The penultimate stage of the 2013 Giro Rosa - and last road race stage before the final Individual Time Trial (ITT) - was the flattest of them all, an 8-lap circuit race that would, after two days in the mountains, finally give the sprinters a chance.
It was never going to be a straightforward stage, with so many different storylines happening at the same time - it gave us a masterclass in how to manage a sprint finish.
Although not as sunny as previous days, it was still very hot indeed for Stage 7 of the 2013 Giro Rosa. The parcours was 8 laps of a 15km loop around the town of Corbetta in the province of Milan. Starting out on city streets, with a few tight corners moving on to long, simple country roads, before returning to Corbetta on a long straight road, perfect for chasing. With four tight corners in quick succession near the finishing line, technical skills were as important as speed.
With a course suited to riders with technical skills, Marianne Vos was in her element. She’s well versed at this type of finish; she has the ability to enter a corner next to another rider, and come out a bike length ahead, making it look completely natural. She takes the most excellent lines - and her teammates are geniuses at setting her up.
On paper, Stage 7 looked as if it were made for Vos.
Stage 7 results: Order of arrival
- Marianne Vos (Rabobank) 2hr52'07"
- Giorgia Bronzini (Wiggle Honda) s.t.
- Shelley Olds (Tibco To The Top) s.t.
- Kirsten Wild (Dutch National Team) s.t.
- Barbara Guarischi (Vaiano Fondriest) s.t.
- Marta Tagliaferro (MCipollini Giordana) s.t.
- Oxana Kozonchuk (RusVelo) s.t.
- Alena Amialiusik (BePink) s.t.
- Giada Borgato (Pasta sara Cogeas) s.t.
- Melissa Hoskins (Orica Ais) s.t.
It was never going to be as simple as the peloton waiting for the sprint finish. The early part of the race saw non-stop attacking, as teams like Specialized-lululemon and Pasta Zara-Cogeas pushed to try to get a breakaway going - with lulu's Evelyn Stevens going not only for her teammates, but the possibility of moving up the General Classification. Lotto-Belisol's Ashleigh Moolman tried the same thing.
It was a great final road race, watching some favourite riders like Moolman, Stevens, Emilia Fahlin and Valentina Scandolara attacking, giving it everything they had. The USA National Team decided to put a stop to the attacks in the last half of the race, and then, as ORICA's Tiffany Cromwell blogged;
From two laps to go it was time to start getting organised, wake up, sharpen the elbows and begin the fight for position all the way to the finish.
The final lap was all about working for position. Wiggle Honda's Charlotte Becker pulled on the front through the country roads, and then Rabobank's Lucinda Brand and Specialized-lululemon's Ellen van Dijk joined.
Finally, Rabobank's plan for the stage came into action. Lucinda Brand took her turn on the front, and it was clear she wasn't just leading out, she was attacking. Brand swooped through the final corners, creating a gap between her and the peloton, forcing Wiggle Honda's Giorgia Bronzini to chase her down, hard - with Marianne Vos on her wheel.
Vos, using the three-time World Champion as a lead-out, crushed the sprint to become winner of Stage 7.
General classifications after Stage 7:
- Mara Abbott (USA National Team) 20h06'50"
- Tatiana Guderzo (MCipollini Giordana) +2'28"
- Claudia Hausler (Tibco To The Top) +2'52"
- Francesca Cauz (Top Girls Fassa Bortolo) +3'01"
- Marianne Vos (Rabobank) +4'50"
Winning stage 7 of the 2013 Giro Rosa must have been a great feeling for Vos. In interviews she said that while she'd been disappointed to lose the maglia rosa, her third stage win made up for it.
Throughout the Giro it was clear that for Vos to retain the overall title depended on her picking up as much time as possible before the mountains. While she and her team played the perfect game, on such a short Grand Tour that had to balance stages for all kinds of riders, once she'd lost time in the mountains, there was nowhere for her to pick it up.
Jerseys wearer's after Stage 7:
- Maglia Rosa (General classifications) Mara Abbott (USA National Team)
- Purple Jersey (Points classification) Marianne Vos (Rabobank)
- White Jersey (Youth classification) Francesca Cauz (Top Girls Fasso Bortolo)
- Green Jersey (Queen of the Mountains) Mara Abbott (USA National Team)
- Blue Jersey (Best Italian rider) Tatiana Guderzo (MCipollini-Giordana)