Annemiek van Vleuten time trials to her first win of the season

by Jessi Braverman

Annemiek van Vleuten (Bigla) won the opening stage of Euskal Emakumeen Bira on Wednesay night. The prologue is a new addition to the 28th edition of the Basque stage race that has returned to five stages for the first time in eight years. The Dutch national time trial champion powered through Iurreta, stopping the clock at 2:29 to beat Australia’s Kat Garfoot (Orica-AIS) and Anna van der Breggen (Rabo Liv). It is Bigla’s third European win of the season, and van Vleuten’s first time this year.

“I’m really happy,” said van Vleuten in a team statement. “I felt strong. It’s always great to win, especially when you come as one of the favorites for the prologue. I know that I am good over this distance but I also knew I couldn’t make any mistakes.”

“I’ve just spent three weeks in the mountains and I thought maybe I’d lost some speed because all I did on the training camp was climbing,” she added. “I didn’t do any speed work and this prologue was just sprinting from one corner to the next. This gives me confidence that I have come from altitude in good shape and I am looking forward to using Bira to get some more hard work done. It’s a nice way to start the second part of the season.”

Although the opener has provided an early sorting of the general classification, the top ten riders remained tightly grouped. Garfoot sits only one second behind van Vleuten. Van der Breggen is one second further afield. Six seconds separate van Vleuten in first and her teammate Ashleigh Moolman in tenth place. Orica-AIS and Rabo-Liv each have three riders in the top ten. Boels-Dolmans and Bigla have two apiece.

Euskal Emakumeen Bira 2015 (2.1) prologue

“I’m looking forward to a hard race but I’m not aiming at the general classification,” van Vleuten explained. “It’s a little bit too hard for me with the mountains but with Ashleigh [Moolman-Pasio], and all the other climbers, we can maybe do something. The first goal for me was to take this victory today.”

Euskal Emakumeen Bira continues on Wednesday with a 96.8 kilometre road stage that starts and finishes in Arrasate. The first two-thirds of the stage are slightly lumpy. The final third includes an eight kilometre climb with gradients that extend into the double digits. For additional route details, check out this Velofocus preview.

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