La Vuelta Femenina: Realini surges in two-up sprint over Van Vleuten to win stage 6 in Laredo
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Gaia Realini (Trek-Segafredo) won stage 6 of La Vuelta Femenina for her first Women's WorldTour victory of her career. She beat Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar Team) in a photo-finish sprint after an exciting stage that saw Van Vleuten take the red jersey from Demi Vollering (Team SD Worx).
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It was 1:04 minutes after the duo pushed across the line that Loes Adegeest (FDJ-SUEZ) won the sprint of a reduced peloton to take third place.
Vollering went for a nature break in a crosswind section and hadn't returned to the peloton yet when the Movistar Team put the race in the gutter 36 km into the 106-kilometre stage. Vollering was left chasing for the rest of the stage that included two second-category climbs.
Van Vleuten shredded the peloton on the first climb; only Realini, Évita Muzic (FDJ-SUEZ), Juliette Labous (Team DSM), and Erica Magnaldi (UAE Team ADQ) could stay in her wheel over the Alto de Fuente de las Varas. Van Vleuten attacked again just before the intermediate sprint and went solo, though Realini managed to bridge back to her.
With Realini on her wheel, Van Vleuten went over the Puerto de Campo El Hayal and through the flat 15 kilometres to the finish where Realini just outsprinted the world champion.
“It’s an incredible day for me and our team. It’s incredible, I don’t have words for this,” said Realini after her stage victory.
Going into the final stage which finishes atop the climb to the Lagos de Covadonga, Van Vleuten leads the general classification by 1:11 minutes on Vollering and 1:23 minutes on Riejanne Markus (Team Jumbo-Visma).
How it unfolded
Despite several attempts, nobody managed to get away in a break early on. Instead, Vollering and some of her teammates opted to stop for a nature break at the beginning of a crosswind section where Movistar had planned to split the race – and did so.
Team Jumbo-Visma and Trek-Segafredo joined Movistar at the front of the first peloton while Team SD Worx chased behind. The red jersey was 1 minute, 14 seconds behind at the start of the first climb of the day.
Van Vleuten set a high pace on the Alto de Fuente de las Varas, leaving only four riders in her wheel and increasing the advantage over Vollering to almost two minutes.
Attacking to take the six-second time bonification at the intermediate sprint between the day’s two climbs, Van Vleuten kept going after the sprint, and only Realini made it back to her. The world champion continued with Realini on her wheel, leading over the second climb, down the descent, and over the flat to the finishing straight in Laredo where she had to sprint against Realini, and the minuscule Italian climber just beat Van Vleuten to the stage victory in a photo finish.
Behind the front duo, Vollering had worked hard to reduce the gap, picking up more and more riders and eventually getting help from her teammate Marlen Reusser as well as several riders from Canyon-SRAM. They crossed the line 1:04 minutes down, and Vollering dropped to second place overall.