One day after initiating the echelons that put several GC riders out of contention for the Vuelta Femenina overall victory, the Movistar Team had a plan for the final of stage 4, too. After setting a hard pace up the final climb, the team’s GC cards Annemiek van Vleuten and Liane Lippert took turns attacking. Although the race came down to a sprint in the end, the attacks helped Emma Norsgaard who sprinted to a second place that “felt like a victory” after an injury-marred spring for the Danish sprinter.
“It was another day where we had a good plan for the final. The idea was to stretch it out with Paula [Patiño] and Floortje [Mackaij], and we set it up exactly as we wanted. It was a nice team effort again with Paula pacing super hard on the climb to set up the attacks. After the GPM we wanted to attack, I did, then Liane took over, and I went again,” Van Vleuten described the action on the plateau after the day’s only classified climb, the third-category Alto de Horche.
The attacks by her and Lippert were covered by many of the other GC contenders, though, including Demi Vollering (Team SD Worx), Mavi García (Liv Racing TeqFind), Élise Chabbey, and Kasia Niewiadoma (both Canyon-SRAM).
Eventually, Lippert got a gap, but Vollering used her descending skills to bridge to her. Lippert was now stuck between a rock and a hard place as working with Vollering to gain time would mean helping Van Vleuten’s greatest rival for the overall victory. The German champion asked Vollering to take the lead on the downhill and stayed on her wheel until the duo was caught.
“Unfortunately, I was with Demi, that’s exactly the rider I cannot ride with, but super good that Emma finished it off for a second place, so I’m really happy about everyone today,” Lippert said.
“It’s perfect having Liane and Annemiek in the end because it takes the pressure off me completely. With Liane’s attack in the end, I could just freewheel behind and not make one single move before the final. For me [it] was absolutely perfect teamwork,” said Norsgaard about her teammates’ support.
With three stages including two mountain top finishes to go, Lippert and Van Vleuten are ranked ninth and tenth overall, 44 and 46 seconds behind red jersey Marianne Vos (Team Jumbo-Visma). Vos’ teammate Riejanne Markus as well as Chabbey and Niewiadoma are ahead of the Movistar duo, but Vollering is two seconds further back.
“Tomorrow’s stage will be quite tricky. The hilly three days start now, but I think we showed that we are ready for that. We have a really strong team here, and every day we get more used to each other,” Van Vleuten was looking forward to the decisive stages of the Vuelta Femenina.
Stage 5 includes the 11-kilometre, first-category Puerto de Navafría before finishing at the Mirador de Peñas Llanas after a second-category climb of five kilometres. Stage 6 features two second-category climbs while stage 7 is the queen stage with the 12.5-kilometre, second-category Collado Moandi and the equally-long finishing climb to the Lagos de Covadonga.