On the first mountain top finish in La Vuelta Femenina 2023, Demi Vollering, the Queen of Ardennes was unbeaten. Even Annemiek van Vleuten could not outmatch the SD Worx superstar on the Mirador de Peñas Llanas climb despite Vollering being isolated for much of the finale.
Stage 5 ended with Mirador de Peñas Llanas. The stage itself was not the easiest one. The peloton did the Puerto Navafria (11.45 km, 5.8%) climb in the first half of the stage in 32 minutes and 31 seconds. According to Juliette Labous’ Strava profile, she pushed 265 watts (4.61 w/kg with 57.5 kg input weight). With 3:20 hours in the legs before the start of the climb, the fatigue definitely influenced the final.
Surprisingly, Trek-Segafredo were pacing the climb with Gaia Realini. The Italian has performed exceptionally well this season, shredding the GC group on Jebel Hafeet and finishing 3rd in La Fleche Wallonne. Realini was holding a high pace as in the group was her teammate Amanda Spratt however in reality Realini has already demonstrated she is the strongest climber on Trek-Segafredo. When Demi Vollering started pushing at the front of the group Spratt dropped while Realini was keeping up with the best climbers even after setting the pace.
Like on the Mur de Huy, Vollering was holding her own pace despite Annemiek van Vleuten sitting on her wheel. Vollering won all three Ardennes classics and has been on fire this season. With 450 metres to go Van Vleuten tried to drop Vollering on a very steep section, grinding hard out of the saddle, while Vollering remained seated. With 300 metres to go, Vollering started the final acceleration and dropped both Van Vleuten and Bauernfeind off her wheel.
Vollering did on the climb 5.48 ᵉw/kg for 13:25 min which is the most impressive climbing performance over 10 minutes in 2023. But that might change on Stage 7 which will finish up the mighty Lagos de Covadonga (13.3 km, 6.8%). Covadonga might suit more Van Vleuten as it is a long climb but Vollering is very strong this season. Realini also might perform better as she will surely not be pacing for Spratt who finished 15th while Realini was 5th, losing 27 seconds to Vollering.
Both Ricarda Bauernfeind and Evita Muzic are only 23 years old and did very well today, finishing in the top 5 close to Vollering. Marianne Vos lost more than 2 minutes on the climb which meant that Vollering became the new race leader with Van Vleuten being only 5 seconds behind in overall.
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