Demi Vollering may have taken the red leader’s jersey by winning stage 5 of La Vuelta Femenina, but there were mixed emotions at the SD Worx camp after their second GC-card Niamh Fisher-Black dropped out of GC contention.
The 22-year-old New Zealander needed a bike change after a crash, and race commissaries enforced a barrage for the team cars, and she wasn’t able to get back into the main field.
Fisher-Black was in tears and looked inconsolable after finishing 1:30 minutes down and dropping to 14th place overall, though Vollering did her best to cheer up her teammate.
SD Worx sports director Anna van der Breggen was diplomatic about the incident when asked for comment after the race.
“We are happy and disappointed at the same time. Of course, we are really happy because Demi won the stage and is the new GC leader, and Marlen [Reusser] was also good. But we are not happy about Niamh because she crashed uphill and is probably losing the general because of this,” said Van der Breggen.
At first, everything seemed to go well for Fisher-Black. She was part of the front group that formed on the first climb of the day, the Puerto de Navafría – a selection that several strong riders like Liane Lippert (Movistar Team) or Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) missed.
“We didn’t expect such a big selection in Navafria, but it was good for us because we had our three leaders at the head of the race. It was a nice situation for us until Niamh got dropped to the second group. It’s good that the riders made a real race already on that long climb,” Van der Breggen said about the early selection.
At 35km from the finish, things went pear-shaped for Fisher-Black: Vollering had been at the team car to pick up bottles and handed one to her teammate, who momentarily concentrated on taking the bottle. This brief moment was all it took for the New Zealander to crash, also taking down Ane Santesteban (Team Jayco-AlUla).
The crash itself was innocuous, and neither Santesteban nor Fisher-Black was badly hurt. In fact, both were standing up quickly and ready to chase back – but while Santesteban gave her bike a quick check and then remounted, Fisher-Black needed a bike change.
Once she was on her spare bike, however, the race jury made the curious decision to enforce a barrage behind her – not allowing team cars to drive directly behind the group in front. While Santesteban had been able to use the convoy of team cars to get back to the group not even a minute earlier…
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