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Brown outsprints Chabbey to win Ceratizit Challenge stage 3 at Aguilar de Campoo

Grace Brown (FDJ SUEZ Futuroscope) won stage 3 of the Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta in a sprint of two against Élise Chabbey (Canyon-SRAM). 

After the race had fallen apart into smaller groups on the long Hoces de Bárcena climb, the two riders had attacked from a group of favourites with just under 10 kilometres to go and held off the chase group.

Brown stayed in Chabbey's wheel onto the finishing straight, and when Chabbey opened the sprint, Brown brought her bike up to speed in a high gear to win the sprint.

Eight seconds later, Elisa Balsamo (Trek-Segafredo) took third place in the sprint of a reduced group.

There are no changes at the top of the GC as Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar Team) continues to lead the race 1:55 minutes ahead of Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo).

“I thought, maybe this was a stage that could suit me, and it was aggressive all day which is the type of racing that I really enjoy. I followed Élise Chabbey in the last ten kilometres, we had a gap on the group and worked together really well. I was able to outsprint her in the final, so I’m happy,” said Brown.

“I had the plan that I would look for opportunities to attack and make a breakaway. I was up the road a few times, actually, today, but it was the final one that worked. On this sort of course, it’s hard to know when the moment is, you have to feel the race,” the stage winner continued.

How it unfolded

The stage from Camargo to Aguilar de Campoo was only 96.4km long but included a 16-kilometre climb along the way. Although it wasn’t steep with an average gradient of three percent, the Hoces de Bárcena climb would split the race.

Despite numerous attempts, no breakaway could establish itself in the first 47km. A group of 24 riders then pulled away on the first kilometres of the Hoces de Bárcena climb, and from this group, Mavi García (UAE Team ADQ), Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM), and Brodie Chapman (FDJ SUEZ Futuroscope) tried to get away.

García succeeded in getting a gap four kilometres from the top of the climb but was reeled in again just before the top. Brown attacked with 27km to go, and Amber Kraak (Team Jumbo-Visma) went on a solo chase, eventually bridging to Brown.

The two had a gap of up to 40 seconds until Demi Vollering (Team SD Worx) went to the front of the chase group, working for her teammate Lotte Kopecky. Vollering quickly reduced the gap – but Kopecky, Balsamo, Évita Muzic (FDJ SUEZ Futuroscope), and Olympic road race champion Anna Kiesenhofer (Soltec Team) were among the riders dropped on a small rise.

Van Vleuten closed the gap to Brown and Kraak with 19km to go as she still had Arlenis Sierra with her. 12 riders were left in the front group, although Sierra briefly lost contact on another short climb before coming back when the pace fell.

10km from the line, Niewiadoma attacked with Alex Manly (Team BikeExchange-Jayco) on her wheel, but Brown closed them down. Chabbey counterattacked, and Brown jumped after her, getting a gap to the rest of the group.

As the front duo increased their advantage to over 30 seconds, the group of dropped riders returned, and Vollering took to the front once more. She succeeded in reducing the gap to eight seconds, but Brown and Chabbey had enough time to sprint against each other. Brown forced Chabbey to lead into the finishing straight, and the Australian came past with a power sprint to win the stage.

On stage 4, Chabbey will wear the green points jersey by proxy for Van Vleuten. Lucinda Brand won the first mountain sprint of the day to increase her lead in the QOM classification, and García was awarded the stage 3 combativity prize.

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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.

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