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The Ring: A Collection of Voices

Swift Dispatch: Vuelta El Salvador Stage 5

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Heidi Swift

We woke up at 5:00am—an early start made easier by the roosters and car horns outside our window. The morning was thick with anticipation; UHC was focused on defending the GC lead they’d taken the day before and every sprinter that still had legs was scheming on a stage victory.

The last day of a stage race is filled with contradictory emotions. It’s almost over, but the most important part still remains. You have to stay focused. You still have to seal the deal. For those in the back of the pack, there’s a sense of relief. The end in sight. For those with something big on the line—a potential stage win or an overall lead to defend—all of the week’s work hard work comes down to a single day. One mistake or a bit of bad luck and it can all be undone. When you’re the most tired you have to find a way to be the most vigilant.

UHC took control of the race early, with Ruth Winder doing the lion’s share of the work on the front, never more than an arm’s reach away from her teammate, race leader Mara Abbott. Winder, Sharon Laws, and Katie Hall set tempo on the front for the first half of the stage and then worked to pull back relevant attacks when they started flying.

Inga Cilvinaite (RusVelo) and Anna Potokina (Servetto-footon) finally escaped together with about 25k to go and opened up a gap that never grew bigger than 35 seconds. UHC stayed on the front, leaving the duo in the wind in preparation for a late-stage catch to launch their sprinter Hannah Barnes. Unfortunately, while the race bible showed the stage as 83 kilometers long, it was in fact only 78 kilometers long. That discrepancy was compounded by the fact that a 10k to go banner never appeared, so the first marker after the 25k to go banner was a 4k to go banner, which caught everyone by surprise.

UHC set the catch in motion, but it was just a fraction too late; Cilvinaite rode away to win the stage and Potokina narrowly held on for second while the peloton came charging behind her. Right on her wheel as she crossed the line was UHC’s Barnes, who won the bunch sprint to take third.

Abbott rolled in with the peloton and raised her fist briefly in the air as she crossed the line. Her final cumulative time was 11:32:25. Alena Amialiusik (Astana) finished in second, 2:18 down, and Ogla Zabelinskaya (RusVelo) was third at 2:54.

Full results here.