Silvia Persico dominates the uphill sprint to win stage 4 at the Ceratizit Challenge

Silvia Persico (Valcar-Travel & Service) won stage 4 of the Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta, finishing on a two-kilometre climb through Segovia. The Italian beat second Demi Vollering (SD Worx) and Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo).

“It was a long stage, and the first two hours were really not fast. I didn’t feel good in the first part of the race, but my teammates stayed with me all day and I said to myself ‘I have to be good today, this is my last race for the team ‘. I’m very happy to get this victory and I want to thank my teammates because they were fantastic,” said Persico after her first victory in the Women’s WorldTour.

The stage was dominated by a 150 kilometer solo by Olympic champion Anna Kiesenhofer (Soltec Team) who maintained an advantage of up to 9:30 minutes but was caught just before the red flame.

On the final climb, Longo Borghini started the sprint with 200m to go but was overtaken by Persico and Vollering in the final 50m. Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx) finished fourth.

No change in the general classification, Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar Team) takes the red jersey in the last stage, a circuit race in Madrid, with a lead of 1:51 minutes over Longo Borghini.

How it went

With 160.4 km preceded by a neutral zone of 17 kilometers, stage 4 was by far the longest of the five days of racing. The first 60 miles were continuously up and down before the course got flatter. The last 14 kilometers included the unclassified Alto de Hontanares climb, a 1.8 kilometer uphill gravel section and finally a 2.5 kilometer climb through the streets of Segovia.

Kiesenhofer went on the attack shortly after the flag was dropped and quickly widened her gap with the peloton. When Nina Buijsman (Human Powered Health) embarked on a solo chase after 25km, Kiesenhofer was already three minutes ahead, and her advantage continued to grow at 9:30 minutes with 90km to go, making the Austrian the virtual leader of the GC.

Buijsman was caught by the peloton and Kiesenhofer suffered an accident but quickly got up and rode again. Although the entire Movistar team, including Van Vleuten herself, took turns at the front of the peloton, Kiesenhofer was still 8 minutes 50 ahead at kilometer 50.

The gap only started to close when Trek-Segafredo, Canyon-SRAM, FDJ SUEZ Futuroscope and Team BikeExchange-Jayco joined in the chase. At 20 km from the finish, the peloton was 3h35 behind, and at the top of the Alto de Hontanares, the gap had narrowed to 1h52 as Kiesenhofer felt the efforts of his long solo.

When the gravel section finished with 7km to go, Kiesenhofer was only 43 seconds ahead, and although she started the final climb with a 25 second gap, she was caught at 1, 1 km from the line.

Liane Lippert (Team DSM) tried to get away with 700m to go but had Longo Borghini, Lotte Kopecky (Team SD Worx), Persico, Vollering, Van Vleuten, Anouska Koster (Team Jumbo-Visma) and Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ SUEZ Futuroscope) on its wheel.

Vollering then Van Vleuten took over to set a steady pace, and Longo Borghini passed him just 200 yards from the line. Persico was on his wheel and Kopecky also jumped, but the Belgian couldn’t keep up and fell back to finish fourth. Persico rounded Longo Borghini in the final meters to claim the stage victory, and Vollering also snuck in to finish second.

Although there were small gaps at the finish uphill, the GC remains almost unchanged: Ane Santesteban (Team BikeExchange-Jayco) has moved from fourth to sixth place, and Longo Borghini is still at 1:51 seconds from Van Vleuten’s red jersey – a deficit that is virtually impossible to overcome on the final leg in Madrid. Instead, Longo Borghini took the lead in the points standings while Lucinda Brand (Trek-Segafredo) continues to wear the polka dot jersey.

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