After yesterday's stage climbed the Mortirolo and gave us a master-class in descending steep, twisting roads, today's stage was shorter - with a serrated profile, adding lots of smaller climbs to the over 1,000m climb in 70km. Monty's preview has the profiles - and there's still 1 more mountain stage to go! Diadora's Amber Pierce gives a fantastic race-description-in-140-characters:
Congrats Emma on the W today. Helluva stage. Tunnels, climbs, crazy narrow roads, endless switchbacks, views, rain, mud. Epic.
Here's the finish-line video from Cicloweb - and check out Monty's fantastic stage-recap-in-screenshots in the comments - we'll add other videos and anything we find to the comments as well, so check back!
If you want to watch today's full video, it's here - although I've already given away the ending!
Today's stage was meant to start with a descent, but it was taken out as too dangerous, so the racing didn't start until about km 7. From the start, riders were dropping off the back - they've had some super-hard racing, I don't blame them! And yet again there was attacking from the start - with groups forming and re-forming. The race started in the sunshine, with more of those scary-looking unlit tunnels, and some truly spectacular scenery. There are some more great photos by CJ Farquharson from the stage on Cyclingnews.
There was an early escape attempt from former Australian national champion Ruth Corset (Bizkaia Durango) and super-blogger Amanda Miller (HTC Highroad) who spent a long time out together, making it very nearly to the top of the mountain. Garmin-Cervélo were involved with the chase, with Italian road and ITT Champion Noemi Cantele active on the front. She was leading a small group with all the big GC contenders leading the chase, with Emma Pooley (Garmin-Cervélo) spending a lot of time on the front - but pretty soon it was back to a familiar sight - up ahead, Pooley and Marianne Vos (Nederland Bloeit) as, for the third time this race, they lit up the race.
If someone had told me last year that the mountain duels in this year's Giro Donne would be between Pooley and Vos, I would never have believed them. Pooley, yes - she's a renowned climber, but before this year, you wouldn't expect to see Vos at the front in the mountains. But this year, Vos is targeting the Giro - she's changed her body shape and has been not just keeping up with Pooley, but attacking her too. They have very different riding styles - and the descents will be helping Vos - it's been such an exciting battle!
As the mountains went up, the weather changed from sunny, to cloudy, to rain. Up ahead, Ruth Corset went over the final GPM (Mountains competition point) first - and shortly after attacked, dropping Miller, who was was caught shortly afterwards - as soon as she was, she waited to help Judith Arndt, who was on the front of the chasing group with Tatiana Guderzo (MCipollini Giambenini), Tatiana Antoshina (Gauss) and Mara Abbott (Diadora Pasta Zara). Then Corset was caught, but she was able to stay with Vos and Pooley for a while somehow, and the three riders crossed the 10km to go point together, but with Pooley putting on the pressure, even Corset couldn't keep up.
By now it was nasty weather, wind and rain, and the final kilometres were on the "strade bianche" that turns to gritty mud when wet. Pooley had been on the front pretty much all throughout the climb, and it was a battle right to the line - with Pooley trying to get away, and Vos hanging on for dear life - but this time Pooley took the win, both riders looking exhausted as they crossed the line. Vos finished with the same time, and is still in the maglia rosa.
Behind Vos and Pooley, Corset came in 3rd, in what was a superb day's riding. In the fight for GC placings, there had been attacks from Abbott in the group-of-four up the mountain, but she couldn't sustain the pace, dropping off the back of the group at some point. Judith Arndt was a powerhouse, riding away from the rest on the gravel roads, and gaining more time on her closest rival, Tatiana Guderzo. Arndt holds onto 3rd place by 13 seconds - and as an excellent time triallist, will be doing everything in her power to move up tomorrow on the final climbs.
