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Noemi Rüegg took the first win for the newly formed Continental team EF Education-Cannondale at the Trofeo Felanitx-Colònia de Sant Jordi, the first event of the Challenge Mallorca Femenina. The Swiss rider was fastest to the line, beating Arlenis Sierra (Movistar) and Chiara Consonni (UAE Team ADQ) in Ses Salines.
“The last few kilometres were super fast,” said Rüegg in a post-race interview, noting that EF Education-Cannondale intended to sprint for teammate Coryn Labecki.
“We actually wanted to sprint for Coryn, and I would have been the last lead-out for her, but then she lost Alison [Jackson] and me a bit in the last kilometre. I didn’t even realize. After Alison pulled off, I just kept a good position on the other teams’ wheels, and then I started my sprint and thought, Coryn will pull past me pretty soon, but then she didn’t, and I thought, wow, I actually have a few metres’ gap, so I will just keep going, and then, I won. It is crazy!”
The teams that have not travelled to the southern hemisphere for the Tour Down Under began their road racing seasons at the new Challenge Mallorca Femenina, which offers three one-day races held from Jan 20-22.
The first one-day race of three races was 127km from Felanitx to Colònia de Sant Jordi. The race offered three intermediate sprints and two category 4 ascents before a drop into the finish in Colònia de Sant Jordi.
The field was together for the first sprint in Ses Salines, won by Rüegg, who set the tone for the day’s race.
Rotem Gafinovitz (Hess Cycling) was the first to launch a solo attack, but her efforts came to an end ahead of the first of two ascents where Alice Palazzi (Top Girls Fassa Bortolo) captured the full points over the top.
A breakaway formed mid-race with Giorgia Vettorello (Roland) and Laura Asencio (Ceratizit-WNT) surging off the front of the field. Vettorello secured the intermediate sprint points in Felanitx.
The move was short-lived, and Vettorello rejoined the field ahead of the 1.8km second climb. Although Asencio hung on a little longer and took full points over the top, she, too, was reeled in on the descent with 34km to go.
Inside 10km, riders from Proximus-Cyclis and Maxx-Solar Rose, respectively, attacked, but it was Movistar’s lead-out for Sierra that held the field together in the closing kilometres.
There was no denying a group sprint, and it was who Rüegg powered over the line ahead of Sierra and Consonni to take a season-opening victory.
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