Megan Guarnier rounded out the podium on the queen stage of the Giro Rosa. The defending champion led home a group that included the top eight on general classification. Lucinda Brand (Team Sunweb) soloed to victory following a mid-race attack, catching and then passing lone leader Tetyana Riabchenko (Lensworld – Kuota) three kilometres before the finish line.
Guarnier and company came home 1:33 behind Brand, who jumped up to fifth overall. The top four on general classification - race leader Anna van der Breggen, Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle-High5), Annemiek van Vleuten (ORICA-SCOTT) and Guarnier – remain unchanged following the dramatic day.
“The riders up the road weren’t a threat to Anna’s general classification position,” noted Guarnier. “We were comfortable with the situation.”
The 141-kilometre queen stage took riders along the coast and over a number of uncategorised climbs before hitting the Cima Coppi in Cuccaro Vetere, the highest point of the Giro Rosa. The climb topped out at 113-kilometres and was followed by a long descent before a little kicker to the line.
A number of early breakaway attempts were neutralised before the peloton hit the longest of the unclassified climbs. The usual jockeying for position indicated the imminent action. As the slopes steepened, the peloton fragmented and around 40 riders emerged in the leading bunch.
On the long technical descent that followed, Ane Santesteban (Alé Cipollini) slipped away. Following the intermediate sprint in Castelnuova, she was joined by teammate Janneke Ensing and Riabchenko. The trio began the GPM climb together.
By the time the race hit the top of the climb, Santesteban and Ensing had been dropped. Riabchenko was leading solo. Anuska Koster (WM3 Energie) and Brand joined Ensing in the space between the leader and the first group of the fragmented peloton.
“There were some attacks on the GPM climb by the GC riders, but it all stayed together,” noted Guarnier. “After the attacks were ineffective, ORICA started chasing over the top of the climb and then Astana took over the descent.”
Ahead of Guarnier’s group, Brand caught Riabchenko on the run-in the the line. Then the Dutchwoman crashed, chased and caught Riabchenko again, dropped Riabchenko and won.
Boels-Dolmans Cycling Team heads into the weekend holding tight to a healthy lead overall and the team classification – with Guarnier in fourth place and Karol-Ann Canuel in eighth place.
While it was largely a successful stage for Boels-Dolmans, it was a tough day in the office for world champion Amalie Dideriksen.
“I was placed in front with the girls, but in the last roundabout before the climb, my front wheel slipped out,” Dideriksen said. “We came into it with a lot of speed, and everyone had to brake hard, and all the girls moved a little. I don’t know if I hit someone’s back wheel or I narrowly avoided it but slipped somehow. I went down quite hard. Mostly I’m just happy it wasn’t any of our GC riders that crashed.
“Because the crash was just before the climb, I could not use the cars to come back and was alone,” Dideriksen added. “I caught a few people and made it to the top of the first climb in a group five. On the next climb, I went a little harder with two girls to catch the gruppetto, which we did around half-way up the second climb – so I managed to finish with the gruppetto.”
The 21-year-old plans to start stage nine.
“I feel it in my chest, and I think my right hip will be a little blue tomorrow, but I only have small wounds,” Dideriksen said. “It could have been a lot worse.”
Editor’s note: Boels-Dolmans is sending lots of love to Claudia Cretti, who crashed heavily on Thursday’s Giro Rosa stage. Cretti is currently in a medically induced coma. In the words of Van der Breggen: “It was a strange feeling today. Everything just continues at the Giro Rosa while Claudia Cretti is fighting for her life.”