Juliette Labous won her first stage of a WorldTour race on Thursday, taking a stunning solo win at Passo Maniva in stage seven of the Giro Donne.
The Frenchwoman had been part of a 14 woman breakaway group which went up the road early in the day, and was last woman standing to take victory by 1-37.
On what was an exciting and tactically fascinating day, Annemiek van Veluten extended her overall lead to 31 seconds, finishing second after finally attacking Mavi García (UAE Team ADQ) in the closing kilometre. At first the Spanish rider seemed to be able to hold the wheel, but such was the savagery and length of Van Vleuten’s effort, she eventually had to concede, rolling over the line four seconds down.
With Marta Cavalli (FDJ-Nouvele Aquitaine Futuroscope) the three women repeatedly traded blows on the final climb, and the young Italian was unable to hold on, but managed her effort well, finishing fourth, another six seconds back.
Having proved they are the strongest climbers on Monday, he three women dominate the GC, sitting in the same order they finished the day, third placed Cavalli 4-09 ahead of fourth place. And, with race in the foothills of the Alps of the next two days, reaching the Dolomites on Saturday, there may well be more shifts in the GC hierarchy.
Friday’s 104.7 stage between Rovereto and Aldeno sees the peloton tackle two tough, long climbs, and if that’s not enough, the 10km descent to the line invites attacks.
How it happened
The Queen stage, and the only mountain top finish of the ten, day seven of the Giro Donne was one for fireworks.
The route followed the well-established formula for a Giro Donne mountain stage, starting flat and staying flat until a final climb. Starting near Brescia in the village of Prevalle the peloton first looped south, back through the start for three 14.2km laps, before heading south-west and, finally, north, arriving at Passo Maniva 112.9km later.
Not as difficult as other queen stage climbs in recent Giro Donne history, at more than 12km at an average gradient of 7.8%, the climb topped out 1742m above sea level. The climb may not be famous, but it is a stiff challenge, the ramps becoming ever steeper, though it never settles, allowing respite for some but interrupting the rhythm of others
Its is rarely used, stage five of the 2019 Baby Giro being the most recent to finish there. That was won by Colombian Andrés Camilo Ardila, who now rides with UAE Team Emirates, and who won the overall of that year’s event. The winner of Thursday’s Giro Donne stage might well have also won overall.
Unless, of course, the day’s winner came from a breakaway.
Sure enough, on the first lap 14 women escaped the clutches of the peloton. Elena Cecchini (SDWorx), Alba Teruel (Bizkaia Durango), Mikayla Harvey (Canyon-SRAM), Jennifer Ducuara (Colombia Tierra des Atletas-GW-Shimano), Magdeleine Vallieres Mill (EF Education-Tibco-SVB), Emilia Fahlin (FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope), Beatrice Rossato (Isolmant-Premac-Vittoria), Katia Ragusa (Liv-Xstra), Paula Patiño (Movistar), Georgia Williams (BikeExchange-Jayco), Cristina Tonetti (Top Girls Fassa Bortolo), Amalie Lutro (UNO-X), Alice Arzuffi (Valcar Travel and Service) and Juliette Labous (DSM) soon had a lead of one minute.
Labous started the race as DSM’s GC hopeful, but lost time in the heat of stage four, starting Thursday 11-55 down, in 22nd place. Of the huge breakaway the Frenchwoman was highest placed on GC, though if they stayed away she may have faced a challenge from other climbers, with Patiño and Harvey a particular threat.
With 50km done the breakaway had a lead in excess of a huge eight minutes, and the chance of the race’s first true breakaway win became a possibility, especially when the gap grew to 9-13, the road beginning to rise to gently.
Such was the lead for the breakaway, and specifically for Labous, that she became a genuine threat to anyone but the top three, but other teams helped the Movistar team of overall leader Annemiek van Vleuten, historically the peloton’s best climber, and peloton’s deficit began to fall.
With 40km to go the lead was down to 8-20 and the breakaway suddenly seemed less secure, and fifteen kilometres later another minute had being lopped off.
Soon afterwards Lutro made a move off the front of the group, though she gained little traction, especially as the race was about to explode.
Behind, Movistar came to the front of the group and began to work hard cutting more time of the leaders’ advantage. However, as they did so the FDJ-Nouvellle Aquitaine Futuroscope team of third placed Marta Cavalli also moved up, sharing the work and making a statement to the rival squad.
As the climb proper started Tonetti was caught first by Tonetti, then by by Labous and Williams, the latter quickly despatching the other pair, the French woman soon on her own with seven kilometres to go with a leading of two minutes. But the action was behind.
Cavalli (FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope) was the first to attack, thinning it and setting in place the team’s two woman strategy. And when she was caught Danish team mate Cecilie Uttrrup Ludwig took to the front, keeping the pace high.
With Labous’s lead for a while at 1-40, but back out to 2-12, Erica Magnaldi came to the front of the the 15 woman bunch to work for her UAE Team ADQ leader, second paced Mavi García, and fascinating battle of wills developing on the mountainside.
Either Van Vleuten, García or Cavalli would attack, the trio would get a gap, but then be brought back, most often by Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo), only in the final kilometre did one of those ones stick, Van Vleuten heading into second place on the day.
Result Giro Donne, stage seven, Prevalli - Passo Maniva Race (112.9km)
1. Juliette Labous (Fra) DSM in 3-22-36
2. Annemiek van Veluten (Ned) Movistar at 1-37
3. Mavi García (Esp) UAE Team ADQ at 1-41
4. Marta Cavalli (Ita) FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope at 1-47
5. Elisa Longo Borghini (Ita) Trek-Segafredo at 1-50
6. Niamh Fisher-Black (NZ) SDWorx 1-57
7. Gaia Realini (Ita) Isolmant-Premac-Vittoria at 2-13
8. Amanda Spratt (Aus) BikeExchange-Jayco at 2-29
9. Clara Koppenburg (Ger) Cofidis at 2-37
10. Silvia Persico (Valcar Travle and Service at 2-39
General classification after stage seven
1. Annemiek van Veuten (Ned) Movistar in 18-14-12
2. Mavi García (Esp) UAE Team ADQ Marta at 31 sec
3. Cavalli (Ita) FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope at 1-10
4. Elisa Longo Borghini (Ita) Trek-Segafredo at 5-19
5. Niamh Fisher-Black (NZ) SDWorx 5-54
6. Amanda Spratt (Aus) BikeExchange-Jayco at 6-12
7. Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Den) Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope at 6-22
8. Silvia Persico (Ita) Valcar Travel and Service 6-33
9. Erica Magnaldi (Ita) UAE Team ADQ at 8-25
10. Elise Chabbey (Sui) Canyon-SRAM at 8-30
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Owen Rogers is an experienced journalist, covering professional cycling and specialising in women's road racing. He has followed races such as the Women's Tour and Giro d'Italia Donne, live-tweeting from Women's WorldTour events as well as providing race reports, interviews, analysis and news stories. He has also worked for race teams, to provide post race reports and communications.
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