Great week for racing for Movistar Team ladies
Movistar Team riders Mavi, Eider and consistent, courageous Lorena Llamas -8th at final stage- lead Spanish National Team to brilliant results in grueling, mountainous six-day stagerace in France.
Embedded in a Spanish national team directed by former pro Ramón González Arrieta, three riders from the Movistar Team -Mavi García, Eider Merino and Lorena Llamas- improved even further at the Tour de l’Ardèche (UCI 2.1, France, seven stages from last Thursday through Tuesday) the 2018 tally of good results for the Telefónica-backed squad, the Blues having officially finished its season last weekend at the Madrid Challenge by La Vuelta.
García and Merino jumped onto the final podium of the race, 2nd and 3rd respectively behind top Polish rider Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon), following a series of courageous, startling performances in one of the most mountainous courses in the calendar. Mavi built an early advantage as she jumped away, together with Niewiadoma and Giro Rosa stage winner Ruth Winder (USA), at the uphill finish in Villeneuve-de-Berg (stage three, Friday). A day later, the Mallorca native’s amazing form and excellent teamwork alongside Merino led the duo to a spectacular one-two finish in a legendary climb: the Mont Serein (Saturday), no less than the west slope of the Mont Ventoux. Merino raised her arms victorious as Mavi took over the pink jersey as GC leader.
Mavi successfully defended her new colours on stage five -another tremendous mountain-top finish at the Mont Lozère (Cat-1)- against Niewiadoma, the only rider able to best the Spaniard over the line. However, an unfortunate crash into the last few kilometers of stage five (Monday), as she was heading to the finish of Montboucher-sur-Jabron, took García out of contention and put Niewiadoma into the lead.
The final stage to Privas, with four rated ascents and a long break from which Erica Magnaldi (BePink) went on to the day’s victory, witnessed another flurry of attacks from a determined Lorena Llamas, 8th at the finish and a crucial support for her team-mates. Behind, Merino -15th in the day- y García -18th, still with many bruises after the day prior’s incident- finished just under one minute behind Niewiadoma and held off a late charge from Americans Winder and Hatie Hall to seal their podium positions. A milestone for modern Spanish women’s cycling, with invaluable support from Cristina Martínez (Bizkaia Durango-Euskadi Murias), Aida Nuño and Nerea Nuño (Rio Miera-Cantabria), who took to the podium together with the three Blues as Spain won the team prize.
Up next, Merino, García and Llamas will head, alongside Alicia González, towards the tough road race of the UCI World Championships, Saturday 29th in Innsbruck (Austria), a race where Movistar Team riders Malgorzata Jasinska (POL) and Aude Biannic (FRA) will also feature. Four days before that (Tuesday 25th), García, the current Spanish TT champion, will take part in the Worlds’ individual time trial.
Picture (c): Sean Robinson / Vélofocus