1. Emma Pooley (GBr) Garmin-Cervélo, 02:25:45
2. Marianne Vos (Ned) Nederland Bloeit, s.t.
3. Ruth Corset (Aus) Bizkaia Durango, + 01:29
4. Judith Arndt (Ger) HTC-Highroad, + 02:39
5. Tatiana Antoshina (Rus) Gauss, + 02:49
6. Tatiana Guderzo (Ita) MCipollini Giambenini, s.t.
7. Mara Abbott (USA) Diadora Pasta Zara, + 03:16
8. Emma Johansson (Swe) Hitec Products UCK, + 04:12
9. Shara Gillow (Aus) Bizkaia Durango, s.t.
10. Elena Berlato (Ita) Top Girls Fassa Bortolo, + 04:16
General classification after Stage 8
1. Marianne Vos (Ned) Nederland Bloeit, 22:08:15
2. Emma Pooley (GBr) Garmin-Cervélo, + 02:32
3. Judith Arndt (Ger) HTC-Highroad, + 07:39
4. Tatiana Guderzo (Ita) MCipollini Giambenini, + 07:46
5. Sylwia Kapusta (Pol) Gauss, + 10:07
6. Ruth Corset (Aus) Bizkaia Durango, + 10:41
7. Tatiana Antoshina (Rus) Gauss, + 11:01
8. Shara Gillow (Aus) Bizkaia Durango, + 12:27
9. Emma Johansson (Swe) Hitec Products UCK, + 12:41
10. Mara Abbott (USA) Diadora Pasta Zara, + 13:04
Marianne Vos keeps the points jersey, but Pooley has taken the mountains jersey from her. Elena Berlato, from Top Girls Fassa Bortolo, keeps the white jersey of best young rider. Judith Arndt increased her lead for 3rd place on Tatiana Guderzo - but Guderzo keeps the blue jersey of Best Italian.
After the stage, the riders had a 5-hour, 320km transfer for tomorrow's stage - more mountains, and then the final ITT on Sunday. Spare a thought for the poor riders, it'll be past eight before they get to wash off the day's mud - imagine how they look, from Tiffany Cromwell's tweet!
Who needs a facial when you can get covered in mud in the last 2kms on wet gravel roads, a dirty end to a tough stage, Pooley took the win.
Emma Pooley is a super-talented rider, combining serious climbing skills with an awesome ITT ability, which the rainbow stripes of World Champion and the silver medal from the Beijing Olympics prove. She's known for killer breakaways, and for fantastic post-race quotes, all self-deprecating humour. She came late to cycling - she was a cross-country runner before moving to cycling after injuries stopped her running. She's also a very intelligent woman - she did her degree at Cambridge, and in the off-season is doing a PhD in geotechnical engineering (she explains all about it in this great interview in Bicycling) - and did I mention she gives fantastic interviews? Here's her interviewed by Gavia last year - and here's one in Velonation from March. What else? She bakes brownies for her team-mates, speaks about 4 languages fluently.... She just keeps getting better and better on the bike - it's a shame we don't have more races for the climbers, so we can see her in action, and even with time out from breaking her collarbone in training, she's having a fantastic year, winning the first World Cup race with one of her crazed escapes. She's so easy to fangirl about!
Ruth Corset, who finished in third place, is someone you don't see much of in the European races - she has two little daughters back in Australia, so she's been coming over with the Australian National Team (and last year with Tibco) for trips to Europe, and always is one to watch out for. It always seems much easier for the men to balance family life with cycling, so I have a huge admiration for the women with children who race. We nearly didn't see Corset at the Giro this year - so many UCI-registered teams wanted to ride the Giro that there was no room for national teams. Luckily for fans of the Aussies, Bizkaia-Durango quickly signed up some of the riders - and with a stage win by Shara Gillow and now Corset on the podium, they must be congratulating themselves!
Amanda Miller joined HTC-Highroad this year - last year she rode the Giro for Tibco, but she crashed on the Stelvio stage and couldn't finish the race. She has a lovely "how I got into cycling piece" on her website, and she's the kind of rider we love around here, with a blog and a twitter account. Plus before the race, she took some time to tell us what she was looking forward to in the race. She's a super-friendly rider - I met her at the Luxembourg races, and she gave me a little video interview... what IS it like to be described as the future of American cycling?!