Ashleigh Moolman wins queen stage and is new race leader
Ashleigh Moolman Pasio won the third stage of the Setmana Valencia in a spectacular sprint with world champion Annemiek van Vleuten and Amanda Spratt. Ashleigh is also the new race leader with one more stage to go in the - so far - very successful European debut for AG Insurance-Soudal Quick-Step.
Stage three was the queen stage of the race with the long climb to Tudons as most important feature. Mireia Benito went with the breakaway making sure Ashleigh would have support when the break was caught and the long descent to the finish started. The plan played out exactly as was planned.
“What a day! Oh, my word! The team was so incredible. Mireia was so committed. She went in the break which was the plan. She rode the race of her life and it couldn’t be more perfect. At the bottom of the climb to Tudons the gap her group had was still so big. It was clear the break would stick all the way to the top and it did. That gave me all the fighting spirit to stay with Annemiek van Vleuten.
Mireia was there at the top for me. It put our team at an advantage. Mireia fought so hard to come back and help me multiple times. Jolien also supported me from the car. She had done all the research for the final. She told me yesterday there is a roundabout at 300 meters to go and that I should go left if the stage ended in a sprint. That was the fastest line and it’s where I started my sprint. I did exactly what we planned.
It was such an amazing way to finish it off for the team. Everyone rode the most amazing race and I felt the support of the team. It’s something I have been missing for a while in my career. To have a team being so united and with such a great environment that believes in me 100%. Today it really shows and I am so happy to take the victory for this project.”
Mireia Benito Pellicer was instrumental in today’s win pacing the lead group with Ashleigh, getting dropped but returning twice more turning herself inside out to work for Ashleigh.
“The race was exactly what we planned in the meeting yesterday. We wanted to have someone in the break on Tudons and then try to help Ashleigh as much as possible. And this was exactly the scenario today. We tried with several riders and the breakaway I was in, stuck.
We made it just in time to the top of Tudons and there I could help Ashleigh to take time on the peloton. On the top of the climb were special friends of mine and I counted down every kilometer to see them. I also rode with my friend Sandra on my mind. She died last week and it was such a hard time but today I rode for her too,” says Mireia quietly.
“When Van Vleuten attacked, I dropped and then came back. This happened a few times. There was a short climb at 25 kilometers to go and Ashleigh wanted to try. I gave it my all there before dropping back for the last time.
It was so nice to see this team work together. We have been working hard for these results. This is just the beginning. If you see how we have been riding these past days we will have more wins. It’s great to be part of this. For me it was a big step up but I felt so welcome straight away and that makes everything easier. Yes, we really deserved this win and there is so much more to come.”
The fourth and final stage will be on Sunday between Tavernes de la Valldigna and Gandia. There is a challenging climb at 20 kilometers from the line. Ashleigh defends a four second lead on Amanda Spratt and six seconds on Annemiek van Vleuten. After being third twice and second in 2018 there is only position in the general classification Ashleigh didn’t hold so we keep our fingers crossed that will happen tomorrow.