Elvin sprints to third on the opening stage of Emakumeen Bira

Wed 22 May 2019

Australian Gracie Elvin sprinted to third on the opening stage of Emakumeen Bira as compatriot Amanda Spratt grabbed valuable bonus seconds to move into the top three overall.

The day eventually came down to a sprint finish despite numerous attacks throughout the stage, including an effort from Spratt in the closing kilometres.

One for the sprinters

The four-day race began with a stage designed with a sprint in mind, with just two category three ramps to contend with as the peloton looped around Iurreta.

The first action of the day came at the opening intermediate sprint and with seconds on the line Spratt took the early opportunity to take time on her rivals, crossing the line first to bag the maximum three seconds on offer.

A lull in the bunch followed after the sprint and one rider took the chance to jump clear, with the peloton happy for the solo move go out to over one minute as Micthelton-SCOTT amassed at the head of the peloton.

The closing kilometres

The lone leader was reeled back in over the slopes of the first categorised climb of the day, with Mitchelton-SCOTT once again taking up their position at the head of the pack as the second intermediate sprint approached. After a strong lead out from Lucy Kennedy and Annemiek van Vleuten, Spratt took the maximum three seconds yet again to move into the virtual lead on the road.

With the day seemingly set for a sprint finish, Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek – Segafredo) had different ideas as she edged clear over the second categorised climb and Spratt quickly followed. The pair opened up a sizable gap, but the peloton were alert to the danger of two general classification favourites going clear and swiftly brought them back.

Several attacks came and went in the closing 20-kilometres with the peloton reacting each time to shut the moves down and set it up for a sprint finale. In the end, the day came down to the predicted sprint finish with Jolien D’hoore (Boels-Dolmans) taking the stage as Elvin got up for third place.

Gracie Elvin:
“We were expecting today to be a sprint stage, especially because Boels-Dolmans had their top sprinter’s ready, so we knew they’d want to keep it together for a sprint and it played out as we expected.”

“The climbs were hard but not hard enough to split it up, Spratty got away at one point but it was always going to come back with that long straight run to the finish, so I just had to sit in the wheels and look after myself all day.”

“I was given the opportunity to go for the sprint so I made sure I stayed focused and the girls did a great job to position me into the last kilometre so I’m grateful to them. I just wasn’t quite fast enough, but I’m still really happy to be on the podium.”

Amanda Spratt:
“It was the plan for me to go for the bonus seconds as they were both on small climbs, so that suits me really well and it was a good opportunity to get some seconds. With no time trial this year it could be closer on the GC and with three good options for the GC here it’s smart for us to take these opportunities.”

“It wasn’t the plan to get away with Longo Borghini. I saw Wiles attack but I was quite far back so I did a big effort to move up and just as I was getting to the front I could see Elisa was getting ready to attack so I went with her.”

“It was a big effort to get to her wheel but we had a decent gap at the top. At first I worked but then we decided it’s not smart today with too many teams focused for the sprint and with so far until the finish it wasn’t something we thought would stay away.”

Emakumeen Bira Stage One Results:
1. Jolien D’hoore (Boels-Dolmans) 2:33:20
2. Sofia Bertizzolo (Team Virtu Cycling) ST
3. Gracie Elvin (Mitchelton-SCOTT) ST

Emakumeen Bira General Classification After Stage One:
1. Jolien D’hoore (Boels-Dolmans) 2:33:10
2. Sofia Bertizzolo (Team Virtu Cycling) +0:02
3. Amanda Spratt (Mitchelton-SCOTT) +0:04

Photos courtesy of Getty Images.