May 11, 2023
The next instalment of the women’s WorldTour kicks off tomorrow, can Annemiek van Vleuten stay on top or will Demi Vollering’s dominance return?
Women’s WorldTour stage racing is coming thick and fast in the month of May. Less than a week after La Vuelta Femenina concluded – in which Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) narrowly took victory – Itzulia Women will kick off on May 12. Spanning three days, the race takes in some of the toughest climbs of the Basque Country and will provide the perfect stage for the climbers of the peloton to flourish. Last year, Demi Vollering (SD Worx) took overall victory at Itzulia Women by over one minute after winning every single stage. She’ll be back to defend her title this year, but there are a number of other climbers who will also fancy their chances on the steep gradients that the Spanish climbs throw at them.
Stage one – Etxebarria › Markina-Xemein (122.2km)
Itzulia Women opens with an undulating 122.2 kilometre stage that begins in Etxebarria, a town and municipality located in the province of Biscay deep in the autonomous Basque country. The first 40 kilometres rise steadily towards Arrazola, taking in undulating terrain but no classified climbs. The first main obstacle of the day is the ascent of Gontzagaragiana, a third category climb that spans 2.6km with an average gradient of 6.5%. An intermediate sprint point follows shortly after the summit before a flat section of 30 kilometres towards the final climb of the day. Urkaregi is a long ascent of 5.8km with an average gradient of 4.6% and this should make the final selection of riders who will be able to fight it out for the stage win. Once the remainder of the peloton crests the summit of Urkaregi, a 7km descent to the finish line follows. This is a stage that will likely be too difficult for the sprinters and we could see a general classification battle right from the opening of Itzulia Women.
Stage two – Vitoria-Gasteiz › Amurrio (133.2km)
The first 50 kilometres of stage two provide the perfect opportunity for a breakaway to establish itself. With a relatively quiet start, the peloton hits the first climb of the day after around 22km of racing, La Tejera. This could be a good springboard for attacks from those who want to establish a breakaway group – it’s a 3km ascent averaging a 6.5% gradient. For the next 70 kilometres, the roads are gently rolling…
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