Giro d’Italia Donne stage 8: Annemiek van Vleuten extends overall lead victory after late crash

Marta Cavalli moves up to second on GC as Mavi García fades on final climb.

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Pink jersey Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) recovered from a crash on the final descent to win stage 7 of the Giro d’Italia Donne in Aldeno, distancing Mavi García (UAE Team ADQ) and Marta Cavalli (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope) on the final climb to extend her overall lead to more than two minutes over Cavalli.

Cavalli finished second on the stage, whilst Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) came third. Early attacker Kristen Faulkner (BikeExchange-Jayco) held on to finish fourth.

The Dutch rider attacked at the base of the Lago di Cei climb in the final of the 30km of the race, initially followed by Cavalli and García but soon dropping her rivals and descending solo to take her second stage win of this year’s race.

“[It was] hard,” Van Vleuten said at the finish. “I wanted to make more difference today, so I did, I went. I had a good lead-out from my teammate Jelena [Erić], and then I went. It was quite tough to drop them, but I knew that if I continued, my endurance and my hours of training would help. Then in the last 5km I had a gap on Cavalli, and the gap became bigger.”

“I made a stupid mistake on the descent,” she said of her crash. “So I feel a bit of disappointment today that I made such a stupid and unnecessary mistake – sorry, mum, watching me – but I’m all good, nothing happened. But it was unnecessary so I feel a bit stupid for that. For the rest, we made the maglia rosa more sure.”

“I look forward to [tomorrow]. Today I showed that my legs are fine, I have a good advantage, so I’m happy. It’s a beautiful stage tomorrow.”

After stage 6’s mountaintop finish, stage 7 promised another hard day with 2,333m of climbing over two climbs packed into just 104km of racing across the Trentino region of Italy. The descent to the line also made the finish tricky, although the riders took on the same descent earlier in the stage so had a chance to preview the downhill.

The stage seemed set for GC fireworks, but the overall battle took a blow before racing even started as Amanda Spratt (BikeExchange-Jayco) tested positive for Covid, with her teammate Georgia Baker also pulling out. Spratt had been sitting 6th on general classification, continuing her return to form after iliac artery surgery.

As expected after Juliette Labous (Team DSM) survived from the early breakaway to win yesterday, the fight to get into the day’s break on Friday was tough. Thalita de Jong (Liv Racing Xstra), Karlijn Swinkels (Jumbo-Visma) and Lucinda Brand (Trek-Segafredo) were all on the move early on, but the Movistar-controlled peloton ensured no one got away in the first part of the stage.

Heading towards the 40km completed mark and the foot of the 15km long, 6.9% average gradient Passo Bordala, the peloton remained all together. Krista Doebel-Hickok (EF Education-TIBCO-SVB) attacked around 5km into the ascent, but failed to sustain a gap. The acceleration did, however, cause the first big split in the peloton, with a group of around 30 riders emerging 30 seconds ahead of the rest of the pack.

From this group, it was Brodie Chapman (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine-Futuroscope) who launched the most meaningful attack of the day, pulling out a lead over the Van Vleuten-led main group with still half the climb still to go. Behind, several attacks tried to follow Chapman, and Kristen Faulkner (BikeExchange-Jayco) – newly unleashed after Spratt’s DNS – managed to bridge to the Australian, and quickly rode her off her wheel. She was soon a minute ahead of the peloton, with Chapman, Clara Koppenburg (Cofidis) and Anouska Koster (Jumbo-Visma) all hovering in the gap.

Despite none of the four riders in front representing a threat on the overall, the GC battle did begin to take shape towards the top of the climb as Mavi García attacked the maglia rosa group, though Van Vleuten was locked onto her wheel. The pair were briefly alone, but were soon rejoined by most of the GC favorites. Up ahead, Faulkner crested the summit of the climb 2 minutes 55 seconds ahead of the pink jersey group, though only leading Koppenburg by 18 seconds.

On the descent, second-placed Maví García (UAE Team ADQ) found herself distanced, seeing her 31-second deficit to Van Vleuten rapidly growing as teammate Erica Magnaldi dropped back to try to save her overall ambitions. With a chance to move ahead of García, Marta Cavalli began working in the pink jersey group alongside Trek-Segafredo, who also had an opportunity to boost Longo Borghini into the top three.

Crossing the finish line in Aldeno for the first time, Faulkner remained 1:50 ahead. Behind, Mavi García had made her way back to the pink jersey group, but the repeated efforts from Trek saw the favorites’ group split apart as Van Vleuten, García and Cavalli – joined by three teammates – found themselves distanced as Brand, Longo Borghini and mountains leader Elisa Chabbey (Canyon-SRAM) led a six-rider group ahead.

With four riders in the maglia rosa group, FDJ did the bulk of the work in the chase, defending Cavalli’s 3rd overall from Longo Borghini up the road. As a result, the two groups came back together in the run-in to the Lago di Cei climb, with the increase in pace shrinking Faulkner’s lead to around 90 seconds.

On the base of the climb, Jelena Erić (Movistar) set the pace for Van Vleuten who launched an early attack out of the group, joined only by Cavalli and García with still 7.5km of climbing to go. The strong trio was soon 30 seconds ahead of the chase, and quickly closing in on Faulkner. With Faulkner in her sights, Van Vleuten accelerated to distance Cavalli and García and overtake the American. Cavalli in turn dropped García, hoping to take back 39 seconds on the Spaniard to climb to second place overall. In front, Faulkner remained stuck on Van Vleuten’s wheel as the duo hovered at nine seconds ahead of Cavalli.

Heading into the last 4km of the climb, Van Vleuten eventually distanced Faulkner, with Cavalli taking up position as second rider on the road, just meters behind the pink jersey. Further back, Elisa Longo Borghini put in an impressive climbing effort to overtake García and hunt down a spot on the podium. Crossing the top of the climb, Van Vleuten led by 13 seconds over Cavalli with just a second go at the 12km ascent between her and the finish line.

A crash on one of the final corners of the descent threatened to jeopardize Van Vleuten’s victory, but the Dutch rider recovered quickly to solo to a second stage win in Aldeno. The pink jersey still finished almost a minute ahead of Cavalli, taking her overall lead to 2:13 over the Italian. Mavi García held onto her podium spot, 1:29 behind Cavalli with third on the stage Elisa Longo Borghini slightly closing the gap in fourth overall.

The rest of the GC contenders lost more time to Van Vleuten, with fifth place Niamh Fisher-Black (SD Worx) nine minutes back, and 10th place Elise Chabbey over 13 minutes in arrears. With just one more day of climbing to come tomorrow, there may be changes in the order of the top-10, but on-form Van Vleuten looks well-poised to hold onto pink and take her third overall victory at the Giro d’Italia Donne.

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