The third stage of this year’s Setmana Ciclista Valenciana was a scorcher. With no major mountains in sight, the peloton flew along at over 43 km/hr en route to the expected bunch sprint in Valencia. Never one to settle for the expected, Rally Cycling went on the offensive early before placing Heidi Franz in the main breakaway of the day. The 26-year-old proceeded to win both intermediate sprint points off the front of the race to move into the pink jersey with one stage remaining.
“It’s so exciting and unexpected to be in the jersey,” said Franz after the podium ceremony. “It wasn’t the plan for me to be in the break but once I was, Joanne encouraged me to go after the sprints. It’s been something I’ve been working on a lot this winter so it felt really satisfying to put that work to use.”
After travel restrictions and a lack of race invites derailed their early season, the team is starting to hit its stride at the races.
“Today helped my confidence after a really difficult start to the season,” added Franz. “It feels great to be with this team in the races again and making an impact on the race. I’m super proud of how everyone is stepping it up. Today was a really rough day with crashes back in the peloton, so I’m just happy to have something to give back to the team.”
The team had been targeting the stage with New Zealand criterium champ Olivia Ray but a massive pileup midway through the stage saw an end to her stage race. Initial reports are an ankle fracture that will require surgery.
Sprint classification after stage 3
1 Heidi Franz Rally Cycling 10
2 Omer Shapira CANYON//SRAM Racing 5
3 Kathrin Schweinberger Doltcini-Van Eyck-Proximus 5
4 Debora Silvestri Top Girls Fassa Bortolo 4
5 Giorgia Vettorello Top Girls Fassa Bortolo 4
6 Hannah Ludwig CANYON//SRAM Racing 3
7 Krista Doebel-Hickok Rally Cycling 1
8 Christina Schweinberger Doltcini-Van Eyck-Proximus 1
— Tom Soladay to rallycycling.com