The young Italian star, Gaia Realini, supplied one of the most dominating climbing performances in Women’s WorldTour races, dropping every rider from her wheel except for teammate and Trek-Segafredo leader Elisa Longo Borgini. Realini did not end up winning the stage, as Trek-Segafredo directors ordered Longo Borgini to cross the finish-line first, but UAE Tour Stage 3 will be remembered for Realini’s huge performance on Jebel Hafeet.
It was the classic unipuerto stage finishing up Jebel Hafeet (10.8 km, 6.7%) – a stage we are all familiar with from Pogačar and Adam Yates’ battles over the last few years in the men’s UAE Tour. There were huge crosswinds and echelon action before the final climb, which split the peloton into smaller groups. One of the best climbers in the world, Marta Cavalli, lost 3:30 minutes before the climb even started as well as German champion Liane Lippert starting the climb a minute back in the second group.
Lippert tried her best to close the gap to the first group once the climb started, and was making some headway during the first 10 minutes. With 7.5km to go, before Gaia Realini started her incredible pull, Lippert’s gap according to TV had reduced to 26 seconds. However once Realini hit the front, she immediately made an impact and shredded the group.
The Italian climber dropped everyone except her teammate Elisa Longo Borghini. DSM rider Esmée Peperkamp was the last one to lose contact with the Trek-Segafredo duo with 5.2 km to go.
Both Trek-Segafredo riders finished together with Longo Borghini taking a spectacular win and becoming the new race leader. The final stage will be pancake flat and only crosswinds or a crash might prevent Trek-Segafredo from double victory overall. Realini despite doing the most of the work and dropping everyone except her team leader was not allowed to win.
Despite Longo Borghini stating in the post-race interview that she wanted to give the stage to her young compatriot, weirdly enough the Trek-Segafredo team directors decided to give the victory to Longo Borghini, who has won many big races such as Paris-Roubaix, Ronde van Vlaanderen, Strade Bianche and twice Trofeo Alfredo Binda. This result will not massively impact her palmares, meanwhile, 21 year old Realini did her breakout performance and has zero career victories. With her finishing first she also would have become the new race leader. However Realini should not wait long for her first career pro victory as she is clearly elite on long steep climbs even if they are sparsely featured in the women’s calendar.
Silvia Persico finished third, losing 71 seconds to the Trek-Segafredo duo. Lippert blew up and lost 2:25 minutes after starting Jebel Hafeet with a minute’s disadvantage.
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Realini’s performance was truly spectacular. She did based on our estimations 4.75 ᵉw/kg for 34:50 min, which is 0.10 ᵉw/kg more than what Longo Borgini did as she drafted for most of the climb. As our calculations are normalised for a 60 kg rider, it means Realini did over 5 w/kg as she is significantly lighter than our etalon weight of 60kg.
In the graph below you can see many of the recent top climbing performances from women’s cycling in our database. Realini’s performance might not look great but it is being compared to other all-time great climbing performances, most of them coming from Annemiek van Vleuten. Crosswinds before Jebel Hafeet also fatigued the riders which made the stage much harder.
On Trek-Segafredo's webpage, Realini's height is listed at 150 centimetres, which means she has to spend a lot more energy on the flat sections, especially in crosswinds, compared to bigger riders. According to Realini's W'balance graphic (Anaerobic Work Capacity) in her Strava file, she did a harder effort before Jebel Hafeet to try to hold onto the first group than she actually did on the climb. In the hardest part on the flat section, she did 221 watts (229 NP) for 8:33 min. On Jebel Hafeet her top 20-minute power was 213 watts.
Realini, as well as sixth place climber Eider Merino, would certainly benefit from more 20+ minute climbs with at least a 7% gradient being included in the women's calendar. The Tour de France Femmes stage on the Tourmalet or the Mont Ventoux Challenge should be big targets for her this year. After this huge performance against other World Tour riders we cannot wait to see how she develops in the coming years.
A very worthy first women’s world tour article of the year for the website!!
Thanks. There are not many long climbs in women’s cycling and will try to cover it this year. They deserve it too
Would be nice to see more femmes analytics this coming season 🙂
Interesting article, exciting to see how she will do, she also looked very brave in the crosswind stages. Will also be interesting how Trek will balance their various riders, so far their game plan has always been very simple: All in for Balsamo or ELB does it all by herself.
Analyzing watts is of course one way of comparing performances, but you can also look at which competition you beat by how much time. AVV would always put a lot of time into ELB in such a long climb, and Esmee Peperkamp would not finish on 1,15.
Very solid performance by Cavalli too, riding just below the Realini pace, presumably with no draft the entire climb. Doesn’t do anything in the results sheet of this race, but it’s a good indicator she’s back on form after being decked by Nicole Frain last year