Gaia Realini on Leading Vuelta Femenina: ‘I am really happy about this result’

By Monica Buck

In a dramatic start to the Vuelta Femenina, Lidl-Trek emerged victorious in the opening team time trial in Valencia, overcoming a late crash to clinch the win by the slimmest of margins. The team beat Team Visma-Lease a Bike by a mere nine hundredths of a second, demonstrating resilience and teamwork under pressure.

The race began at the Museu de les Ciències in central Valencia, taking competitors on a challenging out-and-back course through the city’s scenic outskirts. Each team battled not just against the clock but also against the intricacies of the route, which included an intermediate timing point at 8.2 kilometers and a finish outside the picturesque L’Oceanogràfic after 16 kilometers.

From the get-go, Team Coop-Repsol set a strong pace, but it was Lidl-Trek who dominated the intermediate timings. However, a twist in the tale occurred in the final kilometer when Ellen van Dijk and Elynor Bäckstedt suffered a crash, momentarily disrupting their rhythm. Quick to regroup, Brodie Chapman and Elisa Longo Borghini paced Gaia Realini and Lizzie Deignan back into contention, with Longo Borghini making a desperate final push at the line to secure the win.

Gaia Realini, who crossed the line first, expressed mixed emotions about the victory. “I am really happy about this result for me and for the team. I’m not completely happy because in the last corner, two of my teammates crashed, but in the end, we take this result and focus on the next stage,” she said, reflecting both the triumph and the trials of the day.

The competition was fierce, with SD Worx-Protime finishing less than two seconds behind in third place, making a strong statement early in the race. Team Visma-Lease a Bike, despite setting the best intermediate time and looking poised to take the lead, fell just short at the finish, underlining the unpredictability and excitement of team time trials.

As the Vuelta Femenina progresses, the stage is set for more thrilling racing, with Monday’s route from Bunyol to Moncofa promising a high-speed sprint finish. With the leader’s jersey securely on Realini’s shoulders for now, Lidl-Trek will be keen to maintain their lead, but as the narrow victory shows, anything can happen in the heat of competition.