The Dutch rider, who showed her prowess on the climbs at the Olympic road race in Rio before her infamous crash, also holds the 2017 National Time Trial honours: a recipe for success on the tough course which contained two steep climbs with gradients reaching 30 per cent.
The Orica-Scott rider covered the 12.73km course in 25-29. Second place went to race leader Anna van der Breggen with a time of 26-10 and in third place was Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle High5) in 26-44.
That means that the top three GC riders appeared on the podium in the stage - albeit in a slightly different order. Stage winner Van Vleuten sits in third place, 1-36 behind race leader Van der Breggen with Longo Borghini still in second at 1 minute.
The terrain came as a surprise to most riders, with many choosing not to burn their matches on the inclines. GC leader Van der Breggen said: “This extreme TT looked like it was almost flat in the profile. To be honest, I think it was a bit too much. The girls who aren’t going for the general classification or a good TT result had no option to save themselves.”
"We had to climb two times a ‘wall’ which was really difficult to do on a time trial bike. Except for Annemiek, I think no one chose their time trial bike,” she added.
Van Vleuten keeps her eyes on the GC
The day provided a remedy following disappointment on stage four: "Of course you also need good legs but I have been feeling really good throughout this Giro and I showed that again today," commented Van Vleuten.
"I was super disappointed yesterday but I managed to stay focused and I knew today was a chance to take some time back."
With five stages to go, the GC is still a focus for her, sitting just one minute behind van der Breggen: “the time gap on GC is still a lot but today gives me more confidence. We will look at things day by day, I learnt the lesson the hard way yesterday not to switch off on flat stages so tomorrow I will be really focused."
GC leader van der Breggen commented: “It was a good day for the general classification, winning some seconds on everybody but Annemiek, who came a bit closer after a good time trial.”
'Hillier' than expected
Organisation of the Giro Rosa has raised eyebrows in the past and riders expressed surprise at the profile of the course.
Images in the course booklet did look fairly flat - but it later transpired the route contained two climbs with gradients knocking on 30 per cent, with an average gradient of 22% for the final 330 metres of the second 'hill'.
The riders took the surprise with good humour: “We had some laughs about the profile in the book,” Van der Breggen said.
British rider Dani King (Cyclance Pro Cycling) - who with Olympic medals in the team pursuit could suit a short time trial - called the profile "hilarious misleading".
Wiggle High5's Annette Edmondson - also a rider with track pedigree - offered a similar assessment of the course, comparing it to mountaineering.
Winner of the Women's Tour, Kasia Niewiadoma (WM3) commented "in the profile in the race booklet we saw something completely different and it turned out that the climbs are pretty steep here. For sure it's one of the hardest courses for a time trial I've ever done."
Giro Rosa 2017 general classification after stage five
Tomorrow's stage six race ferries riders from Roseto Degli Abruzzi and back again, over a 116km course. The route is meant to be predominantly flat - but only time will tell.
The current GC, with five stages still to go, stands at:
- Anna Van Der Breggen (NED) Boels Dolmans in 9-02-35
- Elisa Longo Borghini (ITA) Wiggle High5, at 1-00
- Annemiek van Vleuten (NED) Orica Scott, at 1-36
- Megan Guarnier (USA) Boels Dolmans, at 3-08
- Amanda Spratt (AUS) Orica Scott, at 3-29
- Katarzyna Niewiadom (POL) WM3, at 3-59
- Karol Ann Canuel (CAN) Boels Dolmans, at 4-19
- Claudia Lichtenberg (GER) Wiggle High5, at 4-36
- Shara Gallow (AUS) FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine, at 4-50
- Arlenis Sierra (CUB) Astana Women's Team, at 4-54
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