World Champion conquers her fourth stagerace title in just 10 months atop Lagos de Covadonga; makes it happen again together with strong, talented, intelligent Telefonica-backed squad after absolute thriller at final climb.
Three Giri Donne, one Tour de France, two Challenge by La Vuelta and, from Sunday, the first-ever La Vuelta Femenina. Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar Team) further increases her endless palmares as she rewarded the Blue squad with her first success in 2023 at the best possible venue: the Spanish team’s home Grand Tour.
Van Vleuten made it happen again at the 94km decisive, Queen stage in Asturias, over the Collado Moandi (Cat-2) and, most importantly, the legendary Lagos de Covadonga (Hors Categorie), her 1’11″ gap from the eve enough after a phenomenal exhibition towards Laredo on Saturday. It wasn’t without suspense, though, as Vollering (SDW) and Realini (TFS), the two women joining her on the final podium, made her suffer over the last 5km of the climb, a mission she completed 56″ behind the day’s winner – the jersey on her shoulders by just nine seconds.
Movistar Team thus reaches 18 Grand Tour victories (three with its women’s squad; those obtained in barely 10 months by ‘Miek’ at the Giro Donne, Tour de France Femmes and La Vuelta Femenina) as they see the Dutchwoman get herself to 99, just one short of a century she’ll surely achieve before she leaves competitive cycling later this year.
“I feel very tired, happy and super proud of my team,” said Van Vleuten after the finish. “In the end I thought I was losing the race because I could feel that they had a little more than I had today, perhaps also because of yesterday’s effort. I felt it in my legs. I didn’t have the best day on a super-steep, hard climb like this.
“The rivals put me to the limit, they played it well. But I never gave up, I kept pushing until the end. At the finish line I saw the happy faces of my team and I knew I made it. But I only knew when I crossed the finish line.“