How the race finished
Elisa Longo-Borghini (Lidl-Trek) crossed the line ahead of Veronica Ewers (EF Education-TIBCO-SVB)and Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar), as the trio put a minute into the chasing peloton on a rolling course. Van Vleuten retains the overall lead, with Elisa Longo-Borghini and Veronica Ewers edging themselves onto the podium of the General Classification as well.
Full results are available below.
How it happened
The riders rolled out for a 134.4km stage from Fidenza to Borgo Val di Taro. The run-in to the finish was flat, presenting another opportunity for sprinters. However, three late category 3 climbs would test their legs and potentially allow those searching to consolidate the GC positions to take their chances.
Early in the race there were numerous attempts to get in the breakaway for the day. Uno-X, Be-Pink Gold and Isolmant-Premac-Vittoria were all keen to get involved. Silvia Zanardi (Be-Pink Gold), Amalie Dideriksen (Uno-X Pro Cycling) and Isle Pluimers (AG Insurance Soudal Quickstep) finally got clear after around 40km of racing. Nina Buijsman (Human Powered Health) and Sara Casasola (Born to Win-Zhiraf-G20) tried to bridge across, but the peloton brought them back.
The gap to the leading trio grew out to over two minutes. With 50km left to race, the leaders summited the first of the categorised climbs for the day. The leaders swept up the major points, but behind them, Fem van Empel (Jumbo Visma) and current leader in the mountains classification, Marta Cavalli (FDJ-Suez), battled it out for the minor points.
With 45kms remaining, Pluimers, who had been looking the strongest of the leading trio, attacked and went solo. Behind her, Movistar lined out on the front of the peloton on the second categorised climb. Pluimers held her pace steading, 1 and a half minutes ahead o the peloton. Then, the attacks started coming. Anouska Koster (Uno-X Pro Cycling) opened things up with Niamh Fisher-Black (SD Worx) in her wheel, but Movistar managed the move. Neve Bradbury (Canyon//Sram Racing), who lost time on the first two stages, launched a big attack down the outside. She almost drew a small group clear, but with Mavi Garcia (Liv TeqFind) trying to sneak away with them, Movistar again brought things back together.
Part way up the climb a touch of wheels in the bunch brought both van Vleuten and Elisa Longo Borghini (Lidl-Trek) down, along with a handful of other riders. Thankfully they were both back up quickly, and able to return to the front of the bunch. Next to attack was EF Education-TIBCO SVB’s Georgia Williams, who was closely tracked by Blanka Vas (SD Worx). Once again, things came back together.
Then, off the back of her teammate’s attack, Veronica Ewers launched out of the peloton. Somehow, no one was on her wheel, and no one made a move to jump across. She quickly established a gap, the peloton losing sight of her as the road snaked upwards. She quickly got across to Pluimers, and rode straight past, already some 45 seconds ahead of the peloton. Ewers had started the day only 55 seconds down on GC, so the fact that the peloton let her get away like this was a huge surprise. A few riders tried to make a move to bridge across, but they were all marked out.
With 30km to go, the peloton bridged the second climb of the day. Silvia Persico (UAE Team AQD) attacked over the top and into the descent, passing the camera motorbike and forcing a gap to those behind her. After a thrilling descent she was caught again at the bottom, but the chasing bunch was reduced. Movistar took it up on the front again, with Floortje Mackaij leading out into the climb. Annemiek van Vleuten came off her wheel and attacked as the road pitched upwards, taking Elisa Longo Borghini with her.
As the pair set off to chase down Ewers, who was still 30 seconds up the road, Mavi Garcia tried to bridge across. Just as it looked like she would get there van Vleuten stamped on the pedals again, and the pace was too much for Garcia. Once they got across to Ewers, she was able to continue to climb at their pace, and the trio held their gap over the chasing bunch. After van Vleuten had set the pace for much of the climb, Longo Borghini took over, but she was unable to shake either of the other two riders. They all came over the top of the climb together.
Longo-Borghini pushed on through the descent, finding small gaps here and there, but again van Vleuten and Ewers were able to come back to her. The trio edged their advantage out to a minute, squarely putting them in the top three places on the GC. Behind, SD Worx, FDJ Suez and DSM were all contributing to the chase. SD Worx for sprinter Lorena Weibes who had climbed incredibly to still be present in the much reduced bunch, and FSJ-Suez and DSM Firmenich to defend their places in the general classification.
In the end it was all in vain, as the trio in the lead took it all the way to the line. After forcing van Vleuten to hold the front, Longo-Borghini opened her sprint with Ewers in her wheel, and the pair came past van Vleuten in that order. Longo Borghini, wearing the italian tricolore jersey, raised her arms in victory.
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