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The world’s biggest stage race for women, the Giro Rosa, is nearing completion over in Italy. Six stages of the eight-stage race have been contested and the past two stages have finished with tough climbs. Tiff Cromwell from the Orica-AIS team has been reporting for us from within the race and this is her report from stage 6.
Terme di Premia – San Domenico (121km)
Mara Abbott (USA National Team) is well on her way to winning her second Giro Rosa. She proved once again today that she is the best climber in the race, taking a 2nd mountain top stage victory and extending her lead in the overall classification. Claudia Hausler (Team Tibco) finished second on the stage ahead of Francesca Cauz (Top Girls Fassa Bortolo) who rounded out the podium.
Stage 6 began at the Terme di Premia close to the Swiss boarder with a fairly straightforward course beginning downhill into the valley. The course made its way though the towns of Domodossola, Vogogna and onto the edge of Lago Maggiore before heading back up the valley. The peloton faced 3 intermediate sprints on the approach to the final 10km climb up to the finish town of San Domenico that sits at 1,410m above sea level.
The plan for us was pretty simple today. With Shara Gillow being our highest rider on GC — currently sitting 6th overall at 2:54 down on the lead — we were to protect her and try to put her in the best possible position leading into the final climb. From there she would have to battle it out at the front. Aside from that it was about being present in any moves that formed along the way and always being at the front of the race and not on the back foot.
It was another very fast start with a 44km/h average speed for the first 100km of the race, and the pace never really let up. After a very short neutral we were away racing, descending for the majority of the first 40km with a couple of small climbs to wake the legs up. Marianne Vos (Rabobank) was on a mission today after losing time yesterday.
On the one technical section of the descent she played her usual tactic, going full gas, and formed a break similar to stage 3 with her team mate Brand, Scandolara (Cippolini Giordana) and Shelly Olds (Team Tibco) making the selection. This time around I found myself caught a little bit too far back. I would have to make my way through dead wheels but by then it was too late and the move was gone.
Team USA massed at the front, defending the pink jersey of Abbott, and began the chase to bring the move back. You never want to give Vos too much time — you will never see her again. After about 40km of racing the break was reeled in and this sent off a flurry of attacks, mainly by Boels-Dolmans, Rabobank, Specialized-Lululemon and us but as usual everyone wanted to get involved.
Eventually a move of 9 riders formed off the front with all major teams represented and they were able to establish a gap on the peloton by working strongly together. We were happy with this as we had Loes represented in the move and the highest placed rider on GC was about 17 minutes down.
Again we questioned Team USA’s tactics. Perhaps they weren’t aware of how far down the highest-placed GC rider was in the move. In the women’s peloton we only have race radios in World Cup races so unless you go back to your team car, information is scarce.
They could potentially have allowed the move to gain a bigger gap and ride tempo on the front but instead they continued to work together, driving the pace hard on the front, never allowing the break more than about 2 minutes. We were happy to watch them wear themselves out before the final climb to the finish as we were all getting a free ride. But it meant there was never a time to relax in the peloton as you had to stay alert and switched on to hold position.
The first intermediate sprint of the day went through the hometown of Elisa Longo Borghini (Hitec Products), a promising young Italian rider who had a nasty crash at the recent Italian national road championships leaving her unable to take part in the 2013 Giro Rosa. She was out on the side of the road in good spirits cheering us on as we raced through her hometown. It was a nice gesture to have the Hitec Products team come to the front as we passed and the girls all gave her a wave as we came through.
As we approached 20km to go it was time to switch on and start thinking about the finish. With a short but tough little climb at the 100km mark we had to be prepared for any possible attacks and be in position. Over the top the road undulated all the way until the turn onto the final climb. The break stayed away onto the final climb but slowly one by one they were caught by the peloton racing behind.
Team Tibco set the pace today into the climb as they looked after Hausler. Both Shara and myself held good position but it was a continual battle between the climbers to hold position at the front as we were getting to the business end of the bike race.
The pace in the first half of the climb wasn’t as hard as yesterday with attacks taking a bit longer to start and the GC riders all looking at each other. Shara took the initiative to try and move herself up on GC by putting in the first hard attack of the climb but was quickly covered and counter-moves followed.
Over the first half of the climb the front group would splinter and come back together again on a couple of occasions. I was still hanging in there until about 4km to go but my legs were quickly wearing out. Shara tried on a number of occasions to put pressure on the front but was never able to get away with it. Eventually it became too much to be able to match the pure climbers.
Over the last couple of kilometers the frontrunners battled it out until Abbott showed her strength and left everyone behind as she powered on to take a 2nd consecutive solo win. With a flat road stage and a 16km flat individual time trial remaining she has about 2:30 on her nearest rival as she looks almost set to add a second Giro Rosa title to her palmares.
The final 3km of the climb felt like they took forever as I groveled my way up to the finish. It was very hot out there so I made the most of the ‘cold showers’ that were offered by the fans who were pouring cold water over us.
I had a slightly better final climb today, hanging in there longer, surviving the first few attacks and only losing 2:40 on the leaders as I came in 14th. Shara had another strong ride for us and finished 7th on the stage. She put it out there today to try and gain time on her rivals — she did all she could.
The overall classification remains more or less the same as we head into stage 7 but unfortunately I lost the ‘mountains’ jersey today to Abbott as she took maximum points on the only GPM (QOM) of the day, the finish classed as a Cat I. With no more GPMs for the rest of the tour I finish second in that classification. It would’ve been a nice bonus to take home the jersey but I will have to wait until next year.
A flat stage is in store for us tomorrow; the last chance for the sprinters so it will likely finish in a bunch kick. But you never know.
Tiff’s 14th place on stage 6 puts her in 13th overall, 8:39 behind the overall leader Mara Abbott. Tiff’s Orica-AIS teammate Shara Gillow is the highest-placed Australian in 6th place overall. Follow the link for full results from stage 6 of the 2013 Giro Rosa.
Click here to see Tiff’s report from stage 1, click here for her report from stage 2, here for her report from stage 3, here for stage 4 and here for her report from stage 5. Tiff’s teammate Gracie Elvin is also blogging about the Giro Rosa and you can read her great reports here.