Team BikeExchange went on the offensive as the women’s WorldTour action returned with a wet and aggressive edition of the Clasica San Sebastian.
The squad were active throughout and placed Australian Jess Allen in an early breakaway move before local rider Ane Santesteban attacked clear over the Jaizkibel climb. The 30-year-old was joined by two more riders, with the group growing to six by the time they reached the ascent of the Gurutze climb with 34km to go.
The escapees opened up a maximum advantage of around 1’50” before the peloton began to up the tempo behind and chip away at the deficit. The gap was down 40 seconds at the foot of the final climb and the race was flipped on its head over the top as Annemiek van Vleuten caught and passed Santestban and co with 9km left to race.
Riders were spread all over the road as they battled the steep gradients with formed runner-up Janneke Ensing fighting her way over the summit amongst the chasers. However, there was no catching Van Vleuten as she soloed to victory, while Ensing crossed the line in 12th at the end of a tough day in the saddle.
“We tried to make the race hard and the plan was to try to go for a break. We knew if we waited until the last climb for sure Annemiek will win. I tried to attack on the last long climb but that didn’t work out. Then straight after me attack Ane tried and made it into a good breakaway.
Leading into it the final climb the speed was really high with Movistar trying to close the gap to Ane her group. The final climb was perfect for me, but I lost some places during the downhill as it was really slippery.
We went for the win today. We tried but we lost. If we didn’t try something for sure you don’t win this race if Annemiek is there. I’m happy with my good shape, but I just lost to much at some points in the downhill.”
“It was our plan to race aggressively and I think it was a really nice race as a team. We had really good communication and I think that was the best thing about today. It was a totally ‘Basque day’ with the weather conditions and it made the race harder, but it what it is and for everyone it was hard.
After the first climb there was a breakaway with Jess in it, then when it was altogether again the team tried several times to get into a breakaway. Then on the long second climb Janneke did an attack and when we caught her I went again, really deep and the breakaway formed.
I’m really, really happy with how the race went, for me it’s a special race as it’s my home race. It’s true that the result is not the best or the one that we were hoping for, but we tried to go for the win, and that’s the most important thing.”
2021 Clasica San Sebastian – Results:
1. Annemiek van Vleuten 3:53:36
2. Ruth Winder +0:36
3. Tatiana Guderzo +1:35
12. Janneke Ensing (Team BikeExchange) +1:52
Photo Courtesy of Getty Sport.