After finishing second then third, Lotte Koppecky finally made it to the top step of the Giro Rosa podium on Wednesday. The Belgian rider launched a long-range sprint to take her first WorldTour victory in Maddaloni, finishing ahead of Lizzie Deignan (Trek-Segafredo) and Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-Sram) in third place.
The final was marred by a late crash which took out a number of riders, including race leader Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott) and three-time stage winner Marianne Vos (CCC-Liv), and while Vos was able to attend the podium ceremony to collect the points jersey, Van Vleuten has been taken to hospital for a check-up.
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A group of leaders which came together on the final climb which crested some 8km from the line, and that was boosted as they headed towards the narrow streets of the town. As she has been all week, Koppecky was perfectly positioned, opening her sprint early on the rough lastricato paving.
Van Vleuten was assisted across the line by Marianne Vos, and it is not yet clear whether she will be able to continue to possibly take a historic third consecutive overall win.
How it happened
It was clear the moment the 112km stage between Nola, where we finished stage six, and Maddaloni was one where a breakaway would be allowed to get away. With no fight whatsoever, Ainara Elbusto (Casa-Dorada) and Silvia Zanardi (BePink) escaped off the front, and by the time 15km had been ridden their lead was 2-30 over the bunch.
After 18km the road began to edge uphill and even with a strong headwind the pair consolidated their advantage, taking it above three minutes inside the opening 10km, then extending it to nearly five minutes with 30km behind them.
However, with such a short stage this lead was not allowed for too long, and when three women leapt from the bunch to chase the leaders, the gap began to drop significantly.
That trio of Alison Jackson (Sunweb), Aude Biannic (Movistar), and Mariia Novoldskaia (Cogeas Mettler Look) were left dangling around 30 seconds from the peloton, while the leaders’ advantage came down to two minutes.
Just when it seemed the race would come back together the peloton eased up, allowing the three chasers to catch the breakaway, the five women leading by two minutes on the bunch.
As the race passed the finish line for the first of three occasions, the five leading women led the race by more than two minutes with just 34km remaining.
Of that group Jackson and Biannic were the most accomplished, but it was the Russian who attacked at the base of a short but steep climb which was tackled twice in the closing 30 kilometres.
Novolodskaia had a lead approaching a minute by the time she reached the top, but with the chasers caught on the circuit back through town, the gap came down until, as she started to climb for the final time she was caught.
Friday’s penultimate stage will see the peloton tackle another hilly day. Only 91.5km, there are 1900 metres of climbing with category two climb to the finial line in San Marco La Catola
Giro d’Italia Internazionale Femminile, stage seven: Nola – Maddaloni (112km)
1. Lotte Koppecky (Bel) Lotto-Soudal in 2-52-12
2. Lizzie Deignan (Gbr) Trek-Segafredo, at 2 seconds
3. Kasia Niewiadoma (Pol) Canyon-SRAM, at 3 seconds
4. Marta Cavalli (Ita) Valcar Travel and Service
5. Anna van der Breggen (Ned) Boels-Dolmans
6. Soraya Paladin (Ita) CCC-Liv
7. Ane Santesteban (Esp) Ceratizit-WNT
8. Liane Lippert (Ger) Sunweb
9. Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (RSA) CCC-Liv
10. Floortje MAckaij (Ned) Sunweb, all at same time
General classification after stage seven
1. Annemiek van Vleuten (Ned) Mitchelton-Scott, in 20-29-43
2. Kasia Niewiadoma (Pol) Canyon-SRAM, at 1.48
3. Anna van der Breggen (Ned) Boels-Dolmans, at 2-03
4. Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Den) FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope, at 4-21
5. Mikayla Harvey (NZ) Equipe Paule Ka, at 4-21
6. Elisa Longo Borghini (Ita) Trek-Segafredo, at 4.32
7. Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (RSA) CCC-Liv, at 4-34
8. Mavi García (Esp) Alé-BTC Ljubljana, at 4-38
9. Marianne Vos (Ned) CCC-Liv, at 5-02
10. Lizzy Banks (Gbr) Equipe Paule Ka, at 5-56