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WOMEN'S CYCLING BROUGHT TO YOU BY ORBEA
As the men’s peloton vies for yellow in France, the women’s peloton was battling for pink in Italy. Now in its 28th year, women’s cycling’s only remaining grand tour, the Giro Rosa, took place in Italy these past two weeks. And it was once again a tremendous showcasing of the sport and its top athletes.
From brutal 30% grades to inspiring teamwork, heartbreaking crashes and photo-finish finales, the 10-day tour was absolutely filled with action and excitement. Without live coverage, we did our best to give you play-by-play coverage, insightful interviews and whatever video footage we could find.
Now that the 2017 Giro Rosa is in the books, here’s a recap of the stages as well as some beautiful shots of the race and everything that surrounds it.
With less elevation gain than in previous years, on paper, the 2017 event didn’t appear to be all that tough (in relative terms), but the continuous high-paced racing, deceiving course profiles and high temperatures have made the 2017 Giro Rosa another gruelling event.
Boels-Dolmans took control of the race after winning the stage one team time trial. Their Canadian rider Karol-Ann Canuel was the first to wear the pink jersey, only to hand it off to teammate and Olympic champion Anna van der Breggen in stage two.
Stage two saw a three-person break of jersey wearers go free on the biggest climb of the day. Anna van der Breggen in pink, Annemiek van Vleuten in the climbers’ jersey and best Italian rider Elisa Longo Borghini rode into the finish together nearly two minutes on the next group of riders. The three-up sprint was won by GC hopeful Van Vleuten (Orica-Scott), but Van der Breggen remained in pink.
Despite various attacks and breakaway attempts, stage three ended in a bunch sprint. After coming so close in the Women’s Tour last month, Canyon-SRAM’s Hannah Barnes finally bested her fellow sprinter, crossing the line ahead of Lotta Lepistö (Cervélo-Bigla) and Kirsten Wild (Cylance).
Stage four was a prime example of excellent teamwork. A pancake flat course in hot temperatures was made interesting by Boels-Dolmans’ efforts to break up the peloton, splitting the bunch into several groups and reducing the 165-rider field to around 60 riders at the time of the finish. The sprint was a nailbiter. Chloe Hosking was believed to be the winner, but after consulting the finish photo, it was Wiggle-High5’s Jolien D’Hoore who walked away with the stage win. Missing the break, Van Vleuten fell off the GC podium and would have to put up an impressive time trial in stage five to make up some time.
Stage five was an individual time trial with brutal climbs that were steeper than the race bible had indicated. Riders struggled as gradients pitched up to 30%! Despite the hills and a dropped chain, Annemiek van Vleuten had an incredible ride, coming in 41 seconds ahead of race leader Van der Breggen and 1:15 ahead of Longo Borghini.
The sixth stage was defined by blistering heat, short-lived breakaways and furious attacking. In the end, however, the flat-ish stage ended in a bunch sprint, the third one of the tour. After a victory for sprinters Hannah Barnes (Canyon-SRAM) and Jolien D’Hoore (Wiggle-High5) in the previous stages, this time it was Finnish champ Lotta Lepistö (Cervélo-Bigla) to reach the line first. Coryn Rivera (Sunweb) and Georgia Bronzini (Wiggle-High5) rounded out the podium.
Stage seven was action-packed from start to finish, with riders shooting off the front left, right and centre in an effort to escape the peloton. Cylance Pro Cycling was clearly up to something, firing off one rider after the other. After 80 minutes of action, a breakaway finally succeeded. Thirteen riders, with two Cylance riders among them, escaped and would form the winning break. The finale came down to an exciting cat-and-mouse game between a break and a chase group, but it was Spanish road champion Sheyla Gutierrez (Cylance Pro Cycling) who would be rewarded for her break-making move with her first-ever Women’s WorldTour win.
Stage eight was dubbed the Queen stage of the tour, and with seven tough days of racing in the legs already, the riders definitely feared another hot and hilly stage. The clock was also ticking for Borghini and Van Vleuten to make up time on race leader, Van der Breggen, so the racing would surely be aggressive. Sure enough, the peloton splintered on the first climb, and a breakaway took shape off the front. The names of the riders off the front, however, was continuously changing as some riders got dropped on the next climb while others tried to bridge across. Lensworld-Kuota’s Tetyena Riabchenko was the only constant off the front until she was joined by Sunweb’s Lucinda Brand. When Brand crashed at 10 kilometres, it seemed like the victory was in the bag for Riabchenko, but Brand got back on her bike, chased Riabchenko down and continued on, finishing solo for the win.
The ninth stage was an elimination race right from the start, with riders getting dropped until only a 50-rider group was left at the front once all the climbing was done. After a three-rider breakaway was caught just before the line, the stage ended in another bunch sprint. Alé Cipollini’s Marta Bastianelli was the first to the line, delivering Italy its first stage win in this year’s Giro Rosa.
After defending the pink jersey since day one, Boels-Dolmans had a pretty firm grip on the GC and the peloton. As long as they prevented Borghini and Van Vleuten from escaping, the maglia rosa was theirs. Van Vleuten and Borghini meanwhile would have to put in some herculean efforts to drop Van der Breggen and make up a more than one-minute gap. With a few more climbs to conquer, Van Vleuten sure didn’t go down without a fight in stage 10. She attacked again and again up the biggest climb of the day, the Vesuvio, but both Van der Breggen and Borghini matched her every pedal stroke. The trio was the first up and over the climb and Van der Breggen took control on the descent. The trio slowed down as soon as the roads levelled out, allowing a small chase group to catch them. The fight for the GC was over. In the bunch sprint, it was last year’s winner, Megan Guarnier (Boels-Dolmans) who crossed the finish first –a fitting end for a dominant team performance by Boels-Dolmans.
The GC podium of the 2017 Giro Rosa: 1. Anna van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans), 2. Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle-High5), 3. Annemiek van Vleuten.
Final GC standings:
Race reports and video highlights: