The penultimate stage of the Vuelta Femenina, spanning 138.6 kilometres from San Esteban de Gormaz to Sigüenza, might deceive many with its seemingly straightforward profile. Lacking categorized climbs and significant wind exposure, the stage is sandwiched between mountainous challenges, but it hides its own demanding nature. The course features a total elevation gain of 1,183 metres, mainly concentrated towards the end, which can play a pivotal role in how the race unfolds.

Key Challenges

The course’s defining feature is its deceptive terrain, including several non-categorized climbs that could become crucial strategic points. The toughest climb occurs 49 kilometres from the finish, with a gradient peaking at 9% over 2 kilometres. Subsequent shorter ascents—no more than 1 kilometre each but with gradients of up to 5%—lead to a thrilling descent into Sigüenza.

Descent and Finish

The descent is characterised by narrow and potentially rough roads, which poses a significant challenge and presents an opportunity for skilled descenders to make a move. The stage culminates with a steep 500-metre climb at a gruelling 10.7% gradient, promising a fierce showdown that favours riders with explosive climbing abilities rather than traditional sprinters.

Riders to Watch

  • Elisa Longo Borghini: The Italian national champion, known for her excellent form and strong finishing kick on short climbs, stands out as the favourite, especially as her team seeks a vital stage win.
  • Demi Vollering: Always a threat on any terrain, Vollering’s consistency and climbing skills will be crucial on the final ascent.
  • Pauliena Rooijakkers: With a knack for tough finishes and undulating courses, Rooijakkers could very well find herself in a position to challenge for the stage win.
  • Evita Muzic: Muzic has shown promising performances in similar stage profiles and could leverage her climbing prowess on the final ascent.
  • Yara Kastelijn and Sarah Gigante: Both riders are aggressive and could use the rolling terrain and descents to their advantage.
  • Marianne Vos: This is right on the edge of what the GOAT can do the steepness and distance will be a challenge but she could force her way into contention with a clear run at the climb.

Impact of Absences

With the withdrawal of Kasia Niewiadoma and the unfortunate crash of Gaia Realini, the race dynamics might shift, offering opportunities for other teams and riders to step up their strategies, possibly aiming for breakaways or protecting positions in the general classification.

Strategies and Predictions

This stage requires vigilant teamwork and strategic flexibility. The technical descent into Sigüenza is particularly suited for daring attacks, either before or during the descent. A well-timed breakaway in the final kilometres, coupled with the challenging ascent to the finish, could see a dynamic and potentially game-changing battle.

Far from a mere transitional stage, Stage 7 of the Vuelta Femenina is poised to be a critical day for reshaping the general classification or offering a dramatic platform for a valiant breakaway victory. Elisa Longo Borghini is a prime contender for the day, but watch for Pauliena Rooijakkers and Evita Muzic to potentially make significant moves, especially on the final climb.