Megan Guarnier won the Giro Rosa in Verbania on Sunday. The American road champion crossed the finish line in ninth place with the remnants of the peloton, nearly two minutes behind stage nine winner Thalita de Jong (Rabo-Liv).
“I can’t believe it,” said Guarnier. “It’s surreal. I really am so happy.”
The 31-year-old’s Giro Rosa win is a victory for the tenacious. Guarnier has patiently put in the hard yards to pull on the pink jersey at the end of the ten-day Italian Grand Tour.
Three years ago, Guarnier managed to finish in 15th place while racing for Rabo-Liv and working in the services of Marianne Vos.
She moved to Boels-Dolmans in 2014 and cracked the top ten overall at the Giro Rosa that same year. Her seventh place finish made her the best-placed Boels-Dolmans rider at the 2014 Giro Rosa.
The win seemed within reach in 2015 until the penultimate stage time trial. Anna van der Breggen (Rabo-LIv) put more than a minute into Guarnier to move into pink. Guarnier slipped to third place the following day.
“It’s been such a process,” said Guarnier. “It’s always been a progression. It’s been slow and steady but the key is the progress I’ve made.”
Her Giro Rosa victory is her ninth of the season and inarguably the biggest of her career. Her performance in Italy last year was seen as a breakthrough. Her result this year was confirmation of her status as one the best professional cyclists the United States has ever produced.
Guarnier began the final stage with a 34-second advantage over teammate Evie Stevens and a nearly two-minute lead over Anna van der Breggen (Rabo-Liv) in third. A large breakaway dominated the stage. The best-placed rider in the move was more than 30-minutes down on the general classification and posed no threat to Guarnier’s pink jersey.
It was the perfect scenario for Boels-Dolmans Cycling Team, who started the stage with only four riders having lost Christine Majerus and Lizzie Armitstead to injury and illness late last week.
De Jong won stage nine from the breakaway. Two minutes later, Kasia Niewiadoma (Rabo-Liv) led home a group of seven that included both Guarnier and Stevens.
“My win wouldn’t have been possible without the selfless work of Karol-Ann [Canuel], Amalie [Dideriksen], Christine [Majerus] and Lizzie [Armitstead],” said Guarnier. “In the final days, Karo and Amalie, who is racing her first Giro, did the work of an entire team, which was really incredible. They worked so hard and dug so deep and had a smile on their faces the whole time.”
“This win would not have been possible without them,” Guarnier added. “They really gave everything for this jersey. It’s a shame that Christine and Lizzie were not able to be here to celebrate with us.”
There are plenty of reasons to celebrate. In addition to winning the general classification, Guarnier also won the points classification and extended her lead in the UCI Women’s WorldTour series. Evie Stevens snagged multiple stage wins en route to second overall, and Boels-Dolmans Cycling Team won the team classification.
“It was great for the team that Evie was able to take three stage wins here and come second as a result,” Guarnier added. “It shows the strength of the team to have us stack the podium the way we did.”
Guarnier heads to the United States on Monday where she’ll continue to prepare for her first Olympic Games. Her win at the Giro Rosa has undoubtedly left her on a short-list of favourites to win the road race in Brasil next month.
“I fly to the east coast to see my family,” she said. “Then it’s home to California before heading to Rio.”