Pontecagnano Faiano – Pontecagnano Faiano (99.6km)
Stage 2 of the Giro Rosa finished in another hectic bunch sprint in which two-time world champion Giorgia Bronzini (Wiggle-Honda) took out the stage into Pontecagnano Faiano. She narrowly beat Marianne Vos (Rabobank) who had to settle for second again with Barbara Guarischi (Vaiano) rounding out the top 3. Vos further extended her lead in the overall classification and she stays in the pink jersey.
The stage today consisted of 4 laps of a 24.9km circuit. Aside from the short 15% climb 2km into each lap — a rude start to any race — it was a fairly flat circuit. It was a fun little circuit with some technical sectors combined with fast, wide-open roads.
The back part of the circuit made its way through olive groves and it was another big wide open straight run in to the finish. With a bad road surface and big potholes, I was surprised there weren’t more broken wheels, but it was a circuit that could lend itself to exciting racing.
We went into the stage with a more aggressive approach today. It was a day to look for opportunities, to go on the offensive in the second half of the race and see if we could get a break up the road. If it was to come back to a bunch kick, and if Mel Hoskins was still there, we would set it up for her once again.
After the harder-than-expected opening climb it was a relatively fast start. Boels Dolmans were interested in trying to get moves up the road early, putting in a few attacks along with some Italian teams. But nothing was successful.
For the most part the first lap was pretty quiet with nothing overly exciting going on. I had to take a short trip back to the race doctor after having some stitches removed this morning from my finger, only to have the wound reopen once we started racing. So I was off to get my finger dressed to prevent further damage. Hanging off of the car, avoiding potholes while trying to stay upright made things interesting.
There was more action on the second lap, most of it happening in the first half. Stretching out each time over the climb, Rabobank went on the offensive putting in some strong attacks to put pressure on other teams and keep the racing quite open.
While everyone is still fresh and with sprinters making it over the climb it makes it difficult for a break to stick. Often there were individuals going off the front but gaining no more than a handful of seconds. At the end of the second lap there was the only intermediate sprint of the day for bonus time. The teams interested in the bonus seconds were organised with trains at the front. Vos continued her collection of bonus seconds by taking out the sprint and furthering her advantage on the overall classification.
As we hit the 3rd lap it was time for us to start playing our cards. With Loes suffering from the heat it was Spratty, Gracie and Jessie who all took turns launching attacks and looking for opportunities to get moves up the road. It was frustrating that nothing was able to get clear for more than a short period of time but it seemed that all the sprinters’ teams were determined to make it another sprint today.
On the final lap the racing really heated up and it was a fast and exciting final 25km. With GPM points on offer the last time up the climb, it was hard and fast. Valentina Scandolara (MCipollini Giordana) further extended her lead in this competition coming over the top first with the peloton splitting into three significant groups.
I made the most of coming over the top with the front and enjoyed fast descents. I tried to put some pressure on the front by stretching it out and seeing if I could sneak off the front. We had a group of about 10 riders with all the GC favourites there, but also Bronzini so no one was interested in keeping this group away.
I tried a couple of attacks but they were covered every time and eventually the groups came back together to form a large group at the front. It was looking like another bunch kick.
The last significant move was by a Pasta Zara rider who was away solo holding off the bunch but as the sprint trains began to get organised she was slowly reeled in by the time we hit 5km to go. We lost Mel the last time over the climb so we had to make a quick change of plans and decided to do the sprint for Gracie.
The finish was again a very fast and hectic finale with many near-crashes, losing each other and finding each other again trying to keep the train together. There was a little bit more organisation today amongst the teams but it was still a little bit all for one.
Loes, Spratty and myself were the main ones there to help Gracie in the finish but it was a challenge staying together, finding gaps and trying not to get boxed in. Loes came to the front with a little over a kilometer to go, putting Gracie in the perfect position and out of trouble.
With the headwind we needed one more rider ahead of Gracie as it was just a little bit far for Loes to go the whole distance. In the final 500m the elbows were out and Gracie got pushed back a little as the sprint opened up, girls going everywhere and more near-crashes. Bronzini proved too fast and took out stage 2.
Gracie finished just outside of the top 10 but again it was a day of many positives that we can take from the race and look at the areas for improvements. Tomorrow looks to be the first GC day with a tough, undulating route so it will be time for Shara and myself to really show our faces and see what we can do.
After Gerro’s fantastic stage win today at the TDF today the pressure is on for us to match them. Not that there’s an inner competition for bragging rights or anything.
Until next time, keep on pedalling.
Tiff finished in the main bunch with the same time as the winner. She sits 24th overall, 21 seconds behind Marianne Vos. Gracie Elvin is the highest-placed Australian rider in 13th place. Follow the link to see full results from stage 2 of the 2013 Giro Rosa. And click here to see Gracie Elvin’s blog post from stage 2.