Karol-Ann Canuel earned the most combative prize on the third stage of the Emakumeen Euskal Bira on Saturday. The Canadian attacked on the second of three laps of the Berriatua-Milloli circuit and escaped alone.
“It was a bit technical at the point that I attacked, and the peloton was a bit smaller,” said Canuel. “I saw the opportunity to make a move, so I jumped, and I quickly got a gap. I was alone for a long time.”
She doesn’t overstate. Canuel’s solo effort lasted for more than 50-kilometres. She had a maximum advantage of just under a minute and held around 45-seconds for more than a lap. As the kilometres ticked down so did Canel’s gap over the peloton. With five kilometres left to race, race leader Emma Johansson (Wiggle High5) led a chasing peloton 17-seconds in Canuel’s wake.
“I was trying to take the race section by section,” Canuel explained. “I really thought I could stay solo until the end.
The peloton caught me with three kilometres to go. I was a bit disappointed about that.”
“Karo was incredible today,” said Megan Guarnier, who remains second overall following the penultimate stage. “She is such a fighter. I really wish she could have taken the win.”
With Canuel caught, the reduced peloton readied itself for a bunch kick. Giorgia Bronzini (Wiggle High5) took the win in Berriatua. Guarnier was the best-placed Boels-Dolmans Cycling Team rider in fifth place. The American road champion heads into the final day of racing with a 25-second deficit on Johansson. Guarnier’s compatriot Carmen Small (Cérvelo-Bigla) is third overall at 28 seconds.
“The team has had a good week in the Basque country,” said Canuel. “We’re working super well together as a team, and that’s the main objective. We might not be winning or leading the race, but we are showing that we’re strong as a unit.”
The fifth and final stage of Emakumeen Euskal Bira covers 75.9 kilometres. Although the stage is short, it is deceptively difficult. The peloton faces the category two ascent to Las Muñecas mid-race followed by the the category three Saltacaballos. The final climb tops out 24-kilometres from the finish, but plenty of uncategorised lumps and bumps remain before the line.