Merino 8th as Movistar Team gets back into racing
23 July 2020

UCI calendar resumes

Basque climber near top contenders at tough first trophy in Vuelta a Navarra; World Champion Van Vleuten (MTS) succeeds in first race after nearly five months off due to the pandemic.

/ Today’s route

It was a demanding test for the Movistar Team in its return to racing, with four rated climbs -Ulzurrun (Cat-1), Etxauri (Cat-1), Guembe (Cat-2) and Zuarrarrate (Cat-2; summit 9km from the end)- towards Lekunberri’s finish. An oasis for the climbers into a calendar usually not so generous to them.

/ Weather report

It was a sunny, warm afternoon and Pamplona and its area, just over 25ºC for the entire race and with some northwesterly gusts making things a little bit harder for the competitors.

Aalerud and Merino in action. (c) Photo Gomez Sport

/ Keys to the race

  • The first big surprise came before the start. The health measures imposed by the sport’s main authority made for only 15 of the 26 teams lining up for the race, those which underwent the obligatory tests, actually taking the start from Pamplona’s Taconera Gardens. The field of competitors was still strong, with six WorldTour outfits.
  • The high temperatures quickly reduced the size of the field to barely 30 riders -including Eider Merino and Katrine Aalerud- at the top of Etxauri. In the approach to Guembe, a series of attacks left only 14 riders at the front, with Merino still going strong. The decisive move came, nonetheless, at the penultimate descent, with six riders -including Annemiek Van Vleuten (MTS) and Anna Van der Breggen (DLT)- leading ahead of a pursuit with Merino and Aalerud.
  • At Zuarrarrate, World Champion Van Vleuten neutralized a prior move from García (ALE) and left her behind into the final downhill to win ahead of the Spaniard (2nd) and Van der Breggen (3rd). In turn, Merino notched up a fine 8th place.
Team introduction at the start. (c) Photo Gomez Sport

/ What’s next

The Navarra Classics will see its epilogue being played on Friday (3.45pm CEST) over a new-for-2020 course in and around Pamplona. Seven ascents -Olaverri, Tiebas, Biurrun, Tirapu, Artajona and the steep El Perdón (-19km) and Galar (-15km)- should offer again some great fireworks in the second day of post-pandemic cycling.

Clásica Femenina Navarra lineup (July 24th, 2020): Sheyla Gutiérrez, Jelena Erić, Eider Merino, Alicia González, Alba Teruel, Lourdes Oyarbide.

Cover picture (c): Photo Gomez Sport