Pauliena Rooijakkers proved that she is one of the better climbers in the peloton on Sunday in the fourth and final stage (121 kilometres) of the Vuelta a Burgos. Our rider finished fourth after the tough final climb to Lagunas de Neila (11,9 kilometres with gradients of more than 12%). With that performance, Rooijakkers settled for ninth place in the general classification, 1 minute and 9 seconds behind overall winner Anna van der Breggen.
“I was super focused all day. I was looking forward to this stage and was a lot more relaxed than the previous days. I felt I had good legs from the start”, said Rooijakkers, who, after a dynamic start, witnessed teammate Soraya Paladin jump into a breakaway of thirty riders.
“The plan was to follow the favourites for the stage and overall win, Anna van der Breggen and Annemiek van Vleuten, for as long as possible. We knew in advance that the difficult final climb would be decisive. So I had to wait for the real fireworks and not let myself be distracted by early attacks from others.”
Towards the final climb, the pace picked up and the breakaway group, which had been broken up, was caught in stages. “In the end we were left with four: Van der Breggen, Van Vleuten, Vollering and myself. I tried to stay with them as long as possible. I had to let go of the three at one kilometre from the finish line. Not far from the finish I was able to pass two riders of the original front group. It’s nice to finish this stage race with a strong day and fourth place.”
The stage victory went to Van der Breggen. Behind Rooijakkers, Sabrina Stultiens finished sixteenth. In the final classification Stultiens finished in fifteenth position. “She came just a little short to follow the big guns like Pauliena, but that doesn’t mean it was bad what she showed. On the contrary, she got the most out of it”, says sports director Lars Boom. “The whole team raced well today. We were always in control.”
Photo credits: Cor Vos