Anna van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans) at last proved Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott) is mortal by winning stage nine of the Giro Rosa. The world road champion caught her compatriot in the closing 750 metres and then attacked her to win by 17 seconds.
In what was a gripping final, the two Dutch women had been alone at the head of the race entering the final four kilometres, but van Vleuten attacked the Boels-Dolmans rider, dropping her. Van der Breggen managed to limit her losses, however, never letting the gap exceed 15 seconds.
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Then, as she closed in on the final kilometre, with the road flattening, the gap came down. She caught the Mitcheton-Scott rider and then powered past to take the first stage win of the 2019 Giro for Boels-Dolmans.
Behind her Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (CCC-Liv) had been dropped by Amanda Spratt (Mitchelton-Scott), but managed to latch onto the Australian’s wheel, before sprinting past to take third place.
How it happened
Other than the brutal final climb, stage nine was to prove the calmest day of the race so far. The 125.5km route between Gemona del Friuli and the summit of Malga Montasio provided the seventh and final uphill finish of the ten day race, but was mostly flat until the base of the ascent, beginning around 18km out from the line.
Despite a few attacks nothing stuck until after 20km, when seven riders went clear, including former British road and time trial champion Hannah Barnes (Canyon-SRAM).
Barnes was joined by Nicole Steigenga (BePink), Maaike Boogaard (BTC Ljubljana), Kelly van den Steen (Lotto-Soudal Ladies), Małgorzata Jasinska (Movistar), Kseniia Dobrynina (Servetto-Piumante) and Rachel Neylan (Virtu) who gradually built a lead of one minute.
Of that group Barnes was the best placed, starting the day in 38th place, 26-52 down, meaning none of the breakaway were a threat to the overall classification.
With the gap out to 2-10, the Mitchelton-Scott team of Annemiek van Vleuten came to the head of the peloton to control the gap. And there the advantage stayed, though it briefly came down to 1.20 after the race passed the intermediate sprint in Gemona del Friuli.
Only as the race came within the final 25km did the gap begin to fall, with 25 seconds knocked off the lead in a matter of five kilometres.
As the 18km climb began the breakaway began to disintegrate and all of them were soon caught with Sunweb doing the lion’s share of the work at the head of the peloton.
The attritional climb saw riders dropping one by one, until, in the closing 10km a group of four emerged at the front of the race. Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (CCC-Liv), Lucinda Brand (Sunweb) and the Mitchelton-Scott duo of Amanda Spratt and race leader Annemiek van Vleuten tackled the tree-lined climb together.
Van der Breggen had originally been separated from the group, but made her way back on before first Brand, then Spratt and Moolman-Pasio were dropped, leaving the two Dutchwomen to contest the win.
There was disaster for Brand whose chances of a general classification podium were ruined when she suffered a mechanical in the closing 200 metres and was forced to run to the line.
Tomorrow’s final stage will see the bunch cover a 120km route between San Vito Al Tagliamento and Udine. Relatively flat, with one classified climb coming in he final 15 kilometres van Vleuten’s second overall win at the Giro Rosa is likely, with her lead currently 3-50.
Giro Rosa 2019, stage nine: Gemona del Friuli to Malga Montasio – (125.5km)
1. Anna van der Breggen (Ned) Boels-Dolmans, in 3-26-27
2. Annemiek van Vleuten (Ned) Mitchelton-Scott, at 17 seconds
3. Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (RSA) CCC-Liv, at 1-38
4. Amanda Spratt (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott, at same time
5. Katie Hall (USA) Boels-Dolmans, at 1-57
6. Demi Vollering (Ned) Parkhotel Valkenburg, at 2-51
7. Ane Santesteban (Esp) WNT-Rotor, at same time
8.Erica Magnaldi (Ita) Wnt-Rotor, at 2-53
9.Elisa Longo Borghini (Ita) Trek-Segafredo, at 2-55
10. Juliette Labous (Fra) Sunweb, at 3-10
General classification after stage nine
1. Annemiek van Vleuten (Ned) Mitchelton-Scott,in 22-09-39
2. Anna van der Breggen (Ned) Boels-Dolman, at 3-50
3. Amanda Spratt (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott, at 7-00
4. Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (RSA) CCC-Liv, at 8-05
5. Katie Hall (USA) Boels-Dolmans, at 8-09
6. Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Pol) Canyon-SRAM, at 8-10
7. Lucinda Brand (Ned) Sunweb, at 8-25
8. Elisa Longo Borghini (Ita) Trek-Segafredo, at 8-30
9. Soraya Paladin (Ita) Alé Cipollini, at 9-26
10. Erica Magnaldi (Ita) Wnt-Rotor, at 9-31