The sprinter’s hierarchy was firmly established at the Giro Donne on Tuesday as Elisa Balsamo taking her second stage win in Reggio Emilia.
With her parents watching in the crowd, the World Champion was side-by-side with Charlotte Kool into the final corner 150m from the line, but out-dragged the DSM rider to take victory.
Kool took her second second place of the Giro, banging the bars as she crossed the line ahead of Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma) who was third, and had been on her wheel in that final corner.
Once again the run in had been a battle, with no team having the numbers to take complete control of the peloton. Jumbo-Visma were very obvious on the run into town, FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope were stringing things out at one stage, and Valcar Travel and Service also took the front.
But whenever other teams tried to overwhelm them Trek-Segafredo were able to regain control. Their leader Elisa Longo Borghini went down in a crash one kilometre from the line, but was in good spirits and sporting no obvious injuries when she stopped to congratulate her namesake after the race.
Overall race leader Annemiek van Vleuten finished in the bunch and retained her overall lead ahead of Wednesday’s sixth stage, a 114.7km affair between Sarnico and Bergamo.
How it happened
A sprint stage awaited the peloton for stage five, but first they had to deal with the small town of Carpi which hosted the start of the 126.1km race to Reggio Emilia.
A small choir of women stood in the shade of Palazzo der Pio singing about a woman who would rush to her errands by bicycle. Teams parked in Piazza dei Martiri, one of Italy’s largest, and the riders signed on in front of the Carpi Duomo. Built in two styles, the Baroque facade was only rebuilt recently after it collapsed in a 2012 earthquake which ruined the town’s textile industry.
The riders might have noticed its beauty as they waited in the sun to head out for the race’s longest stage. Heading north they then looped south, flirting with the edge of the Apennine mountains before running into Reggio Emilia.
With little in the way of climbing the day was a good one for the sprinters, though, after a hard and incredibly hot stage four which created huge GC time gaps a breakaway might be allowed its head.
And sure enough, it took a little while, but soon enough two women were up the road, Matilde Vitillo (BePink) and Iris Monticolo (Top Girls Fassa Bortolo) fought for a lead of 30 seconds before being joined by three others.
With former British champion Hannah Barnes (UNO-X), Anastasia Carbonari (Valcar Travel and Service) and a second Top Girls rider, Gorgia Bariani, five women set about building a lead. That was out to 3-20 after 50km, and eventually exceeded five minutes, an advantage rarely seen in the women’s sport.
But, as if the 10km per minute rule talked about in every commentary were gospel, as the race entered the final 50km the gap began to drop. At 40km the lead was four minutes, but at 30km it was 2-24 and the breakaway’s day in the sun was seemingly doomed to failure.
As opposed to the sprint days on stages two and three , different jerseys were helping with the chase. With a rider in the break Valcar Travel and Service were able to sit back for their sprinter, Chiara Consonni. But the notable jersey was that of Liv-Xstra, a team normally seen in the break were instead working for their sprinter Rachele Barbieri, hoping to win outside Reggio Emilia University where she was a student.
With the break’s lead just over one minute, and the five woman group apparently a lost cause, Bariani attacked with 18km to go. While the rest of the break gently succumbed into the peloton, the 21 year-old fought on, and at one stage her lead was 30 seconds. But there was no holding back the wave of colour that was the hungry peloton, and she was caught with 4.3km to go, and a bunch sprint was on the cards.
Result Giro Donne, stage five: Carpi - Reggio Emilia (126.1km)
1. Elisa Balsamo (Ita) Trek-Segafedo in 3-06-02
2. Charlotte Kool (Ned) DSM
3. Marianne Vos (Ned) Jumbo-Visma
4. Chiara Consonni (Ned) Valcar Travel and Service
5. Marta Bastianelli (Ita) UAE Team ADQ
6. Arlenis Sierra (Cub) Movistar
7. Rachele Barbieri (Ita) Liv-Xstra
8. Clara Copponi (Fra) FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope
9. Emanuela Zanetti (Ita) Isolmant-Premac-Vittoria
10. Lea Lin Teutenberg (Ger) Ceratizit-WNT all at same time
General classification after stage five
1. Annemiek van Veuten (Ned) Movistar in 11-51-35
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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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