The Individual Time Trial (ITT) of Stage 8 marked the final stage and the end of the 2013 Giro Rosa. With the General Classification all tied up in Stage 7, the final ITT was all about the powerhouses, with all eyes on team Specialized-lululemon to bring home the win.
They hadn't had much luck in this tour, but the final stage gave them a chance to shine and showcase their team's talent.
The course for the ITT was based in Cremona, the 2013 European City of Sport. At 16.7km long with a flat profile ending on cobbled streets - this was a course perfect for the power riders. One name stood out from the startlist - Ellen van Dijk.
Van Dijk's team, Specialized-lululemon, have had a very mixed 2013. A run of accidents hit them - star sprinter Ina-Yoko Teutenberg crashed hard in the Drentse 8 in March. The head injuries she sustained mean she won't be returning to the peloton this season. A few weeks later Evelyn Stevens crashed in the Classica Città di Padova, breaking her teeth and needing facial surgery. She had to miss defending her Flèche Wallonne title, but was back on the road for Gracia-Orlová.
Next up, Trixi Worrack broke her collarbone, and the Giro was only her second race back - the first being when she won the German Road Championships. Through all that, the team have stuck together, working hard and keeping their spirits and results high. Ellen van Dijk accepted the challenges life has thrown at the team, finishing on the podium of every Road World Cup she's raced and sitting third in the rankings.
Ellen van Dijk has always been a star, with World Championship titles to her name, on the track in the 2008 Scratch race and in the 2012 Team Time Trial. This year however, has been the first time Ellen's been so strong in the hilly races, after a winter of training. At 26-years-old, she's still evolving as a rider - and with so many colleagues out of action, she really took the role of lead rider and ran with it. But would the new skills mean a reduction in her ITT skills? Winning the Dutch ITT championships the week before the Giro, she looked just as strong as ever!
The early leader was Van Dijk's young team-mate, Tayler Wiles, whose time of 2'22"07 stood as fastest while 70 riders finished, until Rabobank's Pauline Ferrand-Prévot - the young French ITT Champion and 2010 junior World Road and Mountain bike Champion finished with 22'09".87. Ferrand-Prévot didn't get to enjoy her lead for too long, as Van Dijk started 3 riders after her and destroyed the field with 21'12".31.
This looked like a winning time - now all that was left to see was how the last 20 starters would affect the General Classification.
Stage 8 results: Order of arrival
- Ellen van Dijk (Specialized-lululemon) 21'12"31
- Evelyn Stevens (Specialized-lululemon) 34"70
- Shara Gillow (ORICA Ais) 52"62
- Pauline Ferrand-Prévot (Rabobank-Liv/giant) 57"56
- Linda Villumsen (Wiggle Honda) 1'02"14
- Taylor Wiles (Specialized-lululemon) 1'09"96
- Loes Gunnewijk (ORICA Ais) 1'11"39
- Anna van der Breggen (Dutch National Team) 1'13"50
- Alexandra Burchenkova (RusVelo) 1'15"50
- Carmen Small (Specialized-lululemon) 1'17"21
Mara Abbott of the USA National Team had got her maglia rosa sewn up. When the race hit the mountains on Stage 5, she rode away from the competition up the brutal, seemingly-endless climb, and lead the GC by +1'27" on 2009 World Champion Tatiana Guderzo, and 1'34" on 5-times Giro winner Fabiana Luperini.
After the second mountain day on Stage 6, Luperini had been disqualified, and Abbott's stage win had extended her lead to 2'40" to Guderzo and 2'55" to 2009 Giro winner Claudia Häusler. After Stage 7 ended in a bunch sprint masterclass, there was no chance of Abbott's win being taken away, and the day was one of celebration for the Americans.
But there was room for change in the rest of the Top 10 - especially for Shara Gillow (ORICA-AIS) starting the ITT in 5th and Evelyn Stevens in 8th, who both put in spectacular times, to make up a very happy podium.
These results caused a shuffle in the GC, with the Giro's surprise break-through rider Francesca Cauz dropping down the GC from 4th - but keeping her Best Young Rider jersey would have more than made up for it.
2013 Giro Rosa - Final General Classifications
- Mara Abbott (USA National Team) 20h30'15"
- Tatiana Guderzo (MCipollini Giordana) +1'33"
- Claudia Häusler (Tibco To The Top) +2'18"
- Shara Gillow (ORICA Ais) +3'29"
- Evelyn Stevens (Specialized-lululemon) +3'39"
- Marianne Vos (Rabobank) +4'08"
- Francesca Cauz (Top Girls Fassa Bortolo) +4'25"
- Ashleigh Moolman (Lotto-Belisol) +5'23"
- Evgenya Vysotska (SC Michela Fanini Rox) +6'48"
- Alena Amialiusik (BePink) +7'25"
The final podium had so much pedigree - two former winners and a former World Champion. Abbott won the Giro in 2010, but the following year left cycling, with a combination of issues including spiralling anorexia. Bonnie Ford wrote movingly about how Abbott returned to cycling - and she was clearly delighted with her return to international racing.
Claudia Häusler's third place was another joyous return to the top. After beating Abbott to win the 2009 Giro Donne, Häusler crashed in the 2010 Giro Toscana, with a concussion that kept her out of that year's World Championships. It took Häusler a long time to recover from that - and she's been focusing on completing her Mechanical Engineering degree, but this Giro proved that put big mountains back in races, and we'll see Häusler shine again.
Jerseys winners after Stage 8:
- 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)