Giro Rosa 2019, 5/7 - 14/7

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As expected, the breakaway took today's stage because with Montasio tomorrow and most if not all reconciled to the opinion that Annemiek is not catchable, nobody big dared risk it. The best placed rider in the break was Soraya Paladin, who does add a touch of intrigue in that she moves into the top 10, and just 20 seconds behind Longo Borghini now. This creates a three-way battle for the blue jersey on Montasio, as while Longo Borghini is the obvious favourite, she is also renowned for having one bad day at the Giro, often on Unipuerto mountains; she only has 20 seconds over Paladin, but Paladin was in the break today - while Erica Magnaldi has also been strong and was one of the most aggressive racers from the group in the second half of the Passo Torre di Fraele, and isn't too far back so if ELB does have a jour sans, Erica could profit.

De Vuyst also gained a few places, putting Parkhotel into a position where they have two in the top 15, and in fact moving in front of the pre-race anticipated leader Demi Vollering. I suspect Demi still is the de facto leader - despite her saying that she thinks she's emptied herself day after day, only to find that she can still do it the next day, she has seemingly improved her position in the bunch day on day and seems to recover well, but it's going to be a real tough ask to try to crack that top 10. Also trying hard to do that and ahead of her at present are Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (who hasn't hit the Giro with the kind of form she would have hoped, although obviously the 1-2 with Banks and Thomas today for Bigla means they can leave the Giro somewhat satisfied nonetheless) and Ane Santesteban, for whom tomorrow is realistically her only chance to pick up any time.
 
OK, here we go, Altopiano di Montasio ahoy.



My prediction: first moves at the first steep ramp of 14%, the big difference maker is the steep section after Sella Nevea. I think Annemiek will probably win the stage again, but perhaps she will sit in until the Sella Nevea this time rather than just riding away like she did on Torre di Fraele.

The problem is behind that it's a total crapshoot. Almost everybody had stretches of struggling, and stretches of looking strong on Torre di Fraele (relative to one another at least, not relative to Annemiek, who just looked a level above throughout). Van der Breggen is in the driving seat, others need a minute minimum on Niewiadoma to get to the podium (I see Kasia as more vulnerable than Anna VDB, there were rumours that she was struggling on the cat.1 yesterday but it came to nought as it was so far out; this climb is also a bit outside of what you'd see as her range, she is stronger over climbs in the 4-8km kind of range, Bira type climbs). Brand is the best placed on GC, 1'00" off the podium; she's a very good climber but she's very much a diesel, so that super steep section after the Sella Nevea may be a problem for her, having never really contended in the Ardennes and other races with real steep gradients. Spratt, needing 1'07" on Kasia or 1'22" on Anna to reach the podium, seems perhaps a more likely bet. ELB is a possibility - there will be a genuine battle for the maglia azzurra, and Elisa is currently holding onto it by just 20" from Soraya Paladin and with Erica Magnaldi having looked aggressive in the previous MTF. Elisa is 1'20" off Kasia. Soraya is 20" further back as mentioned, but, having been in the break yesterday, is possibly less of a threat, however she was in the front group at Lago di Cancano, albeit chasing back on on the sterrato section.

Then you have others who would have been pre-race contenders as super strong climbers, but who haven't really featured. Katie Hall, for example, has a bit of an excuse, and there is the possibility that, working together with teammate Anna VDB, she could gain a lot of time like happened on Mount Baldy; we all know Hall is a very strong climber who likes the longer ascents. However, she needs 1'57" on Kasia, 57" on Brand, 50" on Spratt and so on which seems unlikely seeing as she will also probably be working to ride FOR Anna at first. Ash Moolman-Pasio can outclimb anybody in this field on the right day (just witness Jaizkibel 2017 for evidence, yes that includes van Vleuten) and was Annemiek's main challenger last year, but she hasn't looked at her best in this race, and had an absolutely rotten ITT too.

