Yesterday saw the start of the 24th edition of the Iuretta Emakumeen Bira 2.1 Tour in the Basque region of Spain. Stage 1 was 75km long with one category 3 climb. The short race distance made for some fast and aggressive racing.
The bunch stayed together for the first part of the race and hitting the only major climb of the day at 44km, I held a good position near the front of the bunch. Elena Bartolo (Fassa Bortolo) tried an early attack. She got some distance on the bunch, but was quickly pulled in by Garmin Cervelo and Marianne Vos. I stayed calm and followed the wheels.
Approaching the 500m to the GPM sign, I was in a perfect position just behind Emma Pooley and Marianne Vos. A little gap opened, so I tried an attack, but was quickly followed by Emma Pooley.
At 25om to go, I was on the front of the bunch. I thought I had messed up any chance of getting away. Luckily Carl, my husband, was standing on the side of the road at this point. He shouted out to me that the top was just around the corner and he encouraged me to put in one last surge. Going from the front of the bunch, I thought I would definitely be overtaken on the line, but decided it was worth one last try. I had nothing to loose after all. I put in one last kick and crossing the line at the top of the climb I looked back and was surprised to find no one on my wheel.
On the descent I was quickly joined by Marianne Vos and a few others. With 25km to go to the finish line; on a very fast and open road, there was no chance I would survive on my own to the line. We quickly formed a bunch of 40 girls and approaching Durango for the finish, the pace was hard and fast. Many tried to get away, but with no success.
In the last 5km, the Nederland Bloeit team formed a mean lead out train on the front of the bunch, delivering their sprinter Marianne Vos to the front with plenty of time to take the win comfortably. Ina Teutenberg (HTC Highroad) took second and Lizzie Armistead (Garmin Cervelo) was third. I played it safe in the bunch and rolled in, in 28th position on the same time as the winner, Marianne Vos.
I was very happy to have a incident free race and taking the climbers jersey on the first stage felt really special! My teammates were awesome in the race! Their support was amazing, helping me hold a good and safe position in the bunch! Yesterday was my first podium at a UCI 2.1 tour! It feels really good and today I will be defending the polkadot jersey with pride and determination!
Stage 2 starts this afternoon at 15:30. It is 115km long with four climbs, three category 3 climbs and one not categorised.