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The Doctor is in! Giro Rosa Stage 6, and the mountains begin....

It was the first of four days with big mountains, and after Rabobank-Liv domination, would the script change? Truth be told, the stage looked perfect for them - but could they make it? OK, OK, the cover photo probably gives it away, but read all about it - with lots of videos!

Emma pooley wins Stage 6 of the 2014 Giro Rosa
Emma pooley wins Stage 6 of the 2014 Giro Rosa
Giro Rosa

race highlights, with interviews in Engligh 45 mins from Italian tv

The stage was a tough one - here's the Velofocus profile, from his excellent preview - which also includes the googlemap run as far up that last climb, up a narrow half-paved road through a beautiful forest - gorgeous to look at, less fun to climb.


It was nasty weather, too, and that first climb might not have been long, but it was 20% - so no surprise when Emma Pooley attacked on it!

Despite what she said before the race, Dr Emma Pooley was one of the big fan-favourites for the Giro win, as she's one of the best climbers in the peloton, and combines that with devastating ITT skills that won her the 2010 World Championship gold, and the 2008 ITT Olympic silver.  She started her 2014 season late, after taking 8 months or so away from top-level racing to finish her PhD, and run some marathons (as you do!), and her biggest result was winning the GB ITT Championships - but of course, we hadn't had any mountain races yet. Her hopes for the win were dashed after Stage 1, where she rode the entire race with a dramatic-looking nosebleed AND through mechanical issues - and more problems on Stage 2 meant she started today 8'56" back on the General Classification.  This wasn't all bad news, however, as that meant she wasn't a GC threat - would she be allowed to ride?

On that first climb, it was less a question of being "allowed" to get away - she powered up it, and no one could touch her.  She was racing solo through the rain, and it on the middle section, chased by a really interesting group of 6 riders - sprinters Giorgia Bronzini (Wiggle Honda), Jessie Daams (Boels-Dolmans), current Queen of the Mountains Valentina Scandolara (ORICA-AIS), Classics & stage race star (& rider most likely to win "Most Aggressive" jersey) Trixi Worrack (Specialized-lululemon) and two great climbers - Elena Berlato (Alé-Cipollini) who was 2nd on Stage 3, and Rabo-Liv's Kasia Niewiadoma. A nice mix of teams and types - and out of the climbers, Niewiadoma the highest up GC at +3'46", so no incentive for the teams with riders up the road to help anyone else, and the gap to the first group back fluctuated grew to two and a half minutes - with Scandolara taking the second QoM points, ahead of Pooley and Niewiadoma.

That group behind included all the big GC threats, and as the escapees reached the big climb of the day, they obviously turned up the gas, as the gap started dropping.  Salita dei Carbonai, the climb to La Crosetta, was the first really long climb we've seen the European peloton tackling this season - 1,000m over 13k, with steep sections, and a rough road, so luck would count as much as legs...  and it soon took its toll, with Scandolara, Bronzini and Worrack dropping off the front, and Pooley and Niewiadoma leading....  and then Pooley attacked.

The climb had sliced through the chase - with Rabo once more dominating - maglia rosa Marianne Vos, and one of the most exciting riders from the last few years, Anna van der Breggen who had attacked solo on the climb, and was only caught by the chase after the GPM point - and with them defending Giro champion Mara Abbott (UnitedHealthcare), 2009 winner Claudia Lichtenberg, aka Claudia Häusler (Liv-Shimano) and Italian superstar Elisa Longo Borghini (Hitec Products) - other top GC riders Emma Johansson (ORICA),  Megan Guarnier (Boels-Dolmans), Evelyn Stevens (Specialized) and Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (Hitec) having been dropped and chasing in the second group.  Formidable!  Three Rabos and another up the road - when Pooley crossed the top of the climb with around a minute on Niewiadoma and two to the group, it didn't look like it would be enough.


Pooley out solo, via Velofocus - click though for all his Stage 6 photos

Two minutes, with around 20km to race for home, and in the plus column for her, Pooley had her ITT skills - but in the minus, those Rabos all have superb descending skills, especially Vos - remember how on Stage 4 in 2012, she was 50 seconds behind Vos and Stevens at the top of the climb, and a minute and a half ahead of them, after the long descent?  And while Pooley has improved so much since the days she used to descend like a Schleck or a Wiggins, how could she win with half a team chasing her together?  And the Rabos soon had another advantage, when former junior World Road, ITT & MTB champion Pauline Ferrand-Prévot caught them on the descent - 3 out of 6 in that group!

