a.k.a. insert your own Cannibal references here!
Stage 9, and against all odds, Marianne Vos, THE best cyclist on the world, male or female, across any discipline, does something none of us (except Monty) expected, and wins her 5th stage of the Giro Donne, conquering the mountains and one of the most bizarre stages I've seen in any bike race, to keep her maglia rosa.
The stage had over 80km of climbing, from 300m to 1600m above sea-level, including 3km of badly-lit, steep tunnels towards the end. Monty has the profiles in his preview - but it wasn't the day you'd expect Vos to shine. But if there's one thing we know about Marianne Vos, it's that the more important the race is, the more she can bring to it.
Here's Cicloweb's video from the finishline:
And here's the hour-long video of the stage. A thousand thanks to the youtubers, to the Cicloweb team, and to Beth Duryea (HTC) and Karl Lima (Hitec) for their updates, and to all the riders who let us know what happened through twitter - we really appreciate it!
Once again, there were attacks from the start, and breaks forming and caught - Ina-Yoko Teutenberg (HTC) tried, and an attempt by Charlotte Becker (HTC), Trixi Worrrack (AA Drink-Leontien.nl) and Olga Zabelinskaya (Diadora Pasta Zara). But then a group formed that stayed ahead, and once again, HTC-Highroad's Amanda Miller was in it - starting at km 34, it lasted over 80km, most of the way up the mountain. Cicloweb tells us that as well as Miller, it included Claudia Häusler (Diadora Pasta Zara), Irene van den Broek & Trixi Worrack (AA Drink-Leontien.nl), Emma Johansson (Hitec Products UCK), Petra Dijkman (Netherlands), Monia Baccaille (MCipollini-Giambenini), Andrea Dvorak (Colavita Forno d'Asolo), Sharon Laws (Garmin-Cervélo), Ashleigh Moolman (Lotto Honda) and Polona Batagelj (Bizkaia-Durango).
The escapees built up a lead of 2:20 by km 80, but as the climb got higher, the chase group got nearer, with HTC active on the front for their GC hope, Judith Arndt, Garmin-Cervélo for Emma Pooley and Nederland Bloeit for Marianne Vos. Looking at the front, it was a set of elite riders - Ina Teutenberg and Noemi Cantele leading, until they burnt themselves out, leaving a chase group with 4 World Champions in Arndt, Tatiana Guderzo (MCipollini Giambenini), Vos and Pooley as current ITT World Champs - with Russian Tatiana Antoshina (Gauss) and last year's winner Mara Abbott (Diadora Pasta Zara), who had fallen in the early stages of the race.
At Noasca, Häusler attacked out of the front group, and only Johansson could follow her, riding together up hairpins where if they looked over the edge, they would have seen the chasing groups beneath them. Behind them, Pooley had attacked out of the chasers, followed by Vos and the white jersey holder, Elena Berlato (Top Girls) - they were caught, and then the tunnels began.
The first tunnels weren't so bad, although one of them caused Vos to need a bike change. It was crazy attacking and action all the way up - Fabiana Luperini (MCipollini-Giambenini) attacked and caught part of the original group - ahead Häusler dropped Johansson, and below, the shock of the day - Marianne Vos attacked, and no one could follow. She caught and passed the remains of the break, and only Johansson and Häusler were ahead of her. And then came the longest tunnel, over 3km.
This was one of the strangest places to race I've seen. The lighting wasn't great - going from pools of tungsten light to pools of darkness, with the echoing of loud speakers and whistles from the race vehicles, with the lights of the tv motorbike shining behind the riders. All the time, going up hill - at some point, Monty says, the tunnels were at gradients of 12 and 15%. It felt eerie just watching it - and seemed to go forever, I can't imagine what it was like to ride.
In the first section, Vos saw Johansson up ahead, and sprinted to catch her while she was in one of the pools of light. Johansson stayed with Vos and then, up ahead, was Häusler. The three rode on together (for company?) until a section where natural light came through - and Vos attacked, just as Pooley caught the trio. Another seemingly endless tunnel, and Pooley caught Vos, taking the lead through the darkness. Eventually the pair emerged into the daylight, and roads into Ceresole Reale lined with specatators - football teams, nuns, cyclists, hikers, all cheering - it must have been such a strange experience, going from this nightmarish darkness to people everywhere. 3km to go, and Vos and Pooley fought all the way through the town - first one, then the other attacking, but neither able to get away from the other. The profile suggested the final kilometres were flat, but it still kept going up...
Behind them, Johansson and Häusler had been caught by Guderzo, Arndt and Abbott in the tunnels, and dropped - Abbott attacked on the final hills, but couldn't shake Arndt and Guderzo, and burnt herself out, dropping behind.
In a super-exciting finale, Pooley crossed the 1km to go line first, trying and trying to shake off Vos, until at 200m to go, the Dutchwoman attacked, sprinting home. Pooley had nothing left, it was all she could do just to ride in - Vos sprinted in with time to do up her jersey and cross the line, arms in the air. Pooley crossed 12 seconds later, and behind them, Arndt sprinted away to grab a few extra seconds to consolidate her 3rd place in the GC.
