was not sure how she would do against the climbers today, so she stayed near the back, and never showed the others in the breakaway how she was feeling."
The stage was not all success for Trek-Segafredo, who lost their team captain Worrack at the start of the stage to a crash. The German all-rounder broke her collarbone and will need some time to recover before joining the team at the races.
"Besides Trixi (Worrack) crashing and breaking her collarbone the team did super well today," summed up Winder. "It feels good to get this win for them, and for Trixi - I hope that she feels better soon."