Such an exciting finish, hitting refresh on twitter until I got RSI... Niewiadoma was caught, and the gap was 1:45 at 12k... 1:20 at 10km, then 50", 40"...  Van der Breggen attacked and was caught again, so it was the Rabo train working hard.... 30" at 5km to go - surely Pooley would be caught?  Only 15" at 3km to go... and then - WOW!  Pooley had made it!  And with the chase group on the same finishing straight, too - so close!

Look how close the chase got - in the photo up top you can see the motos with the chasers in the background.

Here's the sprint for second


Sprinting for second - photo via the Giro Rosa

Stage 6 results

1.   Emma Pooley (GBr) Lotto-Belisol, 3:05:46
2.   Anna van der Breggen (Ned) Rabobank-Liv, + 00:15
3.   Marianne Vos (Ned) Rabo-Liv, s.t.
4.   Pauline Ferrand-Prévot (Fra) Rabobank-Liv, s.t.
5.   Claudia Lichtenberg Häusler (Ger) Liv-Shimano, s.t.
6.   Elisa Longo Borghini (Ita) Hitc Products, s.t.
7.   Mara Abbott (USA) UnitedHealthcare, s.t.
8.   Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Pol) Rabobnk-Liv, + 01:06
9.   Annemiek van Vleuten (Ned) Rabo-Liv, + 04:19
10. Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (RSA) Hitec Products, s.t.

It seems amazing, but although Pooley's been second in the Giro overall twice, in 2011 and 2012, and won the very mountainous Tour de l'Aude grand tour and all kinds of World Cups and hilly/escapey races, this is only her second Giro win - and to win it in such style, on a course that wasn't ideal for her - she deserves it, after her awful start - and there are still more mountain stages to come!

It's also testament to how much hard work riders can do to change their styles.  As a rider who came relatively late to cycling, starting in her early twenties after injuries stopped her running, Pooley said she always used to attack early to try to get away so she could cope with losing time on the downhill -  and she's worked hard in the off seasons, with her coach Tim Williams, to make sure she's improved.  She's put real effort into this, and it's great to see that pay off.

UPDATE! Emma Pooley was really kind enough to answer some questions for the Café about her win - along with the usual great Q&A from Amanda Spratt, and Jolien D'Hoore on how her first Giro is going - read it here.  And mini BBC report on her win.

For more on what Pooley's been up to in the last few years, check out my interviews with her - from her start of the 2014 season, part 1 and part 2, and from just before the Giro.

LOVE this infographic from the day - thank you Marcos!


Here's Ash Moolman-Pasio's audio report from the stage - and here's Chloe Hosking's excellent blog from the stage - and another great blog, from Tiffany Cromwell, on CyclingTips.

Lovely photos from Velofocus - And here's the Rabo-Liv video


Johansson and Guarnier finished in the Van Vleuten group of 7 - while Stevens, Amialiusik and Luperini were in the next group of 7, 6:19 back - so changes to the GC..

General Classification after Stage 6

1.   Marianne Vos (Ned) Rabobank-Liv, 18:03:19
2.   Pauline Ferrand-Prévot (Fra) Rabobank-Liv, + 00:45
3.   Elisa Longo Borghini (Ita) Hitec Products, + 00:53
4.   Anna van der Breggen (Ned) Rabobank-Liv, + 02:12
5.   Claudia Häusler (Ger) Liv-Shimano, + 02:17
6.   Mara Abbott (USA) UnitedHealthcare, +  02:58
7.   Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Pol) Rabobnk-Liv, + 04:41
8.   Annemiek van Vleuten (Ned) Rabo-Liv, + 06:09
9.   Emma Johansson (Swe) ORICA-AIS, + 06:18
10. Megan Guarnier (USA) Boels-Dolmans, s.t.
11.  Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (RSA) Hitec Products, + 06:26

What's it like to be Marianne Vos' bottle of prosecco on the podium?  (I can't believe I just typed that!)

Wiggle Honda's video of the stage:

and a fan-video from the first climb - very nice!

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So what's happening tomorrow? Stage 7 starts with a big climb, but a long run through a valley, so possibilities for escapes and catches.  Read the Velofocus preview, and admire his profile!


I'll add in the video and photos and blogs later - of coruse, if you see anything you like, put it in the comments - and don't forget to watch the tv!