Tamara Dronova-Balabolina proved her strength and determination to get through a difficult and crash-marred start to the season and bounce back to sprint to victory on stage 1 of the Vuelta Ciclista Andalucia Ruta del Sol.

Dronova-Balabolina had been looking strong during the Spanish block of racing throughout May and today, she proved her form with a convincing win on the slightly uphill finish in La Zubia.

Punching the air with delight, Dronova-Balabolina was relived to finally have her hard work rewarded with a win.

I am really happy to win today because it is my first win of the year, and the biggest of my career. It is the first time I have won a stage so I am very happy. The team worked really well and I have to say a big thank you to them because they helped me a lot, especially in the last kilometers. It was a perfect scenario,” explained Dronova-Balabolina.

After today’s hilly stage, another four tough stages remain in Andalucia and Dronova-Balabolina will aim to defend the leader’s yellow jersey.

Looking ahead to the GC, of course I would like to try to win but I will see day by day. If I am feeling good, I will focus on the GC but if not, we can look at going for another stage win.”

Sports Director Sergey Klimov said today’s finish was perfect for Dronova-Balabolina and credited the team for their hard work.

From the beginning, many teams were looking at Tamara as we knew it would be a good stage for her so we were controlled by a lot of teams. It was a great finish for her because of the small uphill, so she can sprint really well with these conditions. We were all in for Tamara and the girls did a great job to help her in the last five kilometers to put her in a good position. There was maybe only half of the peloton left and Tamara was able to open her sprint at the right time. Tomorrow is one of the hardest stages. It is short but the last 14 kilometers are all uphill. Tomorrow, we will try to keep Tamara in a good position and see what she can do,” added Klimov.