Former South African champion Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio took the biggest win of her career on Saturday, winning the mountain top finish at the ninth stage of the Giro Donne.
The SD Worx rider attacked with Trek-Segafredo’s Elisa Longo Borghini on the second of three categorised climbs during the 122km stage which began in Feletto Umberto, near the eastern city of Udine.
with just over eight kilometres and the steepest gradients remaining of the climb to Monte Matajur, Moolman-Pasio attacked and dropped the Italian who was later caught by a small group including overall leader, Anna van der Breggen.
Indeed the maglia rosa finished third, retaining her overall lead, with Dutch compatriot Demi Vollering second, making it the second SD Worx one, two, three of the race so far. The same three women also continue to occupy all the podium places on general classification, with Moolman-Pasio in second place and Vollering third.
Though she was dropped from Van der Breggen's groupBriton Lizzie Deignan (Trek-Segafredo) finished fifth cementing her fourth place overall, and with one day to go seems set to bag her best-ever finish in the race.
How it happened
While the GC was set on day two when Anna van der Breggen won on the road to Prato Nevoso, a week later, Saturday’s 122.4km stage to Monte Matajur was always set to be the queen stage.
Starting just north of the eastern city of Udine, in Feletto Umberto, the 122.6km stage had well over 2,000m of ascent, heading first over third and second category climbs before tackling the 13.9km climb of Monte Matajur.
With an average gradient of 7.7% with a few easier sections, the final four kilometres are the toughest, averaging 9.4% and were set to be the scene of the race’s defining moves.
Unlike the previous stages where a break had taken up to 50km to go, on Saturday the break was away early, with Top Girls Fassa Bortolo’s Giorgia Vettorello up the road for the third day. The 21 year-old was joined by Asia Zontone (Servetto-Makhymo-Beltrami) and Letizia Borghesi (AromItalia-Basso Bikes-Vaiano) who won a stage of the 2019 Giro.
The three women took a lead of over two minutes onto the day’s first climb, that extending to 3-30 as they reached the half-way point. However, on the steep slopes of the day’s second climb to Stregna the gap came down, causing Borghesi to attack, though she was unable to reach the top before being caught and the peloton re-formed.
Before reaching the top though, Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) and Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (SDWorx), who began the day second overall, headed up the road. The pair had comprised the day’s break on stage five, and on this occasion crested the climb with a lead of around 35 seconds on a peloton of only 35 women, including Moolman-Pasio’s team mate, overall leader Anna van der Breggen.
With 20km to go the pair had a lead of around a minute on two chasers, and about 2-30 on the bunch, but as they reached the foot of the climb the gap began to drop dramatically, a 20 woman group closing them down as the climb wore on.
With around 8km remaining Moolman-Pasio accelerated, dropping Longo Borghini, and while the Italian closed back in, the SDWorx rider kicked again conclusively gapping her, while a 14 rider group followed around 1-40 back.
An attack by Demi Vollering around 3.5km from the top saw Deignan among a number of riders distanced, with only Marta Cavalli (FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope) able to stay with race leader Van der Breggen with her SDWorx team mate Demi Vollering.
In the closing kilometre the SDWorx pair dropped the 23 year-old Italian who held on to finish 13 seconds behind them, while Deignan held on to finish a further 34 seconds behind.
Sunday’s final stage sees the race tackle a 113km route starting in Capriva del Friuli shadowing the Slovenian border and finishing in Cormons. With four third category climbs the day will not be straightforward though large time gaps at the top of the general classification are unlikely.
Giro Donne 2021 stage nine, Feletto-Umberto to Monte Matajur (122.6km)
1. Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (RSA) SD Worx, in 3-52-35
2. Demi Vollering (Ned) SD Worx, at 1-26
3. Anna van der Breggen (NED) SD Worx, at same time
4. Marta Cavalli (Ita) FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope, at 1-39
5. Lizzie Deignan (GBr) Trek-Segafredo, at 2-14
6. Mavi García (Esp) Alé-BTC-Ljubljana, at 2-27
7. Juliette Labous (Fra) Team DSM, at 2-37
8. Tatiana Guderzo (Ita) Alé-BTC-Ljubljana, at 2-46
9. Niamh Fisher-Black (NZl) SD Worx, at 2-56
10. Evita Muzic (Fra) FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope, at 3-25.
General classification after stage nine
1. Anna van der Breggen (Ned) SD Worx, in 24-04-12
2. Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (RSA) SD Worx, at 1-23
3. Demi Vollering (Ned) SD Worx, at 3-05
4. Lizzie Deignan (GBr) Trek-Segafredo, at 6-48
5. Mavi García (Esp) Alé-BTC-Ljubljana, at 8-06
6. Marta Cavalli (Ita) FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope, at 8-09
7. Juliette Labous (Fra) Team DSM, at 8-20
8. Tatiana Guderzo (Ita) Alé-BTC-Ljubljana, at 8-52
9. Niamh Fisher-Black (NZl) SD Worx, at 9-24
10. Gaia Realini (Ita) isolmant-Premac-Vittoria, at 10-33.
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Owen Rogers is an experienced journalist, covering professional cycling and specialising in women's road racing. He has followed races such as the Women's Tour and Giro d'Italia Donne, live-tweeting from Women's WorldTour events as well as providing race reports, interviews, analysis and news stories. He has also worked for race teams, to provide post race reports and communications.
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