Then you have a few just outside the top 10 who are fighting to get into it. First up is Juliette Labous; in all honesty I don't see her climbing up unless somebody in the top 10 bonks; she's in the maglia bianca and is just 20, I think she's just trying to hold that jersey. However, she's only 3 seconds off the top 10. There's then over a minute's gap back to Ane Santesteban in 12th, she's at +8'08", level with Sofie de Vuyst (who was also in the break yesterday so liable to drop away), so 3'42" away from the podium and 1'19" from the top 10. A few seconds behind her is Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, who won't be too happy with her Giro showing, not really having had the right form other than that uphill finish on stage 3. She is, however, combative, and far enough down that she might be given some leeway before anybody chases. Likewise Vollering who is a few seconds further behind, but in her first Giro she may just be happy to get to the end and bank a top 15; on the other hand, she does seem to be strong at recovering, getting better as the week went on in Britain and her results in the bunch have been improving here as well, so you never know. And finally Eider Merino is a further minute back, she's not been on the kind of form she hit last year's race or Bira the year before that in, but she is one of the lightest, if not the outright lightest, riders out there, and with the kind of steep gradients included later in the climb, she could profit.




SO!!!

Annemiek attacked early in the climb, but this time couldn't get away alone. Moolman-Pasio went with her, and then once they normalised tempo, Spratt, Hall and Brand joined her. Hall struggled to maintain tempo, but her teammate van der Breggen rode across to make it a group of 5 once more. Kasia was isolated early and unable to make the jump. Continued hard riding breaking the group apart leads to a situation of Annemiek and Anna VDB at the head of the field, with Spratt and Ash a few seconds behind. Brand a further few seconds behind, and Hall being joined by Elisa Longo Borghini at around 30". These gaps started to expand, and also Hall dropped ELB and caught Brand. Anna tried her utmost to rid herself of the maglia rosa, but Annemiek wasn't going to let her get anywhere. Approaching the Sella Nevea, it seemed like this duo was going to be the one to duke out the win, but they hadn't got to the steepest stuff yet. Nevertheless, after Anna attacked, that broke Spratt who had been trying to ride back on, and she dropped away from the two. She's still well poised to take the podium spot, however, with Brand and Hall 20" behind her; Moolman-Pasio is going to be the big benefactor in the standings today, climbing up to join Spratt too. Once the ramps got to their steepest, however, Annemiek broke her compatriot, and history looked like repeating; not sure from the reportage whether Annemiek attacked or Anna bonked (or a little from column A, a little from column B, which is perhaps most likely), but the gap swiftly expanded to 20", and it seemed like a third win for Annemiek was inevitable.

Anna now was falling into the clutches of Spratt and Moolman-Pasio; because of the podium being on the line and now Annemiek having dropped Anna, the Australian started collaborating again; now over a minute down, it looked like that ever-elusive podium would continue to be beyond Niewiadoma. BUT, as the gradient eased up again, van der Breggen got a second, third, fourth or whatever wind, and rode herself back into her rhythm, and as the red kite came into view, she had reduced her deficit back down to just seven seconds - with memories of La Course 2018 in her mind, she set about bloody-minded pursuit of the maglia rosa. Annemiek got out of the saddle and pushed again to keep the World Champion at bay... radio silence ensued as the entire women's cycling audience bit their nails. Still no news from the front, but we found out that Ash had dropped Spratt - but the steepest stretch of the Altopiano di Montasio had done its job, and there was over a minute between the two Dutchwomen and the South African. And still no news from the line. And still no news from the line. Following women's cycling plays havoc with your F5 key.

As the road flattened out, Anna made contact with her rival once more, clearly doing better over lower gradients but suffering more on the higher ones. So there we had it: World Champion vs. World Tour leader, World RR champion vs. World TT champion, 2018 champion and 2019 champion-elect vs. 2015 and 2017 champion. Drama... and Anna took it, avenging the ghost of La Course. Did Annemiek contest it? Possibly not. No reports yet. She has little left to prove at this race, and she'd typically be the stronger sprinter of the two. Anna will take 2nd in the GC; her absence from last year's race was a bit of a downside for Annemiek, because though she won the standalone La Course, there was some consideration of whether she'd have won if Anna had been there, since the latter was the defending champion and of course won the Worlds so convincingly. Those arguments are out of sight now.

