One of the new riders to watch at the reinvented Team BikeExchange is Spaniard Ane Santesteban, who stepped up to the Women’s WorldTeam after delivering results that highlighted her potential to be a powerful ally when the gradient increases. Billed as a climber with resilience and toughness for multi-day racing, the 30-year-old is ready to support team leader Amanda Spratt while also developing more power in the sprints and an improved time trialling technique.
Santesteban started as an under-23 rider on a small Spanish team in 2009 and by 2013 had won the road race national title. In the past three seasons she has finished in the top 10 of the general classification at the Giro Rosa, including a fifth overall in 2019. Last year riding for Ceratizit-WNT Pro Cycling, she won the mountains classification at Setmana Ciclista Valenciana and had four individual stage and one-day race top 10s, including a silver medal at Spanish Road Race Nationals.
“When I started, I would never say I would be here with such a big team,” she told Cyclingnews from team camp in Spain. “For a rider like me, I struggle to win or be on the podium because I am not really fast in the sprint. But I think my strength is that every day I feel quite well and am feeling better in front of the others.”
“At the Giro [last year], I was seventh and really happy. I am looking forward to the chance again, especially having Amanda Spratt on the team.”
While stage 7 of the Giro Rosa last year was “positive” for her with a seventh place finish to boost her standing in the GC, she noted it was also a sad day with the crash in the final kilometres that involved maglia rosa leader Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott), Marianne Vos (CCC-Liv) and Spratt. Van Vleuten and Spratt were both forced to abandon the race due to injuries, while Vos suffered abrasions and continued.
“So it’s always a race [Giro Rosa] I put in front of me as a goal. It was really unlucky for the crash of Annemiek and Amanda, so it was sad. But for me it was positive.”
And positive is also the word she uses to describe joining forces with Spratt in 2021. She will work for the Australian, who has been part of the team since 2012. In fact the two-time podium finisher at the Giro Rosa and three-time Santos Women’s Tour Down Under winner worked with Santesteban at camp on building her resume of skills on the bike.
“Amanda and I, we were on the track working on the time trial. It was super interesting. It was my first time on the track, my first time with a TT bike, so it was a really good experience for me,” Santesteban said about spending a day at the Valencia Velodrome. “We were focused more on the position, how I need to ride on the TT bike.”
“In women’s cycling, especially, we don’t really have much time to work on this position,” said Santesteban. “I am always training with a normal bike. I think also it is really, really important because in the GC it can make a lot of difference.”
The Giro Rosa has started with a team time trial the last four years.
The Basque rider has performed well not only at the Giro Rosa but pre tty much any time the roads have included elevation gain. That’s why it made sense for her to target the mountains classification at Setmana Ciclista Valenciana last year.
“It was a plan for the team from the beginning that my goal in the Valenciana races was to win the mountains [classification]. From the first two stages it was good and I was feeling really in shape because we had been there in training camp and had really trained hard. I was feeling good and I achieved the goal,” she said, adding that she looks to develop further with her new team.
“I need to work, I think, on everything. Especially in women’s cycling, they are not really big mountains like men’s races. So I think it’s important to work on strength, and sprints and in the mountains you need to be confident as a rider.”
Santesteban represented Spain at the 2016 Olympic Games in the Rio road race and said she may be on the national team again this year as early as the Valenciana race in mid February. She expects to participate in a second camp with Team BikeExchange in February as well, before a full calendar in the spring.
“For sure the Ardennes and Giro Donne is a goal for Amanda Spratt. She is really good and a super rider and I am really happy to be in races to support her because she deserves to win.”