Maglia rosa Anna van der Breggen gained three seconds over her rivals on Giro Rosa stage six. The Olympic road champion was on the right end of a split in the peloton that formed on the downhill drop to the line. Lotta Lepistö (Cervélo-Bigla) won the nine-up sprint. Van der Breggen came home in eighth place.
“We knew there would be gaps at the finish,” said Dutch road champion Chantal Blaak. “It’s the kind of finish where there are always gaps. The main goal today was to have Anna in front as we came to the line.”
Van der Breggen led the peloton over the final climb.
“You really needed to be in front on top of the last climb,” said Blaak. “Because it was at four kilometres to go. Downhill. Then finish. The climb was not hard enough to drop people, but it was not possible to move up anymore.”
The team tactic was rewarded. When the peloton split after the ninth rider, Van der Breggen was ahead of the gap. Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle-High5) and Annemiek van Vleuten (ORICA-SCOTT) were not. The split was small – only three seconds – but in a race that has been decided on bonus seconds in the past, every second matters.
While the final dominated Twtter updates, the opening 100-kilometres of the stage was not the sleepy, straightforward affair live race updates would have led you to believe. The day was hot and hectic from kilometre zero.
The peloton covered four circuit laps for a total of 116-kilometres. Although the profile was flat, each lap included two climbs. The second climb, four kilometres from the finish, was followed by a drop to the line.
“It was a harder race than people expected, because it was not flat,” said Blaak. "We knew before. Never believe the road book. You have to do your homework. And it’s the Giro, so there are always surprises even with the homework done.”
The peloton largely stayed together in the first half of the race. During lap three, a lone leader slipped away long enough to contest the intermediate sprint solo. The catch was countered by Hannah Barnes (CANYON//SRAM), Soraya Paladin (Alé Cipollini) and Sofia Bertizzolo (Astana). The trio gained a maximum advantage of 45 seconds and managed to hold off the peloton until the run-in to the last climb.
From there, Boels-Dolmans massed on the front to set up Van der Breggen.
“I was Plan B,” said Blaak. “We had the idea to do the sprint for me, but I nearly crashed before the climb, and I lost my position.”
The Giro Rosa continues on Thursday with a heavy 140-kilometre stage. Van der Breggen starts the stage with a 63-second buffer over Longo Borghini. Van Vleuten sits in third place at 1:39.
“We’re looking forward to tomorrow,” said Blaak. “It’s another hard day, but we’re very happy with this Giro. Anna is safe and strong, and we’ve never been in a difficult situation.”