The Giro Rosa’s maglia rosa changed hands on Wednesday following the shortest stage of the race. Megan Guarnier moved up one spot, to second, on the overall classification as Evie Stevens, who has led the race since Monday, slipped to sixth place.
The 77-kilometre stage featured the famous Mortirolo climb, which tops out at 1,852 metres. The Cima Coppi, the highest point of the race, came 34-kilometres away from the finish line with a technical descent into Tirano as decisive as the climb itself.
A small group hit the climb with an advantage over the peloton, but the Mortirolo immediately did damage. Guarnier and Stevens reached the top of the climb in a select group of eight riders, trailing Abbott by nearly four minutes and Pooley by two minutes.
“Mara went from the bottom,” said Guarnier. “I believe [Emma] Pooley was in the small group that was out before the climb.”
“A group of seven of us climbed together,” Guarnier added. “We caught [Tatiana] Guderzo from behind. She was in the group off front as well.”
Over the top of the climb, Guarnier and Stevens assumed responsibility for the lion’s share of the chase work.
“Of course no one was super interested in helping us,” Guarnier said. “Claudia Litchenberg] got in a little bit. She went really fast on the descent, and I think of a lot time was made up there. Mara also crashed.”
Stevens lost contact with the group mid-way down the descent.
“I lost my nerve a little bit,” Stevens explained. “It’s hard when you don’t know the road, and we haven’t ridden a descent like that in a long time.”
Despite her crash, Abbott hung on to claim that stage win solo. Guarnier came the line in a group of three that sprinted for second place, coming fourth place at 37-seconds. Guarnier, who wore the pink jersey on stage two, keeps the purple sprint jersey and moves within 10-seconds of Abbott, the new race leader.
Stevens also reached the line alone, slightly more two minutes down on Abbott. In sixth overall, Stevens is 1:22 down on Abbott.
“I feel good, and I can take a lot of positives away from today,” said Stevens. “I was able to ride a good and controlled climb. That climb was made for Mara. No one could come close to her. The group I was in set a steady tempo that limited the gap as best we could.”
“If I stayed with that group, I’d still be in the pink jersey, but I’m looking ahead and not backward,” Stevens added. “There are still a lot of big days to come – beginning with tomorrow’s stages, which is even harder than today.”
Guarnier echoed the sentiment: “We’re still taking it day by day. Today was a hard one”
Editor’s note: Boels-Dolmans started Wednesday’s stage one rider short as Christine Majerus was forced to withdraw from the Giro Rosa following a crash in the stage four finale. The Luxembourg champion, who crashed heavily at the Aviva Women’s Tour last month and is still recovering from her injuries, suffered abrasions to her knee, hip and wrist and injured her ribs. A constant figure on the front of the peloton and a loyal shepherd to her teammates, Majerus will be missed in our fight for pink.