By Owen Rogers
Overall race favourite Annemiek van Vleuten lived up to her billing at the Giro Rosa Iccrea on Tuesday, winning the sixth stage to Lago di Cancana in emphatic style. The defending champion attacked at the bottom of the final, 10km climb, catching and passing the remaining breakaway rider, Leah Kirchmann, before riding alone to the line.
With her rivals unable to match the defending champion, the Dutchwoman gradually but her lead, eventually crossing the line nearly three minutes ahead to take the overall race lead. Compatriot Lucinda Brand (Sunweb), finished second just ahead of the previous maglia rosa, Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM).
While van Vleuten was increasing her lead on the climb, behind, Boels-Dolmans’ American, Katie Hall led the chase, but was unable to close the gap before a select group attacked what remained of the peloton.
Hall’s team mate, world champion Anna van der Breggen was joined by Brand, Erica Magnaldi (WNT-Rotor) and Van Vleuten’s Mitchelton-Scott team mate Amanda Spratt, but they were unable to close the gap.
Niewiadoma then managed to bridge across to the chasing group and followed when Brand broke free.
How it happened
The re-routed 88km queen stage between Ponte in Valtellina and Lago de Cancano headed immediately uphill putting some riders in trouble in the opening kilometre.
It was an aggressive start with early attacks neutralised and three time winner Marianne Vos (CCC-Liv) attacking with race leader Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM), forcing the Mitchelton-Scott team of race favourite, Annemiek van Vleuten to make the pace.
At 10 kilometres, the opening climb was a tough one, and the race split all over the mountain, though as the attacks ceased the higher the peloton rode. The riders settled into an uneasy equilibrium around half way up, groups forming and remaining together by force of will.
Three kilometres before the top Elena Pirrone (Valcar-Cylance) made a move and gained lead of around 40 seconds on the group of leader favourites. By the top though, the Italian was caught and defending champion van Vleuten bagged maximum points on the climb.
Once off the descent and into the valley, around 30 riders led the race, though soon after Nikola Noskova (Bigla) made a move as the race passed along a narrow bike path, adjacent to the Adda River.
While the leading group swelled to 45 women, Noskova built a lead of 2.30 on the bunch, with the road gently rising into the mountains, though as the gradient began to drag the Czech rider’s advantage began to drop.
As it did so, Paulina Rooijakkers (CCC-Liv) attacked and was followed by Sunweb’s Leah Kirchmann, the pair chasing Noskova, who sat up and waited, the three women going together with 25km remaining and are-establishing a gap of 2.30 from the group of around 40 behind.
The breakaway’s chances suffered a significant dent when Rooijakkers suffered a mechanical early on a short dig preceding the final climb, and though she managed to get back on, by the time she did so, the gap was well under 30 seconds.
With Noskova dropped Rooijakkers and Kirchmann soldiered on bravely, but as the final ascent began the CCC-Liv rider was dropped conclusively. Kirchmann continued to fight though but only managed to stay with van Vleuten for a few metres when she was caught.
Van Vleuten will be relishing the chance to increase her overall lead at tomorrow’s individual time trial. The 12.1 test is nearly all uphill and suit the world champion perfectly.
Giro Rosa stage 19, Ponte in Valtellina – Lago di Cancano (87.5km)
1. Annemiek Van Vleuten
2. Lucinda Brand
3. Katarzyna Niewiadoma
4. Soraya Paladin
5. Amanda Spratt
6. Anna Van der Breggen
7. Ashleigh Moolman - Pasio
8. Erica Magnaldi
9. Elisa Longo Borghini
10. Demi Vollering
General classification after stage five
1. Annemiek Van Vleuten, in 11-17-44
2. Katarzyna Niewiadoma, at 2-16
3. Ashleigh Moolman - Pasio, at 3-05
4. Amanda Spratt, at 3-12
5. Van der Breggen, at 3-24
6. Lucinda Brand, at 3-27
7. Elisa Longo Borghini, at 3-5
8. Katharine Hall, at 4-04
9. Erica Magnaldi, at 4-10
10. Juliette Labous, at 4-26
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