Monte San Vito – Castelfidardo (137.2km)
Marianne Vos took her 2nd stage win of the 2013 Giro Rosa as she sprinted to victory ahead of Evelyn Stevens (Specialized-Lululemon) and Ashleigh Moolman (Lotto-Belisol) on the hilltop finish into Castelfidardo. Vos continues to solidify her lead in the overall classification but with two mountain days to come it is still anybody’s race.
Today’s fourth stage was the longest of the race at 137km. Racing around the province of Ancona we had some nice rolling roads paired with fast and flat sectors. Add in a couple of leg-sapping climbs along the way before the final 2km climb to the finish for an uphill battle into Castelfidardo.
It was a stage that could have gone a number of ways, coming after a hard day of racing yesterday and followed by two-race defining stages tomorrow and the following day. The GC riders might have be looking for an ‘easier’ day, allowing a breakaway with non-GC threats to take the limelight but with the climb to the finish it could also have be another opportunity to gain time on their rivals.
For Shara and myself our job was to have an easier day and just cover any GC threats and be ready for the finish if a breakaway didn’t succeeded. For the rest of our girls it was a chance to go for a stage win, to be aggressive, to get into moves and see if we could get anything up the road.
It was an earlier start today with a 5-hour transfer scheduled after the race — the organisers wanted to try and let us get to our hotels at a reasonable hour this evening. Another hot day was on the cards and after a very slow and relaxing 15 minute neutral down the hill out of the town we were off and racing.
It was an aggressive start with a number of girls and teams trying to create an early break but as with every other day nothing would stick. It was a vicious circle — if one Italian team was in the break, every Italian team wanted to be there and if there was one rider from the bigger teams then all the bigger teams would want a rider there. It would always get to the point where there were too many girls in the front so it would be chased back and start all over again.
Around 40km into the stage we got a nice little coffee stop as a train held us up. Italian train crossings always lower well before the train comes so you can be waiting up to 5 minutes just to pass. It was an opportunity to get fresh bidons from the team, relax and for some, take a quick nature break. This is always a little bit harder for girls than guys in races, trying to find somewhere to hide. Sometimes you just have to go.
Eventually the train had passed and after a short neutral zone allowed everybody to get going again we were back racing. At this point we were only 10km from the GPM (QOM) of the day — a cat 2 climb — and it was going to be short but tough.
All the climbers made their way to the front and as I have been collecting a few points along the way I decided to have a go if I was in the right position. My teammates helped put me into a perfect spot for the climb and I was able to take maximum points ahead of Vos and Scandolara. I now sit 1 point off the lead behind Vos, the new leader in the mountains classification.
The climb caused the peloton to split into two groups and with an intermediate sprint coming just 5km later, at the bottom of the descent, the pace was on. I took advantage of being in a good position heading into the sprint and claimed second behind Vos, picking up a couple of bonus seconds. It was a worthwhile sprint to get amongst as I later discovered there was a bonus cash prize for the first 3 in the sprint to be presented at the finish on the podium.
The peloton came back together not long after the sprint and from then until the end of the race it was fast with a lot of attacks, breaks almost getting established but again not getting more than a handful of seconds. I had to feel for Spratty today as she tried so many times to get in the moves for us but just couldn’t get anything to stick.
While all of this was happening up front, I was happily sitting in the bunch floating wheels, only to get a mechanical. I had a nice little visit back to the team car for a quick bike change. My chain had jumped off the last cog on my cassette getting jammed between the cassette and the frame. It eventually came unstuck but it was safer to change bikes than have it happen again at a critical point in the race.
After a second trip back to have my seat height adjusted, hanging off the team car, sitting on the top tube while the mechanic performed the changes on the go, I was back in the bunch. That was my little bit of excitement for the day to keep me awake and alert.
With about 25km to go it was time for me to switch on and start thinking about the finish. With the way the race was going, a break wasn’t getting away. My teammates were awesome today — all day they were there for me if I needed them and coming into the finish was no different. The most important thing was not getting swamped as we turned left into the climb with 2km to go.
I had all the girls forming a train for Shara and myself in the last 5km, keeping us out of trouble and in the best possible spot for the finish. Just before we reached the turn the strong Dutch engine of Ellen Van Dijk (Specialized-Lululemon) came to the front to help set it up for Stevens. This caused a bit of swarming but I managed to stay in good position as we entered the final 2km.
Mel gave one last dig for me, giving everything she had left to deliver me close to the front and then it was left to me to see if I could try and finish the job off for the girls.
The finishing climb was a touch harder than expected and the pace was high. But I was holding my ground well, staying with the front selection that was forming. We made one last right hand turn where it kicked again for the last 500m to the finish.
It was Claudia Hausler (Team Tibco) who was the first to go but she was quickly covered. As we reached 300m to go my legs said “no more!” and I couldn’t stay with the leaders. Vos again proved too strong but it was a great finish by both Stevens and Moolman to also finish on the podium.
I managed to hold on to 9th, not too far behind, I tried to finish off the job for the girls but I just didn’t quite have it today. I was happy to pull up quite well after yesterday’s effort and I’m ready to battle it out up the two mountaintop finishes ahead of us.
Tomorrow may only be a short stage (73km) but it is a brutal one which should make for another exciting day of racing.
Tiff’s 9th place on stage 4 moves her into 12th place overall, 2:28 behind Marianne Vos. Tiff’s teammate Shara Gillow is currently the highest placed Australian, sitting 11th overall, 2:11 behind Vos. Follow the link for full results from stage 4 of the 2013 Giro Rosa.
Tiff’s teammate Gracie Elvin is also blogging about the Giro Rosa and you can read her reports here. And click here to see Tiff’s report from stage 1, click here for her report stage 2, and click here to see her report from stage 3.