Boels-Dolmans Cycling Team could not have asked for a much better outcome to Giro Rosa stage seven. UCI Hour Record holder Evie Stevens won the individual time trial to move up to second overall. Race leader Megan Guarnier stopped the clock with the fourth fastest time, 29-seconds slower than Stevens, to keep the maglia rosa.
The time gaps on the stage saw Stevens move up to second overall. She heads into the weekend’s road stages sitting 34-seconds behind Guarnier.
“This is awesome,” said Stevens. “Coming into this, I really wanted to win the time trial. I don’t know if I’ve ever actually won a time trial in a stage race. I don’t think I have. I’ve always gotten second or third. To actually win the time trial – especially coming up to Rio and showing I deserve my spot and I’m ready to go – it’s awesome.”
The 21.9-kilometre time trial was deceptively difficult. The technical guide showed a fairly flat course. Inspection of the route proved otherwise.
“It was four kilomtres of false flat up followed by a real hill climb for 4.5 kilometres,” said Guarnier. “There was a short descent into another two-kilometre climb followed by a six-kilometre descent.”
“The first time we rode the course was this morning,” noted Stevens. “We came before the start of the stage and rode it once, which was great. Basically you climbed and then you descended.”
Guarnier led the Giro Rosa for six straight days last year and lost the pink jersey on the penultimate stage time trial when Anna van der Breggen (Rabo-Liv) won the race against the clock by more than a minute.
“I approached today’s effort in the same way as I did last year,” said Guarnier. “Although I lost the pink jersey in the time trial last year, I did a great personal effort, and that’s all you can do at the end of the day.”
Asked what went right or differently this year compared to last year, Guarnier simply but enthusiastically said: “I kept pink!”
Stevens posted a time of 36:21 en route to the stage win. She was four seconds faster than both Van der Breggen in second and Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle High5) in third.
“I’ve been climbing well so I decided I wanted to go as hard as I could to the top of the climb,” said Stevens. “I probably wasn’t going to win it on the downhill but I couldn’t lose too much time there. It kind of flattened a little bit out at the end, so if you could push there…I pushed there, as hard as I could.”
“I had Smiley [Boels-Dolmans soigneur Maciej Kowlewski] in my ear,” Stevens added. “He was great. He was telling me the corners. He was saying: ‘You’re great. You’re great. But go a little faster, yeah?’ Always telling me to go a little faster. It was great to hear, actually. Was I too comfortable? Could I dig some more? I tried to empty my tank by the time I got to the top of the climb.”
Boels-Dolmans Cycling Team heads into the final two stages of the ten-day race in an enviable situation. Not only do Stevens and Guarnier occupy the top two spots overall but Van der Breggen, in third, trails Guarnier by nearly two minutes.
“We’re in a really fantastic position,” said Stevens. “It’s funny. I didn’t really have any GC ambitions coming in. To be 1-2 is really nice. Karol-Ann [Canuel] and Amalie [Dideriksen] have done so much work already this week, and they’re going to have their hands full these next couple days but we’re in a good place.”
“I don’t think the next two stages are as difficult as what we’ve seen these last three days,” Guarnier added. “I’m feeling strong and the team is strong, but it’s not over until it’s over.”
Editor’s note: Lizzie Armitstead headed home from the Giro Rosa on Thursday evening due to illness. Boels-Dolmans starts the weekend with four riders remaining from six starters in Guarnier, Stevens, Canuel and Dideriksen.