Brilliant opening to Basque season
Spanish champion from Movistar Team – riding solo at Vizcaya event – shows pure class and energy to win in two-up sprint against Italian Nicole D’Agostin (BDU).
Despite racing with no team-mates -the Blues were present at Saturday’s Strade Bianche– and with an aim to continue getting ready for her international schedule of the spring, the racing instinct of Eider Merino (Movistar Team) took her to contest, and win, the maiden edition of the Zaldibarko Emakumeen Saria, a 72km course in the Vizcaya province with three climbs of the gentle Alto de Miota and a more serious ascent to Areitio.
At the latter, the Spanish road race champion made a big selection in the group, taking with her a Bizkaia duo with Spaniard Cristina Martínez and Italy’s Nicole D’Agostin, the only competitor to be able following a further acceleration from Merino at the last climb. Despite both trying to drop the other back with attacks before the sprint, a tight rush to the line resulted in a narrow victory for Eider, victorious six months after her resounding success in the Queen stage of the Tour de l’Ardèche.
Merino is expected to race at next Saturday’s Gorla hillclimb, looking forward to reach her best condition before the first WWT races for her this season, including the Emakumeen Bira in late May.
REACTION / Eider Merino:
“At the third climb, Areitio, I just pushed on full steam from the foot, looking to know who could stick to that. At the summit, only two Bizkaia riders were following –Nicole D’Agostin and Cristina Martínez–, and at the final ascent we went only the two of us, the Italian and me, taking turns to the finish. It’s my first time winning a sprint, even if it was a bit weird. With 500 meters remaining, a car from the organisers started shouting “go, go, go”, and I understood “no, no, no”. I thought to myself, ‘maybe we’ve missed a turn on the route’. I stopped abruptly and Nicole took a 100-meter advantage. I had to push afterwards, and that was good for me, even it it didn’t seem so, because I carried all the steep and didn’t have to sprint (laughs). I thought: come what may. And considering that she’s also a small climber like me, the sprint was quite balanced in the end.
“Even if it isn’t a UCI race, it helps me much with my training. To win against the top riders you also need victories like these. Next Saturday I’ll be racing the Gorla hill climb, with an ascent more than 20 minutes long, quite a huge one for us ladies. If I found myself doing well at 4km ascents like today’s, that race should suit me better, it’s my terrain. It will also depend on having a breakaway ahead, and the energy I’ve got left before the climb. However, when there’s a climb, I just give my best, and that’s what I’ll do then.”
Cover picture (c): Yon Suinaga
Zaldibarko Emakumeen Saria
- 01 Eider Merino Movistar Team 1h58'48"
- 02 Nicole d'Agostin Bizkaia Durango "
- 03 Ana Usabiaga Eustrak-Euskadi +1'52"