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Silvia Persico dominates uphill sprint to win stage 4 at Ceratizit Challenge

Silvia Persico (Valcar-Travel & Service) won stage 4 of the Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta, finishing on a two-kilometre climb through Segovia. The Italian outsprinted runner-up Demi Vollering (SD Worx) and Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo).

“It was a long stage, and the first two hours were really not fast. I didn’t feel good in the first part of the race, but my teammates stayed with me all day, and I thought ‘I have to be good today, this is my last race for the team’. I am very happy to take this victory and want to thank my teammates because they were fantastic,” said Persico after her first Women’s WorldTour victory.

The stage was dominated by a 150-kilometre solo by Olympic champion Anna Kiesenhofer (Soltec Team) who held an advantage of up to 9:30 minutes but was caught just before the flamme rouge.

On the finishing climb, Longo Borghini started the sprint with 200m to go but was passed by Persico and Vollering in the final 50 metres. Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx) finished fourth.

There were no changes in the general classification, Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar Team) takes the red jersey into the final stage, a circuit race in Madrid, with a lead of 1:51 minutes over Longo Borghini.

How it unfolded

At 160.4km preceded by a 17-kilometre neutral zone, stage 4 was the longest of the five-day race by far. The first 60km were continuously up and down before the route became flatter. The final 14 km included the unclassified Alto de Hontanares climb, a 1.8-kilometre uphill gravel section, and finally a 2.5-kilometre climb through the streets of Segovia.

Kiesenhofer went on the attack soon after the flag was dropped and quickly increased her gap to the peloton. When Nina Buijsman (Human Powered Health) went on a solo chase after 25km, Kiesenhofer was already three minutes ahead, and her advantage continued to grow to 9:30 minutes with 90 km to go, making the Austrian the virtual GC leader.

Buijsman was caught by the peloton, and Kiesenhofer suffered a crash but was quickly up and riding again. Although the entire Movistar Team including Van Vleuten herself took turns at the front of the peloton, Kiesenhofer was still 8:50 minutes ahead at the 50-kilometre mark.

The gap only began to come down for real when Trek-Segafredo, Canyon-SRAM, FDJ SUEZ Futuroscope, and Team BikeExchange-Jayco contributed to the chase. 20 km from the finish, the peloton was 3:35 minutes behind, and at the top of the Alto de Hontanares, the gap had been reduced to 1:52 minutes as Kiesenhofer felt the efforts of her long solo.

When the gravel section ended with 7 km to go, Kiesenhofer was only 43 seconds ahead, and although she started the finishing climb with a 25-second gap, she was caught 1.1 km from the line.

Liane Lippert (Team DSM) tried to get away with 700 metres to go but had Longo Borghini, Lotte Kopecky (Team SD Worx), Persico, Vollering, Van Vleuten, Anouska Koster (Team Jumbo-Visma), and Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ SUEZ Futuroscope) on her wheel.

Vollering and then Van Vleuten took over to set a hard pace, and Longo Borghini made her move just 200 metres from the line. Persico was on her wheel, and Kopecky jumped across too, but the Belgian could not hold the pace and drifted back to finish fourth. Persico came around Longo Borghini in the last metres to take the stage victory, and Vollering also squeezed past to finish second.

Although there were small gaps on the uphill finish, the GC stays almost unchanged: Ane Santesteban (Team BikeExchange-Jayco) dropped from fourth to sixth place, and Longo Borghini is still 1:51 seconds behind red jersey Van Vleuten – a deficit that is virtually impossible to overcome on the final stage in Madrid. Instead, Longo Borghini has taken the lead in the points classification while Lucinda Brand (Trek-Segafredo) continues to wear the polka-dot jersey.

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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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