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Throughout this year’s Giro Rosa, the biggest and most prestigious stage race on the women’s calendar, Australia’s Tiffany Cromwell (Specialized-lululemon) is writing daily stage reports for CyclingTips. Here’s Tiff’s report from stage 4, a stage for the sprinters.
Stage 4 was a predominately flat stage heading north along the Adriatic coast for most of the day before heading inland towards the finish in Jesi. The only major obstacle for the day was a category 3 climb cresting at 10km to go, a possible launch pad for a late attack.
Today’s plan was similar to yesterday — we were aiming for a breakaway with at least one of our riders in there. I was given the day off to ‘recover’ after working hard yesterday in the break. If it were to be a bunch sprint we would try again to lead it out for Carmen Small.
Slightly cooler conditions with a light breeze blowing through the town of Alba Adriatica set the scene for the start of the 118km stage 4. The peloton rolled out with a little parade lap around the town under neutral before reaching kilometre zero. The flag was dropped and it was time to start racing.
I was taking my role of ‘taking it easy’ very seriously today, rolling in the peloton, floating wheels. For the first few kilometres I was down the back having a chat to fellow Aussie Mel Hoskins, catching up on all the important things happening in the world. It was a good thing that it took a little bit of time for the attacks to begin.
The peloton was quite mellow for the most part in the opening 50km, racing along wide open roads and facing a stiff headwind at the head of proceedings. Attacks went off the front but they were easily captured and came in waves — there would be a flow of attacks and then a break and then it would start again. Despite the best efforts it wasn’t looking promising that a move was going to be established off the front and everyone was happy cruising along at a steady pace.
Finally after about 50km a Bizkaia-Durango rider, Yulia Ilinykh, slipped off the front solo. There was no reaction from the peloton and she steadily built up a lead. Every so often our favourite attacker Valentina Bastianelli (Michaela Fanini) would put in an effort to get off the front in pursuit of the lone solider. It was quite interesting to watch as there was definitely an internal Italian Cup going on.
The major teams weren’t interested in chasing the move but whenever she went there would be another Italian team chasing, closing down the move. Every time this happened it would then set off another flurry of attacks before the peloton would settle down again.
After 70km of racing we moved away from the coast and began to head inland towards the finish through some softly rolling hills and past many sunflower fields — it was quite pretty. Personally I was hoping to see more of the coast in the first part of the race but buildings blocked the views of the ocean so the sunflowers were a nice change. I certainly had plenty of time to enjoy the scenery today; it’s not often that this happens.
Eventually with 25km to go the lead had stretched out to three minutes and so the peloton decided to start racing their bikes. Hitec Products came to the front and began the chase as it was looking likely for a sprint, providing they reeled in the breakaway, and they wanted to give Chloe Hosking another opportunity. UnitedHealthcare also came to the front with a couple of riders and did some chasing.
The speed picked up and the gap to the front was dropping but it wasn’t coming down dramatically — Ilinykh was still powering along at the front. It became a little bit sketchy in the peloton as everyone wanted to stay towards the front knowing we had the final climb approaching.
With 15km to go the gap was still holding at around 1:30 to the lone leader. It was touch and go whether she would hold off or not but the pace was heating up as we were approaching the climb. It wasn’t a difficult climb and only about 2km in length at around 5% maximum but we were moving at a fast pace.
There were two fights going on — there were the riders contesting the GPM competition wanting to be at the front to collect points and then there were the teams starting to get organised for the finish.
The lead rider had completely blown up at the front — from the bottom of the climb to the top the gap had gone from 1:30 down to 30 seconds and she was in sight. It was a fast and winding descent off the GPM as we headed into the final 10km. My teammates and I had found ourselves and were starting to get organised for the finale, knowing the positioning was important as it was quite a technical finish.
The kilometres ticked down quickly and with Giant-Shimano now at the head of the peloton the lone rider was finally caught with 5km remaining and it was full gas to the finish.
It was pretty sketchy as we went under the 3km to go banner with roundabouts and a number of corners to navigate through whilst fighting other teams to hold position. Chantal Blaak lead our train with Trixi Worrack next; I was in third with Carmen on my wheel. After 2km to go we had a left-hand turn and got stuck on the inside — it was a bit slippery as we had to wash off speed quickly and Carmen slid out and we lost her for the sprint.
The peloton had completely shattered as we hit 1km to go and only a reduced bunch at the very front with the remaining peloton strung out behind. The finish was more difficult than we expected with a short but sharp climb with a right-hand turn at the top. There it hit a plateau for a few hundred metres before a left-hand corner into another punch then a right turn and then flattening off to the final stretch to the finish.
Rabobank had come to the front for the finale with Lucinda Brand putting in a late dig at the front as Marianne Vos dropped the wheel, trying to set Brand up for victory. You could see Vos holding back but matching whoever tried to start their sprint. Shelley Old (Ale-Cipollini) launched in the final metres to try and take the victory only for Vos to react and sprint over the top. Brand thought she had taken the victory and she began her victory salute only for Vos and Olds to take it from her on the line.
There were just tire widths between them but Vos had just edged out Olds to take the win; her second of the race so far. It was quite a nail-biting finish but Vos continues her strong hold of the overall classification.
Tomorrow we’re back in Jesi for the start of the five stage, another day spent heading north along the Adriatic with only one small climb. This time it comes in the middle of the stage. It looks as though it is the final chance for the sprinters before we hit the big climbs … or could it be a day for a successful breakaway?
I guess we’ll find out tomorrow.
Giro d'Italia Internazionale Femminile (2.1) Alba Adriatica → Jesi