Vos' revenge: Giro Rosa Stage 7

Stage 8 finish, Giro Rosa 2013 - https://www.facebook.com/girorosa2013/photos_albums

The penultimate stage of the Giro Rosa - and last road race stage before the final 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 - but it gave us a master-class in how to manage a sprint finish.

As always I'll add more videos and links in as I see them - look in the comments for updates, and for Stage 8 chat.

The race video, with interview with Marianne Vos in English, and translations of the Italians

Here's the video from a Rabobank perspective - interviews with Megan Guarnier (in English) and Lucinda Brand.

The RAI coverage is on Youtube in 4 parts - you can either start at Part 1, and let the playlist run through, to see it all at once, or click through to Part 2, Part 3, or Part 4, the sprinting endgame, with English interviews with Vos:

I'm collecting all the Giro video I can find on Youtube in a playlist, if you want to check what you've missed.

Although not as sunny as previous days, it was still very hot indeed. The parcours was 8 laps of a 15km loop around the town of Corbetta in the province of Milan - starting on city streets, with a few tight corner before looping out through some long sections on long, simple country roads, before finishing in Corbetta with a long straight road, perfect for chasing - and then four tight corners in quick succession, that would mean technical skills were as important as speed.

And hmmmmm.... which rider do we know who has great technical skills, I wonder? One of the many talents Marianne Vos has is that she is very, very, very good at these kinds of finishes. I don't know how she does it, but she can 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 team-mates are geniuses at setting her up.... on paper, this looked made for Vos.

It wasn't going to as 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 and pushed to try to get a breakaway going - with lulu's Evie Stevens going not only for her team-mates, but the possibility of moving up the General Classification - and Lotto-Belisol's Ashleigh Moolman trying the same thing. It was a great final road race, watching some favourite riders like Ash, Evie, Emilia Fahlin and of COURSE Valentina Scandolara attacking and giving it everything - and even I would have preferred to see them get away, the fact that every attempt to go got caught, but was immediately followed by another try, felt very women's cycling.

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 - with Wiggle Honda's Charlotte Becker pulling on the front through the country roads, and then Rabobank's Lucinda Brand and lulu's Ellen van Dijk. Watching Van Dijk drag the peloton home is always a pleasure - she gets her time trial legs on, and the other teams have to work their hardest to keep up, with only the best sprinters and teams able to stick around at the front.

And then 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! She swooped through the final corners, getting a gap between her and the peloton, forcing Wiggle's Giorgia Bronzini to chase her down, hard - with Marianne Vos on her wheel, using the three-time World Champion as a lead-out, and crushing the sprint. Ah Rabobank, you do make it hard for everyone else - let Brand win, or help Vos to - what a nasty dilemma for other teams, and beautiful tactics to watch!

Stage 7 results

1. Marianne Vos (Ned) Rabobank-Liv/giant, 2:52:07
2. Giorgia Bronzini (Ita) Wiggle Honda, s.t.
3. Shelley Olds (USA) Tibco, s.t.
4. Kirsten Wild (Ned) Netherlands National Team, s.t.
5. Barbara Guarischi (Ita) Vaiano Fondriest, s.t.
6. Marta Tagliaferro (Ita) MCipoliini-Giordana, s.t.
7. Oxana Kozonchuk (Rus) RusVelo, s.t.
8. Alena Amialiusik (Blr) BePink, s.t.
9. Giada Borgato (Ita) Pasta Zara-Cogeas, s.t.
10. Melissa Hoskins (Aus) ORICA-AIS, s.t.

This stage win must have been a great feeling for Vos, and she said in interviews afterwards that while she'd been disappointed to lose her maglia rosa, her third stage win made up for it. Throughout the Giro it was clear that her chances to retain the overall title depended on picking up as much time as possible before the mountains, and 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 that mountains time, there was nowhere for her to pick it up. One of the things that makes it so easy to be a Vos-fan is that she was always very honest about this - that she wasn't as good a climber as the others - but still, watching her give it everything, and never gave up, was one of the pleasures of the Giro.

