One word to describe today's stage - HARD! If you read Monty's stage preview, you will have seen that the profile was like a roller coaster - or as Vicki Whitelaw described it, "like the teeth of a comb" - up & down all day. So it was one for the riders who love climbing short, steep hills over & over & over again.... That generally suggests two riders - an Emma Pooley suicide break, and the special skills of Marianne Vos, who is made for this kind of stage, with short, punchy climbs. But what would happen if those two started working together? The peloton wouldn't stand a chance!
What did riders have to say about today? Here's HTC's Amanda Miller's verdict:
Ouch. Those were some brutal climbs, to say the least. Pretty sure I've never been up something so steep. Judith 3rd today. 7 more days!
and here's her team-mate, Ina-Yoko Teutenberg:
What a stage. Constant up+down.super hard. Ended up in nice laughing bunch. Congrats @marianne_vos for another impressive win.
More results below and implications for the GC. After 3 stages we've already had big changes, and it'll be fascinating to see what happens next. There's also bad news for some riders, with more of them pulling out after yesterday's crash...
And check in later, when hopefully we'll have a stage report in the comments as only Monty can do! Can't wait!
(The following section has been edited, once we had more information - this is the updated version!)
Nederland Bloeit forced an early split, with most of the other GC contenders missing the break, and having their teams chase hard to get back. Ashleigh Moolman (Lotto) took the early mountains points crossing the first two climbs first. She crashed on the third climb, and ended up 30th at 6:13 down, which is a huge shame for her, but hopefully she'll be back. There had been a number of attack attempts, including from Pooley, but it wasn't until the third climb, the Muro del Ferro, that the decisive move took place.
HTC's Amanda Miller had attacked and gained some distance on the front, but then, while most of the riders, including Gamin-Cervélo's Emma Pooley, were chasing her down, Marianne Vos (Nederland Bloeit) put on a great burst of speed and attacked up the other side. Pooley was quick to spot this, and bridged across, overtaking Vos just after the mountains point. The riders behind scrambled for Pooley's wheel, but both Pooley and Vos have such a strong turn of speed, no one couldn't make it
Had it been more of a climb, Pooley might have been off alone - but Vos, putting in a huge effort, stayed on her wheel. They'd made quite a gap in a short distance, and once over the hill, the two worked together beautifully - there's a particular point where Pooley leads up a climb, then Vos takes over the descending, that's just perfect cycling. The other riders knew this could be the killer move - Nicole Cooke (MCipollini-Giambenini) and the Diadora Pasta Zara team worked their hardest to try to catch them, but there wasn't a chance.
With Vos and Pooley off up the road, Evelyn Stevens took a bunch of the remaining mountains points, with Garmin's Sharon Laws (Laws played a great tactical role, monitoring all the moves and making the chase even harder - because of her second place yesterday, she's still up in the GC enough to be a threat). Then Tatiana Guderzo (MCipollini) and yesterday's 3rd placed rider, Sylwia Kapusta (Gauss) made an escape attempt and picked up the last set of points behind the front pair. Guderzo had tried to get away - and later Emma Johansson - and while they couldn't make it, the chase just caused more and more riders to fall off the back, spreading the chase all over the road.
The Pooley-Vos combination was a dream pairing, until the final descent, where Vos opened up a gap on Pooley. She managed to hold the gap, coming in 19 seconds ahead of Pooley, which, with the high mountains still to come, didn't seem to phase the Garmin rider.
An elite group, lead by Judith Arndt (HTC-Highroad), with Kapusta, Guderzo and Johansson, came in 2:50 later, having bested the final cobbled climb together - with yesterday's winner, Shara Gillow (Bizkaia Durango), finishing 18th, 4:22 after Vos - giving Vos the pink jersey once again. You can see how hard the stage was from the time gaps - riders straggling home.
So, today's top 10 (remember only the top 5 count for vds)
1. Marianne Vos (Ned) Nederland Bloeit, 2:58:04
2. Emma Pooley (GBr) Garmin-Cervélo, + 00:19
3. Judith Arndt (Ger) HTC-Highroad, + 2:50
4. Rasa Leleivyte (Ltu) Vaiano Solaristech, s.t.
5. Emma Johansson (Swe) Hitec Products, s.t.
6. Ruth Corset (Aus) Bizkaia Durango, s.t.
7. Tatiana Guderzo (Ita) MCipollini-Giambenini, s.t.
8. Sylwia Kapusta (Pol) Gauss, + 2:59
9. Tatiana Antoshina (Rus) Gauss, + 03:12
10. Fabiana Luperini (Ita) MCipollini-Giambenini, + 03:24
Full results on the race website - check it out, the time gaps are interesting.
So after 3 stages, here's the current GC:
1. Marianne Vos (Ned) Nederland Bloeit, 7:50:46
2. Sylwia Kapusta (Pol) Gauss, + 00:08
3. Emma Pooley (GBr) Garmin-Cervélo, + 00:36
4. Shara Gillow (Aus) Bizkaia Durango, + 01:15
5. Sharon Laws (GBr) Garmin-Cervélo, + 01:19
6. Grace Verbeke (Bel) TopSport Vlaanderen, + 02:16
7. Christel Ferrier-Bruneau (Fra) Gauss, + 02:19
8. Judith Arndt (Ger) HTC-Highroad, + 03:07
9. Linda Villumsen (NZl) AA Drink-Leontien.nl, + 03:12
10. Emma Johansson (Swe) Hitec Products, + 03:14
So what does this mean for the GC contenders? Of Monty's 5 picks for the win, Vos is leading, and will be aiming to pick up as much time as possible before the big mountains stages of 7, 8 and 9 - as long as Pooley survives the sprint stages ok, she should be confident when they hit the mountains. Judith Arndt has one of the strongest teams, and I wouldn't be surprised if they forced breaks all over the place - with Pooley not liking peloton riding, they could catch her unawares.
Last year's winner, Mara Abbott, was caught in a crash yesterday, and today finished 18th, just under 4 minutes behind Pooley, and 4:27 behind Vos - and at 8:14, Claudia Häusler would need some very good luck to get back into the race.
Can Abbott make it back? Here's what Monty said earlier today:
Mara Abbott was 42s down on Vos yesterday, so she’s now 4 minutes plus distant and three and a half from Emma Pooley. Last year she took a minute and a half from her into Livigno and another half minute on the Stelvio (the rest of her lead coming courtesy of her team and an unfortunate puncture), so she could be out of contention now. There’s still lots of climbing to come, but …
Vos leads the pink jersey, the points, and the mountains jersey - Rasa Leleivyte's superb performance means she leads the young rider competition today - she seems to be developing from a sprinter into a Classics type.
Today's bad news hits the sprinters hard, with Shelley Evans (Diadora) not starting today, due to injuries from the horrible Nature Valley crash a few weeks ago) - and Lizzie Armitstead (Garmin-Cervélo) DNFed after being caught in the crash yesterday. Here's to both of them recovering fast.
Check back later for more information, links and anything we find!