Lucy Kennedy solos to victory at inaugural women’s Clásica San Sebastián

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Australian Lucy Kennedy (Mitchelton-Scott) wasn’t going to let a late puncture deter her from winning the inaugural edition of the women’s Clásica San Sebastián.

The 31-year-old did not give up hope after leading the race solo, puncturing, and then finding herself over one minute behind the leaders.

Kennedy was forced to attack again after the puncture doomed her first attack, but she ultimately went clear and finished 20 seconds ahead of Janneke Ensing (WNT-Rotor Pro Cycling), with Pauliena Rooijakkers (CCC-Liv) in third.

With 20km remaining, Ensing was alone with a gap of over one minute. Behind, Kennedy’s teammate Georgia Williams drove the chase group, setting up Kennedy to catch and pass Ensing on the final steep climb of the day. Kennedy went clear with 8km remaining and held it to the line.

“I’m still in a little bit of a shock really,” Kennedy said. “I had a bit of bad luck on the descent with a flat and then another mechanical so I don’t want to say I thought it was over but it was looking unlikely, but I just kept on fighting and kept on fighting.”

In the opening stages of the race, Lourdes Oyarbide (Movistar) and Anastasia Chursina (BTC-City) broke away from the peloton and opened up a three-minute advantage. On the following climbs a chase group of 14-riders formed with Williams and Kennedy there for Mitchelton-Scott.

On the approach to the penultimate climb, the Maddiola, the duo were caught and two new riders broke away from group and quickly extended their lead out to 40 seconds.

With sections as steep as 16% on the climb, Kennedy picked her moment, attacked away from the group and opened up a gap before passing the duo and leading the race solo over the top of the climb with an advantage of 55 seconds and 40km to go.

There was a drastic change of events as Kennedy had a puncture on the descent, followed by a slow wheel change from a neutral service motorbike and a subsequent second mechanical. Three riders had broken away from the leading group and passed Kennedy as she stood waiting for a wheel change, and Kennedy quickly found herself one minute behind the front of the race.

Williams made a huge effort to pace Kennedy back towards the new solo leader, bringing the gap down to 30seconds. Kennedy took over as the final climb, the Murgil Tontorra, began. She attacked from the group and managed to make contact near the top, holding a lead of 20 seconds on the flat final 6km run into the finish.

“It’s my second win around here after Emakumeen Saria, so I really like this area,” Kennedy said. “I really like the courses they set, really tough courses and the fans are incredible. On that last climb, that was what kept me going the fans screaming.

“It’s really special. I have to thank all of my teammates, but particularly Georgia Williams, she absolutely destroyed herself leading into the final climb, so she deserves this as much as I do.”

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