Team BikeExchange swept up the top two steps of the podium on the final stage of the four-day Setmana Ciclista Valenciana, with Urška Žigart taking her first international victory after a long solo break and then Arianna Fidanza winning the bunch sprint behind for second place.
Taking the final step of the podium, alongside the two new BikeExchange recruits, was Movistar’s Sheyla Gutiérrez while her team leader, Annemiek van Vleuten, comfortably walked away with the overall victory, after having taken the leaders jersey on the very first stage.
Žigart went on the move early in the 114 kilometre stage from Finestrat to Alacant, with three categorised climbs, attacking with more than 70 kilometres to race. The 24-year-old Slovenian bridged to sole leader Nadine Gill (Bizkaia-Durango) with the pair working together to stretch the gap until Žigart went out alone with 25 kilometres to go. The peloton were, at some stages, as much as three and a half minutes behind however the lead quickly narrowed in those final kilometres.
“When I was about six kilometres to the finish, the gap was coming down really fast because they were preparing for the sprint from the back,” said Žigart in a team statement. “At that time, I was thinking I am not going to make it, they’re going too fast, and I had a headwind, but my director was yelling in my ear to push through and telling me I can do it and to believe and I made it so I am very happy.”
The win is just the second international victory for the women's squad of the Australian-based team this year, with May’s Spanish races delivering some opportunities for the riders that would often be working for others. The 2019 Durango-Durango Emakumeen Saria winner, Lucy Kennedy, would likely have been a key contender for the squad in Spain but crashed at Liège-Bastogne-Liège. In the end the team’s highest placed rider on the General Classification was Janneke Ensing in 11th.
“We wanted a bit more with the GC but that was more or less decided on the first day,” said Žigart. “We were really happy with Arianna taking third place two days ago and of course today we took first place and second place, so to have one-two on such a hard stage it is really good, and we can go ahead into the next week of Spanish races very confident."
Setmana Ciclista Valenciana was moved from February to May this year and comes ahead of a string of one-day races in Spain. Next up is Emakumeen Nafarroako Women's Elite Classics (May 13), then it is the Navarra Women's Elite Classics (May 14), the Gran Premio Ciudad de Eibar (May 16) and finally Durango-Durango Emakumeen Saria (May 18) to round off the one-day events ahead of the next Women's WorldTour round, Vuelta a Burgos Feminas (May 20-23).
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