General Classification after Stage 7

1. Mara Abbott (USA) USA National Team, 20:06:50
2. Tatiana Guderzo (Ita) MCipollini-Giordana, + 02:28
3. Claudia Häusler (Ger) Tibco, + 02:52
4. Francesca Cauz (Ita) Top Girls Fassa Bortolo, + 03:01
5. Shara Gillow (Aus) ORICA-AIS, + 04:50
6. Marianne Vos (Ned) Rabobank-Liv/Giant, s.t.
7. Evelyn Stevens (USA) Specialized-lululemon, + 05:17
8. Ashleigh Moolman (RSA) Lotto-Belisol, + 05:39
9. Evgenya Vysotska (Ukr) SC Michela Fanini Rox, + 05:42
10. Alena Amialiusik (Blr) BePink, + 07:42

Intermediate sprint bonifications gave Guderzo and Vos some reduction in the gap, but it means that, barring disasters. Abbott keeps the maglia rosa. Because this is the only race she's ridden in Europe, it's impossible to say how she'll fare in the Time Trial against the others - but it's only 16km, and Jens reminds me that in the 2009 15km ITT she was 1'20" behind the winner, Amber Neben, and in 2009, 1'25" behind winner Ina-Yoko Teutenberg over 16.9km - with Guderzo ahead of her at 55" and Häusler at 1'01".

But the ITT isn't about the GC - it's about stage victory, and glory! My heart and head prediction is Ellen van Dijk - the course is a little bit bumpy, but overall flat, with maybe a 10m difference in start and finish height - and Van Dijk is such a brilliant power-rider.

Looking for comparable results this year, yet again I'm struck by how many races have disappeared from the calendar. It's been a really hard Giro to call - how can you tell which young riders will do well in the mountains, for example, when there have only been 2 races with proper climbing stages this year? One thing we do know, though, is that Specialized-lululemon have dominated the ITTs on both sides of the Atlantic - so look out not just for Van Dijk, but for Stevens, and USA national champion Carmen Small.

ORICA's Shara Gillow and Loes Gunnewijk have potential to do well here, too - and it will be a fun race to follow - with all the usual twitter updates from @GiroRosa20133 and the live tweeters. Talk ITT in the comments, as always!

***

I spoke to ORICA's Jessie Maclean after the stage, and she told me about it from the team perspective, and what they did for Tiffany's birthday - and Elisa Longo Borghini answered some questions about her recovery - read them, watch Amber Pierce's Stage 7 video review, and find the best twitter post-stage reactions on my latest Rider Reactions post.

Rider blogs on Stage 7 from Marijn de Vries, Tiffany Cromwell, Gracie Elvin and Lucinda Brand - and race reports from ORICA-AIS, MCipollini, and Rabobank.

Stage reports from Ben Atkins on Velonation, Jen See on Bicycling, photos and report on Cyclingnews and CJ Farquharson's photos on CJFoto. UPDATE! And more CJ photos and race report on womenscycling.net

***

I've really been enjoying Velofocus' fan photos of the race - he really captures the atmosphere! Here are his Stage 7 photos, and as well, some video of Rabo and ORICA dancing at the sign-on. The presentation dancing is one of the things I love about this race - it reminds me so much of hanging out with groups of friends and having the best time, dancing and singing terribly, that happy being-silly-having-fun feeling. These teams and riders are such enormous professionals, they're about to go and race their hearts out and give everything on the road, but they take this time to entertain the crowds, laughing at themselves, and being a team enjoying each other's company. They're sweet moments, and I'm really grateful to Sean for sharing them.

UPDATE! And Lotto by Bicitino:

***

As always, I'll update the article with more as I find it - any questions, comments or chat about Stage 8 - head to the comments.

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