Britain's Emma Pooley (Garmin-Cervelo) is currently lying third in the overall classification of the prestigious Giro Donne stage race in Italy.
Pooley is just 36 seconds adrift of Dutchwoman Marianne Vos (Nederland Bloeit) and 28 seconds behind second-placed Sylwia Kapusta (Gauss) after four stages of the tough 10-day race. Pooley's Garmin-Cervelo team-mate and fellow Brit Sharon Laws is in fifth place overall, 1-19 behind Vos, after placing second on stage two.
Vos and Pooley escaped together during stage three. The pair built up a lead of several minutes over the stage's climbs, keeping the chase group at bay. Vos then distanced Pooley in the finale to take a solo win and the race lead.
Newly-crowned British national champion Lizzie Armitstead, a team-mate of Pooley at Garmin-Cervelo, was forced to withdraw from the race after crashing during Saturday's stage. Armitstead had started the race strongly, placing fourth on the opening stage.
"So far, it's gone to plan," Pooley told Cycling Weekly. "Well, not quite. Lizzie crashed on Saturday and is all bashed up. It's shit for her and us. She was fourth on the first stage and was wearing the maglia Bianca, which makes it doubly bad."
"Sunday's stage was full of Fleche Wallonne-type climbs. Vos attacked with 30 kilometres to go and I went with her, it was very rough bit of road."
"Sharon [Laws] is up there too, and she's now a GC contender. If she wins, that's fantastic; the fact we have two cards to play is great. She's come on so far in the last few years."
Six stages remain in the race, with some tough mountains and an individual time trial to come - something which should play to Pooley's strengths. Last year Pooley won the mountains classification in the race and went on to claim the time trial world championship.
Pooley has reconnoitered the majors climbs on stages seven, eight and nine and has also taken a look at the route of Sunday's 16km final stage time trial in San Francesco al Campo.
American Mara Abbott won last year's Giro Donne, she is currently in 18th place, 4-27 behind Vos in the overall classification.
Giro Donne 2011
Overall classification after stage four
1. Marianne Vos (Ned) Nederland Bloeit in 9-42-36
2. Sylwia Kapusta (Pol) Gauss at 8 secs
3. Emma Pooley (GB) Garmin-Cervelo at 36 secs
4. Shara Gillow (Aus) Bizkaia-Durango at 1-15
5. Sharon Laws (GB) Garmin-Cervelo at 1-19
6. Grace Verbeke (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen at 2-16
7. Christel Ferrier-Bruneau (Fra) Gauss at 2-19
8. Judith Arndt (Ger) HTC-Highroad at 3-07
9. Linda Melanie Villumsen (NZ) AA Drink-Leontien.nl at 3-12
10. Emma Johansson (Swe) Hitec Products at 3-14
Giro Donne 2011: The Big Preview
Emma Pooley: Rider profile
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