Annemiek van Vleuten wastes no time, takes pink in Giro’s second stage

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The five-second time loss in the Giro Rosa’s opening team time trial meant little to Mitchelton-Scott’s Annemiek Van Vleuten, who won stage two of the Giro Rosa solo by a minute. The chasers, Anna van der Breggen of Boels-Dolmans Cycling Team and Kasia Niewiadoma of Canyon // SRAM Racing, didn’t have the road or the legs to catch Van Vleuten. FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope’s Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig was the fourth fastest to the end, finishing 1’20” down from Van Vleuten.

The pink jersey of Trek-Segafredo’s Elisa Longo Borghini lost a little over four and a half minutes and will hand over pink to Van Vleuten.

How it happened

Stage two was 125 kilometers long, constantly rolling, with some steeper climbs near the pointy end of the race. The riders set off from Paganico, just north of where the Team Time Trial took place yesterday. The first of two gravel sectors hit only 14km into the stage and lasted for 1.5km. The riders had plenty of time to regroup before the next sector, which came with almost 16km to go, and lasted for 4.2km. In between these two gravel sections was a series of short climbs that kept the riders on their toes. There was a total of 3,100 meters of altitude gain from start to finish.

Since just riding gravel isn’t hard enough, the second gravel sector included some steep climbs and lots of twisty technical bits. Just for some added fun, the gravel was loose and lumpy.

It was on this second gravel sector that van Vleuten made her move. A series of attacks led by Equip Paule Ka before the gravel were brought back together at the base of the Seggiano climb, with 15km to the finish. When the peloton hit the gravel Van Vleuten went. Under the combined pressure of her freakishly strong attack and the challenging gravel, the peloton blew to pieces. Only Uttrup Ludwig could follow Van Vleuten at first, but not for long.

A mechanical on one of the steep sections of gravel didn’t slow Van Vleuten down. Even after she fell over, in slow motion because of the gradient of the climb, she continued to walk with her bike for a few meters before a new wheel could get to her.

Riders limped over the top of the final gravel climb in ones and twos, with van Vleuten leading. Close behind, the new Dutch national champion Anna van der Breggen followed. Behind her were Uttrup Ludwig and Niewiadoma. Both lost more time than they would have liked in the TTT, Uttrup Ludwig started stage two with a minute and 20 seconds to make up, Niewiadoma with a less daunting 16 seconds.

Longo Borghini, in the pink jersey, lost contact with the three leaders and came over the top of the gravel climb about 53 seconds behind. After the stage Longo Borghini said she just did not have the legs.

“In the last gravel sector, I was with the first chase group, but halfway through my body just stopped working,” she said. “I was empty. I managed 14th but I didn’t feel good at all.”

For those who were hoping to see Longo Borghini win this thing, they might have to wait for next year. She is now 4 minutes and 27 seconds down.

“I think this is cycling – ups and downs – and it is like it this,” she said. “I am a bit sad for the team, I feel like I have let them down. But we have one week ahead and many more opportunities.”

Nine kilometers of relative flat with a short descent before the finish meant that the chase to van Vleuten was a tough one. With no actual group behind her, just a series of solo riders, and no teammates to help, it meant riders needed to have good legs to bring back the world champion.

Anna van der Breggen and Kasia Niewiadoma came together on the run-in to the finish and finished with 1’16” to the winner. Four seconds behind them, Uttrup Ludwig rode to the finish solo.

The next closest group containing CCC-Liv’s Ashleigh Moolman Pasio, Alé BTC Ljubljana’s Mavi Garcia, and the New Zealand national champion of Equip Paule Ka Mikayla Harvey lost a little over three minutes to Van Vleuten.

Mountain top finishes suit Annemiek Van Vleuten. With no huge climbs in this year’s edition of the Giro Rosa, Van Vleuten felt it was important to take every second up for grabs.

“I went so deep because you never know what’s coming,” she said. “This Giro, we don’t have an uphill finish, so maybe it can be a second game in the end and every second can be useful.”

1. Annemiek Van Vleuten MTS, 3:53:20
2. Anna van der Breggen DLT, +1:16
3. Katarzyna Niewiadoma CSR, +1:16
4. Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig FDJ, +1:29
5. Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio CCC, +3:07
6. Margarita Victoria Garcia ALE, +3:07
7. Mikayla Harvey EPK, +3:11
8. Soraya Paladin CCC, +3:52
9. Erica Magnaldi WNT, +3:55
10. Amanda Spratt MTS, +3:57

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