Moolman-Pasio finished alone in 3rd, but the rest of the field are still scattered down the mountain. It'll be great to watch this one back for sure. This sounds like a stage to put into the library of "races to show people to show that women's racing can be great", alongside Signora della Guardia 2015, the final stage of Emakumeen Bira in 2015, Pooley to San Fior in 2014, La Course 2018, the Firenze Worlds, Errenteria in Emakumeen Bira 2017, Mendrisio, Baku, the 2016 Olympic Road Race, most editions of Strade Bianche, and anything involving a live microphone near Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig.
 
We are still awaiting confirmation of any finishers behind Moolman-Pasio. Much drama as while we can predict what we think has happened to the GC (Spratt onto podium at expense of Niewiadoma, who may fall some way with Hall, Brand and Moolman-Pasio all having been among the key players on the stage long after she was dropped), there's no confirmation to work from. My nerves don't like this.

The UCI WWT official account apologises - apparently they lost signal at the summit!!! We don't know anything about any finishers beyond the top 3 or the time gaps... agonising!!! It seems likely we now have to wait for the official results, which will probably take another half an hour at least because data connection is gone at the mountaintop, and obviously being an MTF, we are going to be waiting for some time for the final finishers.

Edit: a bit more info coming out in drips and drabs.

1 Anna van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans) NED
2 Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott) NED
3 Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (CCC-Liv) RSA
4 Amanda Spratt (Mitchelton-Scott) AUS
5 Katie Hall (Boels-Dolmans) USA
6 Demi Vollering (Parkhotel Valkenburg) NED

Even without knowing the timegaps, that's a phenomenal ride from Vollering.

Movistar tweet that Merino was at +3'10" and their strongest rider, with Paula Patiño at around 4 mins' deficit.
 
Finally we have it! So, Annemiek was totally shot when Anna caught her and didn't even come close!

1 Anna van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans) NED
2 Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott) NED +17"
3 Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (CCC-Liv) RSA +1'38"
4 Amanda Spratt (Mitchelton-Scott) AUS +1'38"
5 Katherine Hall (Boels-Dolmans) USA +1'57"
6 Demi Vollering (Parkhotel Valkenburg) NED +2'51"
7 Ane Santesteban González (WNT-Rotor) ESP +2'51"
8 Erica Magnaldi (WNT-Rotor) ITA +2'53"
9 Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) ITA +2'55"
10 Juliette Labous (Team Sunweb) FRA +3'10"
11 Lucinda Brand (Team Sunweb) NED +3'10"
12 Eider Merino Cortazar (Movistar) ESP +3'10"
13 Julie van de Velde (Lotto-Soudal) BEL +3'29"
14 Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Bigla) DEN +3'31"
15 Sofie de Vuyst (Parkhotel Valkenburg) BEL +3'31"
16 Lucy Kennedy (Mitchelton-Scott) AUS +3'31"
17 Soraya Paladin (Alé-Cipollini) ITA +3'31"

So, it seems like WNT probably elected to battle over the maglia azzurra? Similarly Brand seems to have hit the wall on the steepest section after going with the attacks prior to the Sella Nevea, as she's fallen far from Spratt and Moolman-Pasio, with whom she was initially fighting, to the point where it seems she was probably being pulled along by Labous for the two to finish together as I can't imagine Labous needed towing to protect the maglia bianca as there are no other young rider contenders in that top 17. It seems Niewiadoma must have been just behind Paladin's group as, taking into account van Vleuten's six bonus seconds toward the GC for finishing 2nd on the day, I calculate that means she must have lost 3'38" on the day after looking at the provisional GC, which is as follows:

1 Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott) NED
2 Anna van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans) NED +3'50"
3 Amanda Spratt (Mitchelton-Scott) AUS +7'00"
4 Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (CCC-Liv) RSA +8'05"
5 Katherine Hall (Boels-Dolmans) USA +8'09"
6 Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) POL +8'10"
7 Lucinda Brand (Team Sunweb) NED +8'25"
8 Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) ITA +8'30"
9 Soraya Paladin (Alé-Cipollini) ITA +9'26"
10 Erica Magnaldi (WNT-Rotor) ITA +9'31"

Incredible, all told, how close the grouping from 4th to 8th is. Were Hall and Niewiadoma not likely to be complete and utter irrelevances when it comes to sprinting, they might be interested by bonus seconds to battle between themselves (and with Ash) on the final day, but I can't really see that happening. If it does, and nobody else is interested, we could be in for some amusing metas volantes tomorrow. They'll probably start up a two-up sprint and the péloton will win.
 
