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Wearing the Italian National Champion’s jersey, Elisa Longo Borghini (Lidl-Trek) won stage 4 of the Giro d’Italia Donne, beating Veronica Ewers (EF Education-TIBCO-SVB) and maglia rosa Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar Team) in the sprint of a group of three that had formed on the final climb of the day.
Ewers had attacked on the penultimate climb, passing the last escapee and going solo, but Van Vleuten attacked on the last climb with Longo Borghini following her every move. The world champion led the way up the climb, picking up Ewers along the way.
Longo Borghini tried to get away on the descent but was caught again when the road flattened out.
Wanting to maximise her GC time gain, Van Vleuten led the group onto the final kilometre while Longo Borghini and Ewers targeted the stage.
Longo Borghini launched her sprint 150 metres from the line, Ewers came alongside her, but the Italian champion held her off to win.
Lorena Wiebes (Team SD Worx) led home a reduced peloton 40 seconds later.
In the general classification, Van Vleuten is now 49 seconds ahead of Longo Borghini and 51 seconds ahead of Ewers, with fourth-placed Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ-SUEZ) at 1:29 minutes.
“I feel a ‘Lidl’ emotional, especially because I have the tricolore and I am racing in my home country. I am always very proud to wear the tricolore, and winning here, in front of Annemiek van Vleuten, a rider that I respect a lot, is such a good day,” Longo Borgini gave a sponsor-correct answer on her stage victory.
“It means a lot, actually, because it’s my second victory in my entire life in a sprint. It’s amazing, and I think it’s good for the new sponsor. I would also like to thank all my riders and all the staff and greet Luca Guercilena, our team manager, who is at home right now, and I hope I made him happy. My mum and dad are here today, and then I would like to thank my fiancé, Jacopo [Mosca], who is following me now, I hope he’s not on a training ride, and just want to say hi. Ciao Jacopo,” Longo Borghini continued.
How it unfolded
At 134 kilometres, the stage from Fidenza to Borgo Val di Taro was the longest of this Giro Donne, and three third-category climbs in the last 55km offered plenty of opportunities to attack.
Despite many attempts to get away, it took more than 30km for a breakaway to get established. Amalie Dideriksen (Uno-X Pro Cycling Team), Silvia Zanardi (BePink-Gold), and Ilse Pluimers (AG Insurance-Soudal Quick Step) were up to two minutes ahead.
A chase group with Nina Buijsman (Human Powered Health), Carmela Cipriani (Isolmant-Premac-Vittoria), and Sara Casasola (Born To Win-Zhiraf-G20) was short-lived, and after the first classified climb, Pluimers dropped her two companions 44km from the line to continue solo.
Van Vleuten had a scary moment when she crashed after touching another rider’s back wheel but was soon back in the race.
Ewers attacked from the peloton at the start of the Passo Montevacà, quickly catching and passing Pluimers and taking maximum points at the top, 50 seconds ahead of a reduced peloton.
Silvia Persico (UAE Team ADQ) attacked from that group in the descent but only gained a few seconds and was reeled in again on the flat. As dropped riders returned to the peloton, Casasola launched an attack, but she was caught when Movistar Team increased the pace on the climb with Aude Biannic, Sheyla Gutiérrez, and Floortje Mackaij.
That preparation gave notice of Van Vleuten’s impending attack, but only Longo Borghini could stay on her wheel as Liane Lippert acted as ‘sweeper’ behind the world champion. The peloton split into several groups on the climb, but things came together again on the descent.
Further up the road, Van Vleuten and Longo Borghini had reached Ewers, who slotted in behind them. After Van Vleuten had neutralised Longo Borghini’s downhill move, all three riders took turns leading the group as they saw a chance to distance their GC rivals. Only in the final kilometres did Longo Borghini and Ewers switch focus to the stage victory, leaving Van Vleuten to keep up the pace and sacrifice a stage win for a bigger time gap.
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