It looks like a tradition might be starting: American’s winning Giro Rosa stages on the 4th July. Last year it was the sprinting fireworks of Shelley Olds on Stage 6 – this year it was a very different kind of day, with Mara Abbott demonstrating her return to the European peloton on the huge finishing climb. As the race entered the mountains, everything about the race changed – but it’s not over yet.
Stage 5 was always going to be the stage that decided the race. Marianne Vos had been in the maglia rosa since Stage 1, and has been racing for every possible seconds advantage, because she knew that the two mountain stages, finishing on non-stop, brutal climbs, would be hard for her.
The course for stage 5 may have been the shortest at 73.3km but it was hard. With riders starting on a climb, followed by a little descent, after a lumpy course they would be greeted with an epic final climb – Monte Beigua. Ascending 1,287m over 14km, with an average gradient of 9%, rising to 15% in places – the riders were in for a shock. The whole peloton knew that after the first half of the Giro had thinned the group of real General Classification contenders, this was where the real race would begin.
It started off fast, leaving the seaside town to Varezze with another of the climbs from the start that have been a trademark of this year’s route. At the GPM point at 17.6km Valentina Scandolara (MCipollini-Giordana) and Tiffany Cromwell (ORICA-AIS) raced for the precious points – Scandolara winning, but Cromwell taking the lead in the Queen of the Mountains competition, with Marianne Vos leading the chase behind them. The early climb caused a grupetto of around 43 riders to form off the back, but the rest of the race was one big peloton until, at around 30km, the big break of the day went.
Made up of around 12 riders, the breakaway comprised of no GC contenders. With this break up the road, it meant that none of the climbers had to worry about their rivals attacking and escaping early, so they could sit back and conserve their energy – and although a couple of riders had an attempt at attacking off the front of the chase, Rabobank controlled the peloton so that the escapees never got more than a minute – and were caught on the descent going into the climb, when Häusler attacked and Vos, Brand and Cromwell joined her, bringing the peloton with them.
Here the race began, with all the big favourites on the front as they started the long slog, and the non-climbers getting out of the way into grupettos. Almost immediately, Mara Abbott (USA) and Evelyn Stevens (Specialized-lululemon) attacked, and although Vos tried to follow, she couldn’t keep up with the climbing specialists, losing their wheel.
As Abbott’s lead grew with every kilometre she climbed, Vos’ hold on the maglia rosa slipped away. Stevens held on to second place on the road until the punishing climb took it’s toll on her – and it was 2009 World Road Champion Tatiana Guderzo (Cipollini), five-times Giro winner Fabiana Luperini (Faren) and 20-year old Francesca Cauz (Top Girls Fassa Bortolo) who caught and dropped her.
No matter how they tried, they couldn’t catch Abbott, and it was clear she had not only ridden to win the stage, but also to take over the leadership of the race – the perfect 4th July for her!
Stage 5 results: Order of arrival
- Mara Abbott (USA National Team) 2hr25’25”
- Francesca Cauz (Top Girls Fasso Bortolo) 1’44”
- Fabiana Luperini (Faren Kuota) 1’49”
- Tatiana Guderzo (MCipollini Giordana) 1’51”
- Shara Gillow (Orica Ais) 2’38”
- Claudia Hausler (Tibco To The Top) 2’49”
- Yevgenia Vysotska (S.C. Michela Fanini Rox) 3’02”
- Alena Amialiusik (Be Pink) 3’45”
- Ashleigh Moolman (Lotto Belisol) 3’51”
- Evelyn Stevens (Specialized-lululemon) s.t.
This was a triumphant return to European racing for Abbott. In 2009, she won a Giro stage and came second overall behind Claudia Häusler, and then in 2010 duelled with Häusler’s team-mate Emma Pooley in both the Grand Tours, coming second behind Pooley in the last ever Tour de l’Aude, and beating her in the Giro Donne.
Abbott signed to Diadora-Pasta Zara for 2011, but couldn’t contest the maglia rosa, ending tenth overall and taking a break from pro cycling. Underlying personal problems manifested as an eating disorder for Abbott. This difficult time was documented in a heart-warming article by Bonnie Ford, including her phenomenal return to cycling, racing in the USA with Exergy TWENTY16.
Prior to the Giro Rosa, Abbott has only raced in the USA this year, winning the San Dimas Stage Race and the Tour of the Gila, and escaping in the USA Nationals before a botched repair of a mechanical took her out of contention. She’s proven she was back on the National scene – and now she’s proved she can make it internationally, too.
General classifications after Stage 5:
- Mara Abbott (USA National Team) 13hr58’43”
- Tatiana Guderzo (MCipollini Giordana) 1’27”
- Fabiana Luperini (Faren-Kuota) 1’34”
- Claudia Hausler (Tibco To The Top) 2’27”
- Francesca Cauz (Top Girls Fasso Botolo) 2’30”