Re:

Libertine Seguros said:
Finally we have it! So, Annemiek was totally shot when Anna caught her and didn't even come close!

1 Anna van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans) NED
2 Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott) NED +17"
3 Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (CCC-Liv) RSA +1'38"
4 Amanda Spratt (Mitchelton-Scott) AUS +1'38"
5 Katherine Hall (Boels-Dolmans) USA +1'57"
6 Demi Vollering (Parkhotel Valkenburg) NED +2'51"
7 Ane Santesteban González (WNT-Rotor) ESP +2'51"
8 Erica Magnaldi (WNT-Rotor) ITA +2'53"
9 Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) ITA +2'55"
10 Juliette Labous (Team Sunweb) FRA +3'10"
11 Lucinda Brand (Team Sunweb) NED +3'10"
12 Eider Merino Cortazar (Movistar) ESP +3'10"
13 Julie van de Velde (Lotto-Soudal) BEL +3'29"
14 Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Bigla) DEN +3'31"
15 Sofie de Vuyst (Parkhotel Valkenburg) BEL +3'31"
16 Lucy Kennedy (Mitchelton-Scott) AUS +3'31"
17 Soraya Paladin (Alé-Cipollini) ITA +3'31"

So, it seems like WNT probably elected to battle over the maglia azzurra? Similarly Brand seems to have hit the wall on the steepest section after going with the attacks prior to the Sella Nevea, as she's fallen far from Spratt and Moolman-Pasio, with whom she was initially fighting, to the point where it seems she was probably being pulled along by Labous for the two to finish together as I can't imagine Labous needed towing to protect the maglia bianca as there are no other young rider contenders in that top 17. It seems Niewiadoma must have been just behind Paladin's group as, taking into account van Vleuten's six bonus seconds toward the GC for finishing 2nd on the day, I calculate that means she must have lost 3'38" on the day after looking at the provisional GC, which is as follows:

1 Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott) NED
2 Anna van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans) NED +3'50"
3 Amanda Spratt (Mitchelton-Scott) AUS +7'00"
4 Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (CCC-Liv) RSA +8'05"
5 Katherine Hall (Boels-Dolmans) USA +8'09"
6 Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) POL +8'10"
7 Lucinda Brand (Team Sunweb) NED +8'25"
8 Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) ITA +8'30"
9 Soraya Paladin (Alé-Cipollini) ITA +9'26"
10 Erica Magnaldi (WNT-Rotor) ITA +9'31"

Incredible, all told, how close the grouping from 4th to 8th is. Were Hall and Niewiadoma not likely to be complete and utter irrelevances when it comes to sprinting, they might be interested by bonus seconds to battle between themselves (and with Ash) on the final day, but I can't really see that happening. If it does, and nobody else is interested, we could be in for some amusing metas volantes tomorrow. They'll probably start up a two-up sprint and the péloton will win.
Annemiek looked invincible halfway through the climb, but Anna vdB was incredibly determined, and you could see the mojo begin to turn when Annemiek began to struggle in the final couple kilometers. Those two have had quite some duels in cycling, and this was another great one.
 
Some cobbles in a punchy finish today, should be one for Vos, but may well be a chance for that mess of riders from 4th to 8th to try to gain a place or two. Unless the breakaway goes, as there's a large number of stagehunters out there today - the break consists of Lotte Kopecky, Nadia Quagliotto, Sofia Bertizzolo, Chiara Perini, Elizabeth Banks, Dani Christmas, Karol-Ann Canuel, Riejanne Markus, Arianna Fidanza, Floortje Mackaij, Anouska Koster, Tayler Wiles, Asja Paladin and Kathrin Hammes. Obviously Banks already has a stage win, from that group I'd think on this finish we'd be looking at Bertizzolo, Markus and Mackaij being the favourites on paper, but that's in a vacuum without nine days of hard racing beforehand. There's also a climb beforehand, not one that would be decisive for the big guns of course but if it looks like the break will be allowed the stage, it might be used by the likes of Canuel, Banks and Wiles to try to rid the group of some of the faster finishers or as a fulcrum for a solo attack.
 
