How the Race Finished
The fourth day of the Giro Donne decimated the general classification, leaving only a trio within touching distance of the lead: Marta Cavalli (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine), Mavi Garcia (UAE Team ADQ), and the stage-winner and new Maglia Rosa, Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar). After their relentless attacking dropped Cavalli on the final categorised climb, it was a sprint between Garcia and van Vleuten for the stage win. In the final kilometre, Garcia attacked first, going long on a gentle incline that took them through a tunnel, but van Vleuten matched her, coming over the top of her and gapping her in the final few hundred metres. Cavalli came in forty seconds later, after not being able to catch the two leaders on the descent; she lost time, but is still four minutes ahead of fourth place.
The Main Action
It was a bakingly hot day for the fourth stage of the Giro Donne, which was a loop out from and back to Cesena, near the east coast of Italy. It was 120.9km, with a hilly profile. It looked perfect for a breakaway – or, a potential GC shakeup.
The stage started out aggressively, with plenty of attempts to form a breakaway. The first successful rider was Lara Vieceli (Ceratizit-WNT), but she was caught again after only 22km. Franziska Brausse (Ceratizit-WNT), leader of the Queen of the Mountains classification, attempted a defence of her jersey, but was caught on the first categorised climb, and slipped out the back of the bunch. It was a fight for mountains points up Bertinoro, with Evita Muzic (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine) first, showing the excellent form of the FDJ team, and Elise Chabbey (Canyon//SRAM) just behind.
It was on the second categorised climb, the second-category Colle del Barbotto, that the race blew up. Four big-name riders formed a group over the top: Marta Cavalli (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine), Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar), Kristen Faulkner (BikeExchange) and Mavi Garcia (UAE Team ADQ). A chasing group followed, but the gap was rapidly, threateningly expanding. Faulkner dropped back to the chasing group, which included riders like Niamh-Fisher Black, Elisa Longo Borghini and her teammate Amanda Spratt, but Cavalli, van Vleuten and Garcia continued to inexorably open the gap. With 30km to go, they had 1’30”; with 20km to go, they had nearly 3 minutes. By the time the chasing group came over the line, they were very nearly five minutes down.
The leaders continued to press their advantage up the penultimate categorised climb; then, as they approached the final climb, the Monteleone, they began to look around at each other. It was, characteristically, van Vleuten who attacked first, starting at the very base, but Garcia followed her with ease. It was Cavalli, by far the youngest of the trio, who started to drop off, while Garcia and van Vleuten continued to take pieces out of each other, keeping up a series of relentless attacks. Cavalli continued to ride her own pace. At one point, she came agonisingly close two the leading duo, but just as she came into view, another attack came from van Vleuten and the duo pulled away.
Van Vleuten and Garcia came into the final kilometre together. Garcia didn’t want to take van Vleuten to the line, and attacked with 800m to go, as the road took an upwards incline through a tunnel. She got a small gap on van Vleuten, but van Vleuten clawed her way back, and, with a few hundred metres to go, went around Garcia, who, after a day of following van Vleuten and attacking her in turn, had no response. She won by a second, and took the Maglia Rosa.
There is now a gulf between the top three and the rest of the general classification. Annemiek van Vleuten leads, with Mavi Garcia in second, twenty-five seconds behind, and Marta Cavalli third, fifty-seven seconds behind. Elisa Longo Borghini, the next best-placed rider, is five minutes behind. Filling out the top ten, and on similar times are: Cecile Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine), Amanda Spratt (BikeExchange), Elise Chabbey, Niamh Fisher Black, Silvia Persico and Erica Magnaldi.
Niamh Fisher-Black (SD Worx), who was in the second group, is now the best young rider. Elisa Balsamo continues to lead the points classification. Despite Strausse’s attempt to defend her jersey, and Chabbey clearly targeting the climbs, it was Mavi Garcia who ended the day leading the Queen of the Mountains classification.