Despite only being 14.5 kilometres in length, the team time trial that opened the Vuelta Femenina provided substantial time gaps: There are over five minutes between overall leader Anna Henderson (Team Jumbo-Visma) and the red lantern in 159th place, but most of the GC favourites are within a minute of the red jersey.
Behind Henderson, three of her teammates have the same time. Marianne Vos may well take over the red jersey due to time bonifications in the next couple of days, while Amber Kraak and Riejanne Markus are in the driving seat for the GC fight.
Only one second behind, Canyon-SRAM’s GC cards Kasia Niewiadoma and Élise Chabbey are in a great position, ahead of most of their rivals but without the responsibilities of the leader’s jersey – though Agnieszka Skalniak-Sójka could target bonus seconds in order to move into the race lead.
Trek-Segafredo’s GC leader is Gaia Realini. The minuscule Italian climber did well to stay with her team during the flat TTT and now sits nine seconds behind Henderson, as do her more experienced teammates, Lizzie Deignan and Amanda Spratt.
Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar Team), the winner of the 2022 Ceratizit Challenge, the precursor to the Vuelta Femenina, is 12 seconds adrift in 15th place. The 40-year-old Dutch woman did not reach the form of previous years in the Spring Classics but will want to step up again in the stage races. Liane Lippert has the same time and is ready to take Van Vleuten’s place if the veteran should falter.
Fresh from an Ardennes triple that underlined her status as the top favourite for the Vuelta Femenina, Demi Vollering (Team SD Worx) is 14 seconds behind. She can count on the support of a strong team, though her climbing lieutenant Niamh Fisher-Black lost contact in the final metres of the TTT and sits at 19 seconds.
Évita Muzic, Marta Cavalli (both FDJ-SUEZ), Juliette Labous, and Esmée Peperkamp (both Team DSM) all have a 25-second deficit. Cavalli and Labous are likely to be their teams’ GC cards, though Muzic is poised to take over if Cavalli continues to not be back at her best, still suffering long-term effects of her 2022 Tour de France Femmes crash.
Kristen Faulkner and Ane Santesteban carry the GC hopes of Team Jayco-AlUla. 31 seconds down on Henderson, they are still in striking distance, but the time loss from the TTT will put them on the back foot compared to many of their rivals. Pauliena Rooijakkers couldn’t follow her Canyon-SRAM teammates to the finish and now sits in 40th place overall, 37 seconds behind. This means that she will probably have to put her GC ambitions aside and support Niewiadoma and Chabbey.
UAE Team ADQ finished the TTT 41 seconds down. With such a deficit, their advantage is that they have several cards to play, as Silvia Persico, Mikayla Harvey, Olivia Baril, and Erica Magnaldi could all post a good GC result. Spain’s best-performing GC rider during the last years, Mavi García (Liv Racing TeqFind), has a 42-second deficit to make up.
Veronica Ewers (EF Education-TIBCO-SVB) lost 48 seconds, Simone Boilard (St Michel-Mavic-Auber 93) is at 59 seconds, and Claire Steels (Israel-Premier Tech Roland) is exactly one minute down on Henderson. They will have to race aggressively and take chances if they want to move up to the very front of the race.
The first GC stage will be stage 5 with the first-category Puerto de Navafría and a second-category mountaintop-finish at the Mirador de Peñas Llanas, followed by stage 6 with two second-category climbs. The race overall will be decided on the final stage finishing at the Lagos de Covadonga after a 12.5-kilometre climb.