And indeed it is one for Vos, who takes the stage ahead of Brand and Kopecky (who had been in the big break, so will be interesting to see how that transpired). Paladin 4th and Niewiadoma 5th. Aude Biannic was caught on the final climb after a solo attack.

The picture from near the finish (credit @mistermol on twitter) suggests there may well be some time gaps to take into account, so the GC isn't totally confirmed yet, though obviously nothing is going to change at the head of the field and the top 3 are secure.



Edit: indeed we did have some changes, the GC was clearly altered by the finish; Vos got a clear time gap to Brand, she and Kopecky got a clear time gap to Paladin and Niewiadoma, and then another to Moolman-Pasio, to Longo Borghini, to Leleivyte and Vollering, then to Fidanza (great ride by her!) and Cille.

The upshot of this is that both Lucinda Brand and Kasia Niewiadoma climb up a place in the GC, with Katie Hall losing several seconds, finishing in the group at +24". Van der Breggen and Spratt gain a few seconds on Annemiek, but that's mainly as Annemiek's lead was comfortable enough that she had no reason to take any risks, and came in around 17" back. No other notable GC changes, as Vos climbing to 20th place ahead of Omer Shapira is not really newsworthy in and among it all, though the top 20 would have been a nice achievement for the Israeli (without time bonuses her position would of course have been better - but simultaneously without the TTT, she'd have been worse off).

Final stage:
1 Marianne Vos (CCC-Liv) NED 2'51'45
2 Lucinda Brand (Sunweb) NED +1"
3 Lotte Kopecky (Lotto-Soudal) BEL +1"
4 Soraya Paladin (Alé-Cipollini) ITA +4"
5 Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) POL +4'
6 Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (CCC-Liv) RSA +6"
7 Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) ITA +7"
8 Demi Vollering (Parkhotel Valkenburg) NED +9"
9 Rasa Leleivyte (Aromitalia-Basso Bikes) LTU +9"
10 Ariana Fidanza (Eurotarget-Bianchi) ITA +10"

Final Giro Rosa GC
1 Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott) NED 25'01'41
2 Anna van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans) NED +3'45"
3 Amanda Spratt (Mitchelton-Scott) AUS +6'55"
4 Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (CCC-Liv) RSA +7'54"
5 Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) POL +7'57"
6 Lucinda Brand (Sunweb) NED +8'01"
7 Katherine Hall (Boels-Dolmans) USA +8'16"
8 Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) ITA +8'19"
9 Soraya Paladin (Alé-Cipollini) ITA +9'13"
10 Erica Magnaldi (WNT-Rotor) ITA +9'31"
11 Juliette Labous (Sunweb) FRA +9'51"
12 Ane Santesteban González (WNT-Rotor) ESP +10'48"
13 Demi Vollering (Parkhotel Valkenburg) NED +11'12"
14 Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Bigla) DEN +11'36"
15 Sofie de Vuyst (Parkhotel Valkenburg) BEL +11'48"
16 Eider Merino Cortazar (Movistar) ESP +12'59"
17 Julie van de Velde (Lotto-Soudal) BEL +13'10"
18 Elena Franchi (Eurotarget-Bianchi) ITA +16'02"
19 Janneke Ensing (WNT-Rotor) NED +16'06"
20 Marianne Vos (CCC-Liv) NED +17'04"
 
Stage 10 highlights

Check out the incredible bike handling from Kasia as they catch Biannic, she's leading the bunch as they turn on to cobbles and goes in with way too much speed, somehow manages to keep it upright with a full back wheel slide. And possibly the most authoritative of all of Vos' stage wins. Though they have all been pretty authoritative. Nice finish actually. Kopecky very impressive, she came from a long way back to finish in that 3rd place, had she been better placed in the run-in she probably wouldn't have beaten Vos, since Marianne eased up close to the line, but things could have been interesting.
 

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