Stage 7 was a short but sweet stage at only 91.8km in length. Starting in the mountain town of Aprica, the course featured one category 2 climb very early on in the race before heading down the valley towards Lake Como and then making a right-hand turn back up towards the Swiss border to Chiavenna for the finish.

We decided to change our game plan today and try for a different approach to try and achieve a stage victory. With the way the racing has been so far it has been very difficult getting breakaways established and then keeping them away to the end. Instead of aiming for a breakaway we decided we would focus 100% on the sprint and practice getting our lead-out right.

The goal was to get everyone over the first climb in the best way possible and be present in moves off the front with Ally Stacher the main one to look after this role. But we weren’t going to be forcing anything. Then in the finale we were setting it up for Trixi Worrack. We brought Tayler Wiles and Evie Stevens into the lead-out to get things started, Chantal Blaak and Carmen Small were there for the final lead-out for Trixi and I swept the wheel.

With three stages remaining we’re at the make or break point in the race — everyone is tired, fatigue has been setting in and everybody’s legs hurt. It is the point in the race where it’s about being mentally strong versus physically strong, telling yourself that you can still be there up the front, going with the moves and not giving up.

It’s very easy to get sucked into dropping the wheel on the climb and not fighting to stay there if you’re out of GC contention. It’s important to not give up as there are still possibilities for stage victories but you have to fight for them more than ever at this point in the race.

It was a beautiful start for stage 7 in the mountain resort of Aprica situated at 1,200m above sea level. The sun was shining and again we had lovely crowds to come out and watch us depart.

The descent off the mountain into the valley was held under neutral before being given the official start at the bottom. There were stunning views as we made our way down but the race organisers kept us at such a slow speed my hands were cramping from holding the brakes. The smell of burning rubber and the sound of screeching brakes within the peloton wasn’t pleasant.

As we reached kilometre zero the peloton was stopped and regrouped and then we were off. It was a nasty start as after less than 1km we had turned on to the first climb of the day. A 7.5km climb at around 7% with sore and tired legs? It hurt to say the least. Rabobank controlled the pace at the front but it certainly wasn’t easy.

I wasn’t having a great day, dropping off with about 2km still to climb. I’ve been suffering from a chest cold the past few days which hasn’t helped me either. I watched the front of the race go up the road but I pushed on fighting all the way to the top, finding myself a group so I wasn’t left in no-man’s-land.

Emma Pooley (Lotto-Belisol) claimed the GPM at the top and took control of the mountains jersey as the peloton had split into numerous groups behind. On the descent a group of 30 riders had come together at the front with a second group forming behind.

I was in the third group on the road. I was very much enjoying the fast and winding descent off the GPM until we hit another rude little climb. It was steep and felt like it went on forever as I grinded my way up and over it.

For the next 20-30km we were chasing down through the valley to get back to the front of the race. Mind you I had a free ride as we had a number of Lotto-Belisol riders, Giant-Shimano and UnitedHealthcare riders all driving it at the front to bring us back.

Eventually we caught the second group on the road and soon after that the front peloton. I found my teammates to ask what the current situation was and apparently as we were making our way back a group of seven riders had gone off the front. We had Tayler there so it was perfect — we just had to sit in, recover and make sure we were in position if we needed to cover any further moves.

The kilometres ticked down and most teams were happy with the situation, except for Ale-Cipollini — they were on the front chasing having missed the move and slowly reeling in the break.

With 20km to go it was all back together again as more attacks fired off the front to try and establish a second breakaway. As the route change direction and began to head north for the final 15km we were hit with a block headwind slowing the pace dramatically and putting an end to breakaway attempts.

It took a few kilometres before the pace began to pick up again as we now turned our attention to the finish. With 10km remaining our team started to get together and get organised. I found Trixi and glued myself to her wheel.

Being a sweeper is a fun and challenging role — you get to fight off anyone trying to get on our train but you also need to be strong to hold your ground and not take anything from anybody.

All the usual suspects were starting to form their lead-outs: Orica-AIS, Rabobank, Giant-Shimano, Wiggle-Honda, Ale-Cipollini. It was a tough finale as at 5km to go we hit a short but steep little climb that made it difficult to keep the lead-out train organised. But we managed to stick together.

It was a drag race; a non-technical finish but into a headwind. This meant you didn’t want to start too early as it was very hard to maintain speed at the front and easy to get swamped from behind. The final kilometre was the toughest as it kicked up from 800m to go; not super steep but hard on the legs when you’re trying to sprint.

It became a big of a free-for-all in the final kilometre — there wasn’t much of a lead-out by any team at this point. Vos was clearly in a league of her own, claiming yet another stage victory while Giorgia Bronzini (Wiggle-Honda) snagged herself another podium in second, with Emma Johansson (Orica-AIS) third.

Tomorrow is sure to be a very tough stage, the Queen stage of the race. Can Mara Abbott bring out her climbing prowess to take down the Rabobank dominance or will someone else come out to surprise? It’s only 90km again but we finish at the top of a 14km climb — let’s hope I can find some climbing legs overnight.

Until then.

Stage 7: Aprica > Chiavenna - Stage Result

Friday 11th July 2014

1. nl
VOS Marianne
Rabobank-Liv Woman Cycling Team
02:36:43
2. it
BRONZINI Giorgia
Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling
-
3. se
JOHANSSON Emma
Orica - AIS
-

Previous stage reports

Prologue
Stage 1
Stage 2
Stage 3
Stage 4
Stage 5
Stage 6

You can read more of Tiff’s writing at her website and you can follow her at Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Head to our Giro Rosa preview to find out what’s in store for stage 8 of the Giro Rosa.