By winning Saturday’s individual time trial (ITT) of the WNT Madrid Challenge by La Vuelta on the eve of the prestigious circuit race finale in the streets of Madrid, Lisa Brennauer (WNT Rotor Pro Cycling Team) lived up to her reputation as a specialist in the race against the clock. Then on Sunday, Chloe Hosking (AUS) of Alé Cipollini sprinted to victory on the Paseo del Prado, making a significant comeback at the highest level just one week before the UCI Road World Championships begin in Yorkshire.
Germany’s Brennauer was crowned 2014 UCI World Champion for the individual time trial in Ponferrada, so while it was nothing new to take victory on Spanish soil, it was certainly a sweet victory on stage 1 at Boadilla del Monte. She clocked in 12’52’’ over the 9.3km course to better the time of Pernille Mathiesen – triple runner-up at the Danish ITT national championships – by 13 seconds. That was before Lucinda Brand from the Netherlands took second place, only four seconds down on the winner.
Stage 2 was, just as in each of the four previous editions, the much-anticipated circuit race finishing on the famous Cibeles square after 98.6km of intense racing. Time bonuses on the way made it a constant battle with seven intermediate sprints providing opportunities for the GC contenders to overthrow Brennauer after her victory in stage 1.
But the powerful German answered all her rivals’ attempts to win the penultimate event in the 2019 UCI Women’s WorldTour.
“It’s a really great victory,” said Brennauer. “It’s my first Grand Tour victory. My team supported me so much through this race. It was pretty tiring. We had to fight for every second out there. I’m super happy and proud of what I did. I got scared because of the slippery roads. I tried to go very slow around the corners. My team kept me calm because I was the nervous one. It’s been amazing to see the support we got in this race from so many sponsors. It’s a big victory for them too. It’s a great race and I’m delighted to finish it off with a win.”
The peloton rolled out on the Paseo del Prado and immediately tackled the famous 5.8km circuit around some of Madrid’s most prestigious venues. There were non-stop attacks right from the start, with the Spanish champion Lourdes Oyarbide (Movistar Team Women) eager to display aggressive racing in front of her public, but some of the strongest teams were determined to keep the bunch together in order to make the most of the seven intermediate sprints with time bonuses of five, two and one seconds for the top three riders across the line each time.
On the day after her win in the Boadilla del Monte ITT, Brennauer soon put her raw power to use to win the first intermediate sprint after two laps, ahead of Brand, who was wearing the green jersey as the GC runner-up. Brand won the fourth intermediate sprint halfway through the race (km 46.4) and trailed by only 3 seconds on the virtual standings.
Attacks kept flying as pouring rain started for the final part of the race, but nobody managed to stay at the front for very long. It came down to a bunch sprint dominated by Hosking ahead of Letizia Paternoster (Trek-Segafredo) and Roxane Fournier (Movistar Team). Brennauer did what she needed to do and finished safely in the bunch to claim the overall victory.
“For our team, we didn’t have a very great time trial,” said Hosking, “so we really wanted to go for the stage win. We knew there would be girls going full gas for every intermediate sprint so that would make the race hard and fast. We had to stay aware throughout the race. Sunweb rode very aggressively, I was very proud of my team because we went in with a clear goal and we executed that. I’m not sure you can compare this with the World Championships but it gives me huge confidence. I had a really slow tough start to the season. I took a step back in May and June. I reassessed what I wanted to do. I came back and got some OK results but to get a win here, I’m really proud of myself, my resilience and my determination to come back where I should be. I’m really happy and satisfied.”