Race report

Lucinda Brand takes fantastic 2nd place on summit finish

Giro d'Italia Internazionale Femminile

Despite the organisers being forced to make amendments to the route and take out the famous Gavia climb, the fifth stage of the race was certainly still an incredibly difficult day in the saddle; with roughly 2500m of climbing in only 88 kilometres.

Once out of the neutralised zone, the riders faced a small uncategorised ascent before the first main challenge of the day. Only classified as a second category ascent, the climb averaged a steep seven percent for just over nine kilometres. The bunch attacked the climb hard, with riders hoping to break clear but nothing stuck and the peloton were grouped going over through the QOM point. However, the high pace had exploded the bunch and there was only an elite group of 25 at the head of the race as they started the descent. There was a small hiatus once in the valley and some riders were able to get back on; with the main bunch numbering around 45 riders strong.

A solo rider then launched an attack and managed to escape the peloton, quickly building up an advantage of over two minutes. As the hostilities resumed in the bunch and the terrain began to roll again, Leah Kirchmann broke clear with another rider and they made it up to the head of the race. Continuing to work well they held a lead of two minutes in the last 20 kilometres but as the road started to head upwards again, the peloton slowly reeled them in. Kirchmann put up a fight and was the last rider caught by an attacking Van Vleuten, who would go on to win the stage, at seven kilometres left in the day.

On the brutally steep gradients and with every rider in the peloton suffering, the gap to the front of the race grew even further. Following on from her good results earlier in the race, Lucinda Brand delivered a very impressive performance to win the sprint from an elite group of riders for second place on the day, climbing up the GC standings as a result. Juliette Labous dug deep on the tough finish climb as well and extended her lead in the best young rider’s competition, even moving into the top ten overall too.

“From the start it was hard with a high pace up the first climb and the whole bunch was already broken into several groups,” explained Brand at the finish. “After the downhill we were in a valley but the road always headed slowly up and the speed dropped a bit there. Some groups came back and we were in a peloton of around 40 riders. Leah did a super job to make a break with another rider and she was ahead of us going onto the final climb. The tempo was really hard at the bottom of the climb and Van Vleuten attacked early, and no one really even tried to go with her. Our group just rode a steady pace up the climb but we were all looking at each other at points. I had to stay patient and because I knew the climb, I knew that the steep sections were not too long. I felt strong and with around four kilometres to go there was an attack and I could follow, whereas it took some of the other riders a bit longer. It then slowed down again and we were all watching each other heading towards the finish. The last two kilometres were all on gravel and I made sure I was always in a good position, near the front. With 200 metres to go I started my sprint effort. I’m really happy to have won the sprint for second and with my performance on the stage. Juliette also did a really good job to stay with the group for most of the climb; we had a really good day as a team today.”

Team Sunweb coach Nicolas Marche added: “We expected a hard stage and we got exactly that. After the first climb there were only 25 riders at the front of the race and we had Lucinda, Leah and Juliette in the group. Things regrouped a bit before Leah went on the attack, so that Lucinda and Juliette could save some energy in the bunch. Leah did a great job in the break before helping on the last climb. Lucinda and Juliette both did really strong climbs, with Lucinda taking a super second place and Juliette finishing just outside the top ten. It was a good day for us and I’m really happy with how the team rode today.”

Results

Pos. Rider Team Time Points
1 VAN VLEUTEN Annemiek Mitchelton-Scott 3:09:47 25
2 BRAND Lucinda Team Sunweb 2:57 20
3 NIEWIADOMA Katarzyna Canyon SRAM Racing ,, 18