Cerro al Volturno – Cerro al Volturno (99.6km)
Marianne Vos (Rabobank) finally took her first win of the 2013 Giro Rosa winning solo on top of the short but steep climb to Cerro al Volturno, further extending her lead in the overall classification. Claudia Hausler (Team Tibco) lead home the select chasing group to finish 2nd ahead of Tatiana Guderzo (MCipollini Giordana).
It was the first day of the race where we would see a big shake up in the GC and the overall contenders coming to the fore. You just had to look around at the surrounding terrain to know what we were in for; there were hills all around.
We did a similar stage in 2009 with the same finish that I quickly remembered when we arrived at the start. Up and down all day with technical descents, nice winding climbs, very little flat and a 700m steep pave climb to the finish. There was no hiding today.
It was a day for us to show our cards and we knew it was a stage that could suit our strengths. We had Spratty, Gracie and Loes to try and get into an early move and be aggressive. If they were up the road early they could be useful later in the race if the GC girls came out to them.
Then there was Shara and myself to have a good hard crack to put us into the race, look for opportunities to gain time over the other GC girls and potentially go for the stage win. For Jessie and Mel it was a day of survival, to try and look after themselves as much as possible ahead of the next sprint stage.
You make a plan but sometimes you can’t predict how the race is going to pan out and today was one of those days. It was an exciting and hard day of racing, very hot on the bike and our limits were pushed.
The Giro organisers this year don’t seem to like giving us a chance to relax into the stages but instead get the racing started from the get go. 2km into the stage we hit our first climb. Although it was quite gradual, if you didn’t have good legs it could hurt. And with the first GPM coming 9km into the stage you knew the pace would go up pretty quickly.
Valentina Scandolara (MCipollini Giordana) continued to chase the points and extend her lead in that competition taking out the first cat 3 climb. From there the racing really began. A number of attacks over the top from Orica-AIS and Rabobank stretched things out but couldn’t quite stick. It was the first descent that formed the break of the day.
I put myself in a perfect position. In the women’s peloton there is a wide range of handling abilities. I am confident in my descending abilities on the bike but I know the safest place is to be near the front to avoid the carnage. You know you’re in trouble when Vos comes to the front at the start of the descent — she is by far the best bike handler in the peloton and she knows it, using this strength to put pressure on the other GC contenders who she knows can struggle on the descents.
It was a full gas, eyes-closed hope for the best descent, pushing the handling to the absolute limits because you knew if you could stick with Vos, there wasn’t going to be many others left with you. There were certainly a number of times where I almost ended up over the guardrail but pulled it up just in time and got back on the wheel. Even the cars at times couldn’t stay far enough ahead with the pace we were pushing.
By the end of the descent we had formed a lead group of 6 riders with a nice little advantage on the rest of the peloton. Vos and Lucinda Brand (Rabobank), Scandolara, myself, Lauren Hall (USA national team) and Barbara Guarischi (Vaiano) formed the lead group.
You know it is always worthwhile working in a group when Vos is there as she is always happy to drive the break and then you can deal with working out how to beat her closer to the finish. With two Rabobank riders there and a lot of major GC threats missing, the break worked well together with 4 of us rolling through while Hall and Guarischi sat on trying to get a free ride.
Our lead hovered anywhere between 40 seconds and 1:10 as we slowly descended into the head wind towards the bottom part of the course before looping around and heading back up to the finish. We knew we couldn’t relax because with Specialized-Lululemon missing this move, along with many other teams, they were chasing hard behind.
As we started climbing and making our way back up, the lead group slowly reduced one by one until it was just myself and Vos leading the race with around 40km still remaining. I was happy with this situation as it was putting me into a perfect position for GC and also I was in the position to ride for the stage win.
We weren’t as strong as some of the climbers chasing from behind but our combined strength on the descents continually extended our lead. Again though, I really had to push my limits to hold Vos on the descents but I was feeling strong and on a good day.
Over the final climb with 10km remaining before descending down and back up to the finish we still had a 30 second lead. I knew I just had to hold Vos’ wheel on the descent and we would have a nice little advantage into the finish to try and fight for the win. Unfortunately my run of good luck and smart riding had run out with around 6km remaining.
On one of the hairpin bends I must’ve pushed just a touch too hard or hit a small patch of gravel. I don’t know — it happened all too quickly but I was down. I got up just as quickly but Vos was gone and the chasing bunch quickly caught me once I was back on my bike and going again. The chasing group wasn’t organised enough and Vos managed to stay away to take the solo win.
As we reached the final rise, my legs were done. Starting to cramp and after a hard day off of the front I didn’t have anything left so I groveled my way up the climb as the rest of the girls raced for 2nd leaving me to finish the day in 13th.
It was a frustrating way to end such a strong day on the bike but sometimes you have to push your limits to succeed. I certainly pushed my limits, but that’s bike racing. I can take a lot of confidence from today. There are still five stages to go so hopefully luck will be on my side next time and the hard work will be rewarded.
It was an exciting day of racing and nice to be a part of the action.
Tiff’s 13th place on stage 3 moves her into 13th place overall, 1:57 behind Marianne Vos who leads overall. Tiff’s teammate Shara Gillow is currently the highest placed Australian, sitting 11th overall, 1:36 behind Vos. Follow the link for full results from stage 3 of the 2013 Giro Rosa.