Setmana Ciclista Valenciana
Off the back of a fantastic 10 day training camp at Rocacorba Cycling, it was finally time to get on a start line again. Our European opener was the four stage Setmana Ciclista Valenciana, just down the coast from Girona and it really did feel like an early season race.
The bunch was basically a bundle of nerves. A winter’s worth of race anticipation unleashed a series of crashes that claimed many riders. Fortunately, the whole team managed to stay upright and out of trouble and, by the third stage, we we well positioned to put our attack plan into motion.
Stage Three was the queen stage and the obvious crux that would decide the general classification was Xorret de Catí. I had looked at the parcours but it wasn’t until we reconned the climb a few days before the race that I realised how completely savage it was. A part of the Vuelta Espana many times in the past, the 4km climb has an average gradient of 11% with much steeper sections, especially during the second half the climb. Nothing could have prepared me for what I saw; the last 2km were savage! I like steep climbs more than most but this early in the season, I felt a little underprepared!
The stage was completely predictable but it wasn’t lacking in fireworks. A break had gone after the longer climb leading up the Xorret de Catí, with one of the riders, Soraya Paladin, having some valuable GC time. It wasn’t ideal but, as a team, we decided to stick to the plan, let the break go, and save it for the big beast of a climb that lay ahead. We hit the bottom and Movistar took control and set a demanding pace. Attacks started, including one from us, and chasers ramped up the pace again. I sat in and eventually we were down to a few riders and the fight was on.
The road was decorated with names and there were sections lined with encouraging spectators but not for one second did I forget about me legs when the road tilted up and over 15%, 20%, and more. We caught what was left of the break but Clara Koppenburg stayed out of the saddle and mashed her way past the break and to the front of the race. It took me a bit longer to work my way past the break and by the time I had, Clara had a spacious gap. By the summit, Clara was clearly on her way to victory and I was coming in for second.
Although I finished ahead of Paladin, her time advantage from the previous stage wasn’t to be overcome on the next day and neither was the 49 seconds that Koppenburg had claimed on the Catí. As the fourth and final stage ended with a bunch sprint, the GC unchanged, third was a great way to both finish our training camp and start our European season. Onwards and orange ;)