Jolien D'Hoore (Wiggle High5) won the fourth stage of the Giro Rosa in a photo finish sprint whilst British rider Hannah Barnes moved into the points lead.
It was unclear at first who had cinched the win in a close finish, with initial reports putting Chloe Hosking (Ale Cipollini) in the top spot. However, officials placed D'Hoore ahead of the Australian sprinter, followed by Coryn Rivera (Team Sunweb) in third.
How the race unfolded
The beating sun meant that cars were allowed to dispense bidons from 25km, as opposed to the regular rule of 50km - temperatures were in excess of 30 degrees hours before race start.
The route included two intermediate sprints. The first went to Megan Guarnier (Boels Dolmans) with Dani King (Cyclance Cycling) second and Stephanie Pohl (Cervelo Bigla) third.
At 72km, two riders - Danilea Magnetto Allietta (Conceria Zabri Fanini) and Alice Gasparini (Servetto Giusta) - made a break for it. They were chased by Malgorzata Jasinska (Cylance) Lotte van Hoek (Lares-Waowdeals) - and soon after the group was back together.
However, strong winds finally forced a selection at 77km. The peloton was pulled apart, and a lead group emerged, with 10 chasers behind them, followed by the peloton.
Coming into the second intermediate sprint in Ferrara, the riders gained protection from the wind thanks to the built up area.
At 90km, the break had a 25 second advantage, and Lucinda Brand (Team Sunweb) took the intermediate points with Chantel Blaak (Boels Dolmans) second and team mate Megan Guarnier third.
The gap grew, and with 10km to go it had increased to 70 seconds. With 4km to go, it had reached over 90 seconds and it was clear a win would come from the group.
Key sprinters's groups came to the fore. The finish represented a technical challenge, with two roundabouts in the final kilometre.
The final sprint was a close call between D’Hoore and Hosking, with the Dutch rider taking the honours - though initial reports had the result the other way round.
The stage sees a re-shuffle on GC, as Annemiek Van Vleuten (Orica Scott Women) - who was in second on GC - did not make the selection.
“It was really fast, because we had a gap on a big group with Annemiek [van Vleuten ] in it, so we were riding for GC,” D’Hoore told CW.
“We came into the sprint and there were two roundabouts in the last 800 metres so it was pretty dangerous. I was in fifth position on the last roundabout, I started my sprint, and I couldn't get my chain on my 11... so I sprinted on my 12... I felt Chloe coming and it was really close.”
Barnes, whose 2016 season was marred by a long lay off in the off season following injury, took a stage win on day three and was pleased to move into the points lead.
“The last 15km was pretty hectic, we just tried to stay out of trouble, in the bunch, saving energy," she said.
"With 3km to go it got a bit messy but we just tried to stay together - the roundabouts with 500m to go were a bit challenging, and a bit of a free for all.”
“For me, the legs aren’t 100 per cent and just with a drag race like that I'm not able to compete with Jolien [D'Hoore] and everyone, but to take fourth I'm happy and to have the points jersey is pretty cool.
"Hopefully I can try to keep it to the end now. This is the only Grand Tour we have in women's peloton... so to come away with a stage win already, and potentially to fair well in the points jersey - I can be happy.”
The result means that Anna van der Breggen (Boels Dolmans) remains in pink. Behind her is Wiggle High5's Elisa Longo Borghini, 26 seconds back and last year's winner Megan Guarnier (Boels Dolmans) sits 1-56 back. Van Vleuten, who was in second after stage three, has slipped to fourth at 2-17.
There were two key abandons - Canyon/SRAM's Tiffany Cromwell did not start the stage, and Molly Weaver (Team Sunweb) suffered a puncture in the previous day’s stage and couldn't access the neutral service.
General classification after stage four
Anna Van Der Breggen (NED) Boels Dolmans in 8-36-25
Elisa Longo Borghini (ITA) Wiggle High5, at 26s
Megan Guarnier (USA) Boels Dolmans, at 1-56
Annemiek van Vleuten (NED) Orica Scott, at 2-17
Amanda Spratt (AUS) Orica Scott, at 2-22
Katarzyna Niewiadom (POL) WM3, at 2-37
Karol Ann Canuel (CAN) Boels Dolmans, at 2-43
Lucinda Brand (NED) Sunweb, at 2-59
Floortje Mackaij (NED) Subweb, at 3-02
Sabrina Stultiens (NED) Subweb, at 3-02
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