It was a day for the breakaway at the Giro Rosa, with Letizia Borghesi winning stage four. In an apparent re-run of the previous stage, the AromItalia-Basso Bikes-Vaiano rider won on the line as the leading rival seemed to ease up to celebrate.
The win was by nothing more than a whisker, as Nadia Qualgiotto (Alé-Cipollini) finished a close second and was clearly upset at the finish. The third and final breakaway rider, Chiara Perini (BePink) took third place.
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Quagliotto instigated the breakaway after nearly 50km of racing, sprinting off the front on a short uphill section. With Perini and Borghesi on board the Alé-Cipollini rider was the senior partner in the trio, and was forced to do much of the work.
She had attacked on the final climb, with 13km to go, but was unable to drop her cohorts and eventually took them to the line.
How it happened
The lumpy route on the northern fringes of Milan, between the start in Lissone and Carate Brianza some 101.10km later, had left many unsure what would happen. The road book suggested a bunch sprint, though many riders thought the break away was the likely outcome.
Though it was high paced, it was only when the race passed the 20km marker, and the urban area began to thin out, that attacks began to come in what was a frantic opening.
First, six riders escaped up the road, though they were only able to establish a gap pf 20 seconds before they were caught and former French road champion Aude Biannic (Movistar) got away.
After a few kilometres dangling off the front of the bunch she was caught and a further three, including the 2017 world champion Chantal Blaak (Boels-Dolmans) was also caught nearly before they created a gap.
The race continued in similar style until, until nearly 50km were done when Chiara Perini (BePink), Nadia Quagliotto (Alé-Cipollini) and Letizia Borghesi (AromItalia-Basso-Vaiano) finally escaped. Behind, former Dutch champion Anouska Koster (Virtu) tried to catch the trio, but struggled, as the leaders built a lead of over three minutes on the peloton.
Koster eventually gave up and was caught, while the breakaway increased their advantage until it eventually reached 4.30, putting Qualgiotto in the virtual race lead, the Italian having started the day only 3.35 behind race leader Kasia Niewiadoma.
As the gap rose though, Niewiadoma’s Canyon-SRAM team came to the front and gradually brought the break within reach, deliberately avoiding the chaos of a bunch sprint on the narrow streets.
Tomorrow’s fifth day is the queens stage and should have finished at 2652 metres at Passo Gavia. However, a landslide and the threat of storms, which could bring snow at such altitude, has meant the final has been shortened and the finish changed.
Now just 88km, the stage will start as planned in Ponte in Valtellina and will instead finish at Lago di Cancano, itself a severe ascent, which will provide the first real climbing challenge of the ten day race.
Giro Rosa stage four – Lissone to Carate Brianza (100.1km)
1 Letizia Borghesi (Ita) Aromitalia-Basso Bikes-Vaiano in 2-29-50
2 Nadia Quagliotto (Ita) Ale Cipollini
3 Chiara Perini (Ita) BePink
4 Marianne Vos (Ned) CCC-Liv, at 42s
5 Leah Kirchmann (Can) Team Sunweb Women
6 Soraya Paladin (Ita) Ale Cipollini
7 Annemiek van Vleuten (Ned) Mitchelton-Scott Women
8 Ilaria Sanguineti (Ita) Valcar-Cylance Cycling
9 Kelly Van Den Steen (Bel) Lotto Soudal Ladies
10 Rasa Leleivyte (Ltu) Aromitalia-Basso Bikes-Vaiano, at same time
1 Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Pol) Canyon-SRAM 8-07-20
2 Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Den) Bigla Pro Cycling Team at 20s
3 Marianne Vos (Ned) CCC-Livat 25s
4 Alena Amialiusik (Blr) Canyon-SRAM 40s
5 Omer Shapira (Isr) Canyon-SRAM at 44s
6 Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (RSA) CCC-Liv at 45s
7 Annemiek van Vleuten (Ned) Mitchelton-Scott Women at 47s
8 Amanda Spratt (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott Women at 52s
9 Lucy Kennedy (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott Women at 59s
10 Anna van der Breggen (Ned) Boels Dolmans Cyclingteam at 1-04