Whilst Demi Vollering may have taken the final stage of La Vuelta Femenina as Annemiek van Vleuten held on for the overall win, Trek - Segafredo's Gaia Realini was arguably the most impressive rider of the race.
“Because of how the race had panned out by the end of the third stage, on which I lost some time because of the wind, I didn’t expect to be up there in the GC despite that being our initial goal. Being on the podium now is amazing,” the 21-year-old who ended up finishing third overall revealed post-race. “As a team, we never stopped believing in our ambitions and our strength to achieve something in this Vuelta. We were convinced and motivated and I am really happy that I could repay my teammates’ efforts. I want to dedicate this result to them."
VIDEO: Annemiek van Vleuten, completely shattered after saving La Vuelta Femenina by just 9 seconds
Even on the final climb of the race at Lagos de Covadonga, Realini looked to be in trouble for reasons out of her control. As the leading trio rode clear of the rest, disaster struck for the young Italian as her chain came off. Whilst many more experienced riders would have panicked, Realini kept her cool, fixed her bike and with the helping push of a fan was immediately back with Vollering and van Vleuten.
“It immediately reminded me of a climb I do at home, the Passo Lanciano. It’s a climb I know very well from training where I do my performance tests, so I took on the climb as if it was that one. I was focused only on the climb and really enjoyed every metre of it, it’s a beautiful climb,” said Realini. "This is just the beginning … I know there is a lot to do and to improve on. I am happy for everything I have done here but I need to keep the focus on improving and growing.”