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by Jessi Braverman
July 13, 2015
WOMEN'S CYCLING BROUGHT TO YOU BY ORBEA
Two-time Giro Rosa overall winner Mara Abbott (Wiggle Honda) soloed to victory up to San Domenico di Varzo on Sunday on the final stage of the 2015 Giro Rosa. Abbott last won on the San Domenico climb two years ago – en route to her second overall win at the Italian Grand Tour. Abbott’s stage win atop San Domenico this time around saw her leap up the general classification from fifth to second overall at the 26th edition of the Giro Rosa.
“I can feel proud of what I accomplished but at the same time, I wanted to win,” Abbott told Ella CyclingTips on Sunday night. “I can look at it and be mature about it and say I had personal victories, and I was so proud of how the team rode and being part of the team. Look at Mayuko [Hagiwara’s] victory. I think that ended up being as big of a story as the overall. I can be so proud of all those experiences and feel satisfied to be a part of them and happy with how I rode.”
“At the same time, I didn’t win it,” Abbott continued – referencing the general classification. “I’ve won it before and I didn’t win it this time, and I wanted to. I got some of what I wanted, and I can be happy with what I have, but I didn’t get everything I wanted obviously. I’m not leaving feeling completely satisfied.”
The emotions are in clear contrast to the overall winner. Resplendent in pink, Anna van der Breggen (Rabo Liv) reached the summit nearly one minute behind Abbott. With Abbott starting stage nine 2:30 off the race lead, van der Breggen’s final performance was enough to secure the maglia rosa that she had pulled on following her win in the time trial the previous day. Crossing the line, Van der Breggen knew she had won it, and she celebrated with a smile and a fist pumped in the ear.
“It’s incredible to win the Giro,” said van der Breggen in a team statement. “It’s like a dream. It’s the most beautiful win of my career thus far.”
Trailing van der Breggen by 18 seconds, Flavia Oliveira (Alé Cipollini) was the next to reach the ski resort, rounding out the stage nine podium. Megan Guarnier (Boels-Dolmans) and Ashleigh Moolman (Bigla) came to the line together with the American besting the South African for fourth on the stage. Following her six-day run in the pink jersey, Guarnier finished third overall and Moolman was pushed off the general classification podium by Abbott’s leap onto it.
The ninth stage of the Giro Rosa was always going to be about the mountaintop finish, but the attacks began the moment neutral gave way to proper racing. Malgorzta Jasinska (Alé Cipollini) launched the first attack. She was joined up the road by Giro Rosa stage six winner Mayuko Hagiwara (Wiggle Honda). Unhappy with the escape, the peloton brought the duo back to the bunch.
Chantal Blaak (Boels-Dolmans), Elena Cecchini (Lotto Soudal Ladies) and Tayler Wiles (Velocio-SRAM) were the next to have a crack. They established a small gap, but when Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle Honda), Joelle Numainville (Bigla), two-time Giro Rosa stage winner Lucinda Brand (Rabo Liv) and Thalita de Jong (Rabo Liv) bridged across, collaboration waned and the race came back together.
Attack. Chase. Counter-attack. Chase. And so it continued until a group of 12 riders slipped the stranglehold of the bunch. The breakaway began the final climb with slightly more than a minute ahead of an already thinned out peloton. The break began to lose riders almost immediately as they climbed, and the peloton exploded on the lower slopes of the summit.
The gruelling ascent forced repeated selection. There were 12. Eight. Five. Until finally only Abbott and van der Breggen remained. Three kilometres from the finish, Abbott rose from her saddle and danced up the mountain. Her acceleration immediately distanced van der Breggen.
“Elisa [Longo Borghini] drilled and put in a few attacks, which is what caused the first selection,” said Abbott. “After Elisa was gone, I took over and set a strong pace. Things stayed together for awhile and then I could see that people were starting to gap off. I put in a little attack, and I was able to get rid of everyone but Anna. She stuck with me, and for awhile, I thought she’s stick with me until the top – until I noticed that she was gapping off a little bit on the switchbacks right around four kilometres to go. I was able to get rid of her there.”
“They didn’t give us any splits at all, so I kept riding like hell the whole way,” Abbott explained. “People ask: ‘Were you going for the overall or were you going for the stage?’ There isn’t a large difference at that point. You go as hard as you can for the overall and hopefully you win the stage as a bonus.”
“I just had to go as hard as I could and hope it would work,” added Abbott. “If I didn’t win, the effort would still move up the general classification. I knew getting two-and-a-half minutes on Anna was going to be pretty difficult, especially because she wasn’t following me, so it wasn’t like I could crack her that way. She didn’t have any pressure to follow me. She could go her own pace and stay comfortable and within her limits and still not have to risk her overall. It wasn’t terribly likely I was going to win the Giro Rosa today but it was certainly worth trying for – always.”
“When Mara rode away from me, I felt pretty safe,” said van der Breggen, confirming Abbott’s assessment of the situation. “I let her ride away from me because I purposely chose to ride my own pace. I didn’t want to force it because then you risk blowing up. This way, I had at least some kind of control.”
Abbott rode alone for the final three kilometres. In her wake, van der Breggen did the same. Having began the stage with 2:29 over Abbott, van der Breggen only had to limit her losses – which she did quite handily.
“The team was phenomenal again today,” van der Breggen added. “I had the best team of the whole peloton at my disposal. The girls felt good and rode fantastic. That was a really big support.”
This is our final race report out of the 2015 Giro Rosa. What a pleasure to cover the 26th edition of the Italian Grand Tour! Find all the earlier reports at the links below.