World champion Van Vleuten secures Vuelta hat-trick

cycling07 May 2023 15:02| © AFP
Annemiek van Vleuten © Gallo Images

Dutch veteran Annemiek van Vleuten won a third consecutive Vuelta a Espana on Sunday as compatriot Demi Vollering narrowly failed to retake the red jersey she lost the day before after a toilet break.

Van Vleuten led by 1min 11sec Sunday morning and did enough to retain her title by nine seconds.

Vollering won the 93.7km stage with Italian Gaia Realini 11 seconds behind.

The 40-year-old van Vleuten nursed her overall lead on the 12km final climb and was third at 56 seconds behind.

"I'm happy but exhausted," said a delighted Van Vlueten, who rides for the Movistar team and also holds the women's Giro and Tour de France titles, at a finish line shrouded in thick fog.

Van Vleuten took the lead on Saturday after Vollering stopped for a toilet break and then got caught in a crosswind.

"If it hadn't been for that (the toilet break) I'd have won this Vuelta," said rising star Vollering, who rides for SD Worx and secured all three major Ardennes classics this spring.

Realini, a 21-year-old climber with Trek-Sagafredo, rounded out the podium after a seven-day race, a step up from the previous five-stage format.

Vollering had taken the lead by winning stage five and was winner of the 93km stage seven that ended in a 12km climb on Sunday.