Six weeks after the Basque Country attracted the full attention of Spanish cycling, champions and fans turn their eyes towards the province of Burgos, some 150km south of Eibar, where Primoz Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) won the Itzulia Basque Country in mid-April. The peloton of the UCI Women's WorldTour is expected in the town of Villadiego at the start of the Vuelta a Burgos Féminas, the first stage race of the 2021 UCI Women's WorldTour with four days of racing (20-23 May) culminating in a spectacular summit finish on the Lagunas de Neila.
In the cradle of the Old Castile, Burgos is another hot spot of Spanish cycling, a regular feature in the Vuelta Ciclista a España – the 2021 edition will start from the cathedral, celebrating the 800th anniversary of its construction – and it’s the home of several teams and races, both for the men and the women.
The Vuelta a Burgos Féminas was born in 2015 as an amateur challenge dominated by the professional rider Belén López. The rise of the race, having been incorporated into the UCI International Calendar in 2019 – and now part of the UCI Women's WorldTour – illustrates the development of women's cycling in Spain and promises major battles in the windy valley of Burgos and up the surrounding mountains.
A packed peloton
After the 2020 edition was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Vuelta a Burgos Féminas returns, bringing together the nine UCI Women’s WorldTeams, including the Spanish outfit of Movistar Team Women, headed by the three-time UCI Road World Champion Annemiek van Vleuten (two rainbow jerseys in the individual time trial and one in the road race), along with 12 UCI Women’s Continental Teams.
Six of them are based in Spain, from the most long-standing Bizkaia Durango (created in 2005) and Sopela Women's Team (established in 2009 as Lointek) to the much younger Eneicat–RBH Global–Martín Villa, Massi Tactic Women Team, Rio Miera-Cantabria Deporte and Women Cycling Sport (supported by a local sponsor, Burgos Alimenta). The latest four were born in the past two years and there are now eight UCI Women’s Continental Teams in Spain thanks to the creation of Laboral Kutxa – Fundación Euskadi and Team Farto - BTC ahead of the 2021 season.
This strong network of local teams performing at every level of cycling fosters local talents, who are also not shy to ride in foreign environments. Of the 86 Spanish riders registered in the UCI Women’s WorldTeams and UCI Women’s Continental Teams, eight of them ride in the elite series: six with Movistar Team Women (Alicia Gonzalez, Sheyla Gutierrez, Sara Martin, Lourdes Oyarbide, Gloria Rodriguez and Alba Teruel), Ale’ BTC Ljubljana’s Mavi Garcia and her predecessor as Spanish National Champion, Ane Santesteban of Team BikeExchange.
Van Vleuten to “support Spanish cycling” and enjoy a strong calendar
“My history with the Movistar Team goes back many years ago”, Van Vleuten explained as she joined the Spanish team for the 2021 season. “I got to know the team better as I shared training rides with them during my altitude camps in Sierra Nevada (Spain), back in 2014. I really liked the experience; it felt like a ‘Spanish family’ for me, I felt really welcomed by them as they were the first professional men’s team that invited me to join them in endurance training.”
The Dutch star, winner of the 2018 UCI Women’s WorldTour, added: “I see this as an opportunity to join a group full of great talents, young girls that, after these three years of growth for the project, can benefit from those small things, advice that a rider like me can possibly give them to take the next step. I like to work with young athletes, and helping them and supporting Spanish cycling really is a goal for me as I join this team.”
By her side, the 22-year-old Sara Martin is the Under 23 Spanish National Champion in both the individual time trial and the road race, at the same time as being a chemistry student.
The stars from Movistar Women’s Team and their rivals from all around the world enjoy a solid racing calendar in Spain to display their versatile abilities. The Vuelta a Burgos Féminas is the first of the three UCI Women’s WorldTour events held in the country this season, ahead of the Donostia San Sebastián Klasikoa Women (31 July) and the Ceratizit Challenge by la Vuelta (3-5 September).
This weekend’s hilly challenges come at the end of a strong run of races starting with the V Setmana Ciclista Valenciana – Vuelta Comunitat Valenciana Feminas, dominated last week by Annemiek van Vleuten ahead of Mavi Garcia. A few days later, Van Vleuten won the Emakumeen Nafarroako Women's Elite Classics from Demi Vollering (fourth in the UCI Women’s WorldTour rankings after her victory in Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes) and Elisa Longo Borghini (first overall and winner of the Trofeo Alfredo Binda - Comune di Cittiglio this spring). These stars are now ready to shine around Burgos.