For the ninth and final stage of the Giro Rosa the race organisers weren’t allowing any celebratory parading around; they made us race to the end, creating a spectacular final stage. It was a short 80km from Trezzo sull’Adda crossing over to Lake Como before turning off the lake and up the final 7km climb to the top of the Madonna del Ghisallo.
Our team plan was exactly the same as yesterday in that we would try for an early breakaway and then support Evie Stevens into the final climb to see if her legs had anything left to battle up front. Everyone was tired with motivation lacking as it’s been a long race and we have come away empty-handed so far. If we were going to line up on that start line though we had to keep hope and ambition or else it was a waste of time getting on our bikes.
For me it was a tough choice whether or not to line up for the final stage as the last four days I have been battling a chest cough that has been progressively getting worse. I have spent the last few days and nights coughing up a lung and getting limited sleep. Ultimately it was my decision and I decided to line up and finish it off with my teammates — I didn’t want to have to pull out when we had come this far.
The race began with a neutral lap of town before getting out on the open road and we were off. It took a total of about 1km before the attacks began; in fact it was a team attack by Astana-BePink with two of their riders heading up the road together.
They opened up a 30-second gap pretty quickly and it took a couple of minutes before reactions began in the peloton. As soon as the first counter-attack went in pursuit of the two leaders it didn’t stop. It was non-stop attacks from the left, then the right, with numerous combinations of riders and teams, one after the next after the next.
Initially we were being the antagonists, going on the attack, but quickly we worked out that it was going to be the same story as every other day — nothing was going to get away. Instead we opted to follow moves and be present instead of wasting our energy with such a high pace.
The Astana-BePink riders were eventually caught, but for the first hour of racing, as we navigated over undulating terrain before descending down towards lake Como, the pace was so fast. We averaged 43.5km/h in the opening hour of racing.
Much to the delight of my aching legs and sore chest the pace eased up for a short period as we headed into the final 25km. The blue train of UnitedHealthcare had taken up the pace-setting at the front as they were starting to think about the final climb and setting it up for last year’s overall winner Mara Abbott.
The pace built up again on the approach to the two back-to-back tunnels of around 4km in total length that took us to the edge of Lake Como. I swear everyone gets scared in tunnels and the pace increases even further. There were lead out trains at the front; I looked down and we were travelling at 60km/h whilst dodging wheels and moving towards the front.
With 10km before the base of the final climb, on the edge of Lake Como, it felt like we were racing for the finish line. The roads were windy, narrow and fast with the peloton strung out single file with riders flying out the back.
UnitedHealthcare were still at the front until they realised they had lost Mara, so then it was Rabobank who took advantage of the situation and applied the pressure at the front.
The kilometers ticked down and I was thinking the climb must have been nearing as I quickly took a glance back only to discover that we were down to a small selection of about 15 riders at the front. Finally we turned on to the climb and ‘kaboom’, that was me finished. The hazard lights came on as I pushed my pedals up the 14% gradient in the opening switchbacks of the climb.
I let the climbers do their thing, battle it out at the front as I desperately awaited the 5km to go sign. I knew there was a respite and brief downhill soon after that, before the final 1.5km climb to the top.
I could hear the church bells ringing from the top of the Madonna del Ghisallo and the final kilometre was upon me for the 2014 Giro Rosa. I found one last ounce of energy to push those pedals through the final hairpin turns and crossed the finish line to complete yet another Giro Rosa.
At the front Pooley happily took another solo stage victory, proving to be the strongest climber of the race. It’s a shame that she had a lot of bad luck early on in the race, as she would’ve been a strong contender for the overall pink jersey.
Instead it was Rabobank who claimed top honours and swept the overall podium with Vos taking home the pink jersey over teammates Ferrand-Prevot and Anna van der Breggen. Their dominance couldn’t be overcome despite how much other teams tried — they certainly have a wealth of strength within the team and we need to work out ways how to make them full apart.
It has been a long and tough Giro, and for me personally a little bit disappointing. I didn’t perform as well as I had hoped — I was certainly lacking in my climbing strength. That’s bike racing though, you have your good races and your not so good ones. It’s all part of it, but for now it’s time to head home for some good recovery and then start thinking about the final preparations for the Commonwealth Games that are fast approaching.
I hope you have enjoyed my journey and the insight I have shared into the race.
Thanks for reading,
Stage 9: Trezzo sullAdda > Madonna del Ghisallo - Stage Result
Sunday 13th July 2014
Lotto Belisol Ladies
Rabobank-Liv Woman Cycling Team
Rabobank-Liv Woman Cycling Team