Lizzy Banks’s return to the Giro Rosa was a pretty good one.
Of the two editions she has started not only has she completed both, a feat in itself for many, but she has won a stage in both.
Yesterday she won the 170km fourth stage from Assisi to Tivoli after joining forces with Eugenia Bujak half way through the day. Once clear the pair worked flawlessly together and had built a lead of over six minutes on the peloton as they began descending towards the flatlands of the Roman Campagna.
A five kilometre climb to the finish in Tivoli’s old town was the sting in the tail, and it was here, inside the final kilometre where the road ramped up beyond 10 per cent, that Banks made her move.
“Just after one K to go there’s a steeper section, just before the cobbles,” Banks said. “I was hurting so much but I knew that as soon as I had the gap, mentally she’d be f***ed behind me so I just carried on to the finish.”
Banks and her Equipe Paule Ka team had targeted today for a breakaway, but getting in it was easier said than done, said Banks.
“We thought if maybe we have a strong group then maybe we could go. I went alone and it came back, and I went again and I was alone again and I thought I cannot do this on my own. But then Eugneia Bujak came across and I knew she’s strong so I knew that we had a chance.”
The pair were initially chased by two lone pursuers, though they failed to gain much ground after not getting together, so it was left to Banks and Bujak to make it alone
“We were out for 85km, I thought maybe the peloton want a rest day so I said we’ve got to keep pushing. It was really hard and I didn’t want to have another situation like Plouay and get pipped on the line, so in my head the whole time was working out where I had to attack her,” she explained, referring to how Lizzie Deignan outsprinted her after they had been in the winning break in France two weeks ago.
Monday’s win however was no one-off. Equipe Paule Ka came to Italy looking for stage wins after their GC hopeful Clara Koppenburg was forced to withdraw with a broken foot. A lot of effort had gone into their preparation, with staff conducting recces of important parts of the race.
Not only that, they also hold fifth place overall with Mikayla Harvey secure in the best younger rider’s classification.
Having only begun cycling competitively in 2016, Banks has been on a strong upward trajectory and this is her second Giro stage win in two years. There have been a number of excellent rides, that second place in Plouay the most recent, but it was to last year’s Giro win, also on the race’s longest day, that Banks turned for inspiration.
“I knew how good it felt to win last year and so that whole day I just had that feeling in my head and I was chasing that. I’m so happy, but I’m so tired right now.”