Anna van der Breggen set up a fourth Giro Donne title on Saturday, winning the second stage alone with a gap of 1-22.
The world champion attacked a reduced group with around five kilometres to go, bridging to three riders before going straight over the top and opening a gap.
With her advantage secure, her SD Worx team-mate Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio worked hard in the chase, quickly distancing the group, and she was followed by another of the squad’s riders, La Course winner Demi Vollering.
Vollering though was caught by Marta Cavalli (FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope) but managed to outsprint the former Italian champion to take third place ensuring SD Worx filled both the day’s podium and the top three on gnarl classification.
Having begun the day eight seconds behind overall leader Ruth Winder, who led Trek-Segafredo home in the team time trial, Van der Breggen now leads the general classification by 1-26 from Moolman-Pasio, and while there are still a number of tough days to go, another win seems highly likely.
After winning the opening day team time trial Trek-Segafredo completely exploded, their leader Elisa Longo-Borghini finishing well outside the top 10 with Brit, Lizzie Deignan their first woman home, just outside the top 10, more than three minutes down.
How it happened
While the now traditional stage one team time trial opened small gaps in the general classification, this year stage two headed for a mountain top finish, and a day that was set to go a long way to decide the race overall.
With 2,000m of ascent, the 100.1km stage saw the race stay in Italy’s northwest, travelling between Boves and the ski resort of Prato Nevoso at 1607m, the final 18km averaging 6% with ramps of 13%.
With such a tough finish coming so early the race stayed together for the opening half, attacks being covered by the WorldTeams. The intermediate sprint after 57km was won by Brit Leah Dixon (Tibco-SVB), ahead of the race’s oldest rider, Silvia Valsecchi (BePink), and the race headed onto the day’s first climb, the Colle del Morte as one.
Only on the descent did Elise Chabbey (Canyon-SRAM), Coryn Rivera (DSM), Kathrin Hammes (Ceratizit-WNT) and Sofia Bertizzolo (Liv Racing) getting away, but the four were only able to take a lead of 45 seconds onto the lower slopes of Prato Nevoso.
However, even on the climb the race stayed together, though only until 10km to go when New Zealander Niamh Fisher-Black attacked, the peloton instantly thinning in response, overnight race leader Ruth Winder one of those sliding out the back.
Fisher-Black was soon joined by home rider Erica Magnaldi (Ceratizit-WNT), the pair opening a gap of around 20 seconds on an ever shrinking group. They in turn were joined by Moolman-Pasio, but Van der Breggen bridged, passing the leaders to victory, with Moolman-Pasio in pursuit.
Behind the leaders the rest of race struggled, crossing the line in dribs and drabs, with huge time gaps appearing on only the second stage.
The race was bugged by broadcast issues, with the 4G signal dropping out and restricting what could be watched. Last year the UCI relegated the race from the WorldTour, stating a lack of live TV as one of the main reasons and today’s broadcast issues will nothing to help them return to the top tier
Stage three is another lumpy, aggressive day which may further affect the general classification, though with significant time gaps it could also suit a breakaway.
Starting in Casale Monferrato and finishing in Ovada 135km later, after a flattish start the race tackles four third category climbs.
Giro d’Italia Donne 2021 stage two, Boves - Prato Nevoso (100.1)
1. Anna van der Breggen (Ned) SD Worx, in 2-58-31
2. Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (RSA) SD Worx, at 1-22
3. Demi Vollering (Ned) SD Worx, at 1-51
4. Marta Cavalli (Ita) FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope, at 1-53
5. Erica Magnaldi (Ita) Ceratizit-WNT, at 2-30
6. Gaia Realini (Ita) Isolmant-Premac-Vittoria, at 2-36
7. Mavi Garcìa (Esp) Alé-BTC Ljubljana, at 3-00
8. Amanda Spratt (Aus) BikeExchange, at 3-05
9. Tatiana Guderzo (Ita) Alé-BTC Ljubljana, at 3-26
10. Juliette Labous (Fra) DSM, at 3-29.
General classification after stage two
1. Anna van der Breggen (Ned) SD Worx
2. Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (RSA) SD Worx
3. Demi Vollering (Ned) SD Worx
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