Australian Lucy Kennedy (Mitchelton-SCOTT) has claimed an impressive victory in the inaugural edition of the women’s Clásica San Sebastián, overcoming an untimely puncture and fighting back into contention before taking a hard earned solo win.
The 31-year-old showed her relentless determination, never giving up hope after leading the race solo, suddenly puncturing and then finding herself over one-minute behind the leaders. After help from teammate Georgia Williams, Kennedy attacked across to the new solo leader, Janneke Ensing (WNT-Rotor), on the final steep climb before passing her and powering on ahead and to the race victory.
In the opening stages of the race, two-riders Lourdes Oyarbide (Movistar) and Anastasia Chursina (BTC-City) broke away from the peloton and headed out a three-minute advantage. On the following climbs a chase group of 14-riders formed with Williams and Kennedy there for Mitchelton-SCOTT.
On the approach to the penultimate climb, the Maddiola, the duo were caught and two new riders broke away from group and quickly extended their lead out to 40 seconds.
With sections as steep as 16% on the climb, Kennedy picked her moment, attacked away from the group and opened up a gap before passing the duo and leading the race solo over the top of the climb with an advantage of 55 seconds and 40 kilometres to go.
There was a drastic change of events as Kennedy suddenly suffered a puncture on the descent of the climb, and after a slow change and subsequent second mechanical from a neutral service motorbike, it looked like Kennedy had lost her chance of victory.
Three-riders had broken away from the leading group and passed Kennedy as she stood hopelessly waiting for a wheel change. The Mitchelton-SCOTT rider quickly found herself one-minute behind the front of the race.
After getting into the rhythm of things once again, Kennedy was back in the main chase group but thankfully had teammate Williams there for company. Williams made a huge effort to pace Kennedy back towards the new solo leader, bringing the gap down to 30 seconds.
After Williams’ hard work, Kennedy took over as the final climb, the Murgil Tontorra started and giving it her all on the brutally steep slopes, she attacked away from the group on the hunt for Ensing.
Towards the top of the climb the Australian rider managed to make contact and pass Ensing before powering on ahead, holding a lead of just 20 seconds on the flat final six-kilometre run into the finish. It proved to be enough, as Kennedy crossed the line to take a much deserved solo victory in San Sebastián.
Lucy Kennedy: “I’m still in a little bit of a shock really. I had a bit of bad luck on the descent with a flat and then another mechanical so I don’t want to say I thought it was over but it was looking unlikely, but I just kept on fighting and kept on fighting.
“It’s my second win around here after Emakumeen Saria so I really like this area. I really like the courses they set, really tough courses and the fans are incredible. On that last climb, that was what kept me going the fans screaming.
“It’s really special. I have to thank all of my teammates, but particularly Georgia Williams, she absolutely destroyed herself leading into the final climb, so she deserves this as much as I do.”