So with just a short ITT stage left to go, barring disasters tomorrow, Marianne Vos is the winner of this year's Giro Donne.
Here's Cicloweb's mini-video interview with Marianne Vos before the stage in English:
And after the stage, also in English, where she can't believe what she's done. She says that with every year she gets better... imagine the possibilities!
And here's their mini-interview with Emma Pooley, looking exhausted and glum:
Stage 9 results
1. Marianne Vos Marianne (Ned) Nederland Bloeit, 3:12:03
2. Emma Pooley (GBr) Garmin Cervelo, + 00:12
3. Judith Arndt (Ger)) HTC Highroad, + 00:22
4. Tatiana Guderzo (Ita) MCipollini-Giambenini, + 00:25
5. Mara Abbott (USA) Diadora Pasta Zara, + 00:33
6. Tatiana Antoshina (Rus) Gauss, + 00:50
7. Ruth Corset (Aus) Bizkaia Durango, + 00:57
8. Claudia Häusler (Ger) Diadora Pasta Zara, + 01:03
9. Emma Johansson (Swe) Hitec Products, + 01:33
10. Elena Berlato Elena (Ita) Top Girls Fassa Bortolo, + 01:55
So the changes to the GC top 4 are that Marianne Vos has increased her overall lead and taken back the mountains jersey, and Arndt adds another precious 3 seconds to her 3rd place over Guderzo. Elena Berlato has cemented her win in the Best Young Rider competition - huge congratulations to La Piccolina!
Emma Johansson also deserves praise for her fantastic ride - Häusler is a superb climber, and former winner of the Giro Donne, it was great to see her back on top form - but this is the first time in years that Johansson has ridden the Giro, she's really shone.
GC after Stage 9
1. Marianne Vos Marianne (Ned) Nederland Bloeit, 25:20:08
2. Emma Pooley (GBr) Garmin Cervelo, + 02:48
3. Judith Arndt (Ger)) HTC Highroad, + 08:07
4. Tatiana Guderzo (Ita) MCipollini-Giambenini, + 08:21
5. Ruth Corset (Aus) Bizkaia Durango, + 11:48
6. Tatiana Antoshina (Rus) Gauss, + 12:01
7. Sylwia Kapusta (Pol) Gauss, + 12:18
8. Mara Abbott (USA) Diadora Pasta Zara, + 13:47
9. Emma Johansson (Swe) Hitec Products, + 14:20
10. Shara Gillow (Aus) Bizkaia Durango, + 14:38
1. Marianne Vos Marianne (Ned) Nederland Bloeit, 101 points
2. Ina-Yoko Teuteneberg (Ger) HTC Highroad, 51
3. Emma Pooley (GBr) Garmin Cervelo, 45
1. Marianne Vos Marianne (Ned) Nederland Bloeit, 54 points
2. Emma Pooley (GBr) Garmin Cervelo, 53
3. Judith Arndt (Ger)) HTC Highroad, 22
1. Elena Berlato Elena (Ita) Top Girls Fassa Bortolo, 25:36:37
2. Lucinda Brand (Ned) AA Drink-Leontien.nl, + 06:57
3. Elisa Longo Borghini (Ita) Top Girls Fassa Bortolo, + 09:53
Some post-stage tweets, to give you an idea of how the riders are feeling
Breakaway queen Amanda Miller:
Judith 3rd on the stage. I was in a break for 80km(ish) of the race. Caught on final STEEP climbs. Lots of spectators today, very cool!
Her team-mate, super-sprinter Ina-Yoko Teutenberg:
Spectacular finish. Steep as f....+ I'm feel f.... F.... Too :).
Bridie O'Donnell, Top Girls Fassa Bortolo
And Diadora Pasta Zara's Amber Pierce references Bridie too!
Amazing how many fans lined the finish today. Spettacolo! (Maybe they read @Bridie_OD 's comment yday about "some nudity in the carpark"?)
On r way to the hotel, passing a LOT of cyclists who came out to support the #GiroDonne. The fans here ROCK. Thank you for the support!!
Pierce's team-mate Rachel Neylan:
Today's @Girodonne had fans lining the climbs & villages dressed with pink balloons and streamers.. a great feeling :)
Karl Lima (Hitec manager), on Emma Johansson and the Hitec riders:
Emma Johansson 9 in Giro de Italia.. the others too tired to speak, all they know is they finished somehowMassive congratulations to all the riders, they're total heroes, and have my admiration, each and every one!
I've been adding in some additional information about the active riders to my post-race threads, and today I want to tell you some more about Judith Arndt. She's won World Champion titles in the road race and on the track, and this year won her 13th German national title when she retained her ITT crown - our own Bec was lucky enough to be following in the HTC car behind her, taking some fantastic photos. I wrote about her last year in my Top Trumps series - she's a fantastic character, so I won't repeat myself - but she's been riding so well - working on the front, for her team-mates on the flat stages, especially in Stage 4, supporting her team-mate Ina-Yoko Teutenberg for the win. Arndt is a powerhouse, and her perfomance is all the more impressive, given she says her weakness is really long climbs!