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by Abby Mickey
September 19, 2020
For the first time in her nine-year career, Italian Elisa Longo Borghini took a stage win at the Giro Rosa. At the top of the climb to San Marco La Catala, the Trek-Segafredo rider added a stage of her home tour to her extensive palmares. With Longo Borghini to the finish was Boels-Dolmans rider Anna van der Breggen, who moved into the lead on the general classification, taking the pink jersey from Canyon//SRAM’s Kasia Niewiadoma.
The stage started with a significant change in the general classification after Annemiek van Vleuten was unable to start following a crash in the finale of stage seven. Previously to Van Vleuten’s withdrawal from the race, Anna van der Breggen had been over two minutes away from the top spot of the GC.
It was Kasia Niewiadoma, second on the general after stage seven, who got to pull on the pink jersey for the start of stage eight. Though the crash of van Vleuten was a devastating one, it made the race for the overall far closer, with Niewiadoma leading Van der Breggen by only 15-seconds.
Niewiadoma lined up in pink in Castelnuovo Della Daunia with a battle ahead of her. Stage eight consisted of two significant category two climbs, with a final 5.6-kilometer 8% ascent to the finish. Although the peloton had to look forward to climbing 1,797 meters in 91.5-kilometers on stage eight, it was actually crosswinds that kicked off the action of the day.
After the initial climb and descent, with 94 kilometers to go, the peloton hit the winds and immediately fractured into two groups. While Kasia Niewiadoma had most of her team around her, Anna van der Breggen was left with only one teammate. Sunweb were the orchestrators of the move and set a pace at the front of the group of 25 riders.
The attempt to utilize the winds only fell apart at 56-kilometers to go when the pace slowed and the chasing peloton was able to regain contact with the leaders. One peloton did not last long, as the riders started to climb towards Casa Comunale. At 6.6km and 6% gradient the climb wasn’t as consequential as the big climbs of 2019, however, a break of nine riders was able to launch themselves off the already reduced peloton on the descent.
The group’s highest-placed rider on the general classification was down over twelve minutes, and with the climb upcoming, Canyon//SRAM and Boels-Dolmans didn’t immediately jump to chase. They allowed the break to stretch to 35 seconds and kept the gap around there until the base of the final climb when the break was caught.
On the bottom slopes of the 4km, 12.6% climb to the finish, Anna van der Breggen, Kasia Niewiadoma, Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio of CCC-Liv, Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, the leader of the mountain classification and FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope rider, Mikayla Harvey and Niamh Fisher-Black of Equipe Paule Ka, the Trek-Segafredo duo of Lizzie Diegnan and Elisa Longo Borghini, and Sunweb’s Liane Lippert went clear of the rest of the field.
The unrelenting gradient of the final climb did not allow the new nine rider group to stay together for long. Anna van der Breggen, with her eye on pink, and Elisa Longo Borghini, who has been one of the most aggressive riders of the Giro Rosa so far, went clear to contest the stage win.
Longo Borghini took an emotional stage win in the two-up sprint with Van der Breggen, a gap of 31-seconds separated the two from Mickayla Harvey, with Katrine Aalerud of Movistar following a minute and 6 seconds down.
With Kasia Niewiadoma finishing a minute and 19-seconds down in 6th place, Anna van der Breggen would pull on the pink jersey after the stage. Niewiadoma maintained second in the general classification with a minute and a bit separating her from regaining the lead on stage nine.
“You really felt today that the fighting spirit was back with everyone, so that was actually a good thing in the race.” Van der Breggen said after the stage. “Today was a hard stage, echelons, long downhills, and then the final climb was really steep, really long. Happy to be in Pink, and for the team they worked really hard today.”
The final stage will be another challenging one. Four circuits of a 27.5-kilometer course that will see the riders tackle the Volturno ascent four times. The general classification could be determined on the final day, but it would take an aggressive race from anyone who wants to wear pink in the end.
1. Elisa Longo Borghini TSF, 2:33:57
2. Anna van der Breggen DTL, st
3. Mikayla Harvey EPK, +0:31
4. Katrine Aalerud MOV, +1:06
5. Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig FDJ, +1:19
6. Kasia Niewiadoma CSR, st
7. Paulina Rooijakkers CCC, st
8. Liane Lippert SUN, +1:31
9. Marta Cavalli VAL, +1:52
10. Sofia Bertizzolo CCC, +1:58
1. Anna van der Breggen DTL
2. Kasia Niewiadoma CSR, +1:10
3. Elisa Longo Borghini TSF, +2:23
4. Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig FDJ, +2:25
5. Mikayla Harvey EPK, +2:51
6. Ashleigh Moolman Pasio CCC, +4:48
7. Mav Garcia ALE, +5:58
8. Ane Santesteban WNT, +6:27
9. Marianne Vos CCC, +7:29
10. Elizabeth Banks EPK, +7:49
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