Boels-Dolmans Cycling Team dominated the sixth stage of the Giro Rosa. Evie Stevens soloed to victory atop the Madonna della Guardia. The gutsy rode saw her jump up three spots on the general classification to third place.
Six seconds behind Stevens, Megan Guarnier reached the uphill finish line. The UCI Women’s WorldTour leader and American road champ is back in pink with a 46-second advantage over Mara Abbott (Wiggle High5) ahead of Friday’s time trial.
“There’s still three days left,” said Stevens. “There’s still plenty of racing to come, but we went one-two today and Megan’s back in pink. I’m up to third. It’s a good position to be in at this point of the race.”
Stevens lavished praised on her teammates who set her and Guarnier up for a brilliant finale.
“Amalie [Dideriksen] was a boss,” said Stevens. “She got me to the front early on in the race. Karol-Ann [Canuel] rode so strong. She set the pace over the first climb. And Lizzie, Lizzie was awesome. I stayed with her on the downhills.”
Best Italian classification leader Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle High5) and youth classification leader Kasia Niewiadoma (Rabo-Liv) got away on the descent leading into the second of four categorised climbs on the 118-kilometre stage six menu. Longo Borghini had started the day in third, five seconds behind Guarnier in second, and Niewiadoma, who suffered on stage five, sat ninth overall.
“No one panicked,” said Stevens. “Lizzie and Karo just got to the front and did their thing. They set the perfect tempo.”
Niewiadoma dropped Longo Borghini on the second climb. In response, Abbott, who began the day as race leader, came to the head affairs.
“Mara set the tempo up and over the second climb, and we stayed together on the downhill,” Stevens explained. “Then Mara went for it on the next climb, and I was the only one able to go with her.”
Stevens and Abbott caught Niewiadoma before the top of the third climb. The Americans distanced Niewiadoma briefly before reaching the top.
“Kasia fought her way back to us,” said Stevens. “I attacked over the top to make Mara chase on the way down, but when they got me, I sat on from there.”
Behind the leading trio, Guarnier rode alongside Armitstead and Canuel, part of an elite group of eight chasers. Collaboration in the group saw the eight join forces with the three up front.
Eleven riders had made the selection, and Boels-Dolmans Cycling had four in the move.
“The last climb wasn’t that hard,” said Stevens. “Mara set tempo, and with three kilometres to go, Anna van der Breggen went.”
Guarnier followed the 2015 Giro Rosa winner as Stevens let Abbott give chase.
“And then when the timing was right, I attacked. Hard. I got across and didn’t waste any time going solo,” said Stevens. “Megan kept fighting, and she came in for second. It was a great day for the team.”
Friday’s stage seven is a 22-kilometre individual time trial. While the paper profile is flat, the route is anything but.
“I felt strong together than I felt yesterday,” said Stevens. “I’m feeling stronger every day. I’m exactly where I want to be right now.”
“Tomorrow is going to be a big day for the overall,” Stevens added. “I’m going to say I’m looking forward to it and leave it at that.”