Going into stage 7 of the Giro Donne, Mavi García (Liv Racing TeqFind) was fifth overall, 39 seconds behind Juliette Labous (Team DSM-Firmenich) in third place, and a hope of moving onto the overall podium before the race was over.
The Spanish champion attacked early on Colle Paravenna as she saw an opportunity to take time, perhaps even the stage win, and move up to third place in the GC standings.
García quickly got a 25-second advantage but was caught and left behind when maglia rosa Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar Team) made her move later on the same climb, taking García’s rivals Labous and Gaia Realini (Lidl-Trek) with her.
The 39-year-old Spanish climber latched on to this trio but had to let go on the final metres of the climb and paid for her efforts on the 2.7-kilometre finishing climb, eventually losing almost two minutes on Van Vleuten and dropping to seventh place overall.
“I feel sad today,” García told Cyclingnews while waiting for the ferry that would transfer the Giro Donne peloton to Sardinia for the final two stages on Saturday and Sunday. “In the race, I felt super good, but it wasn’t to have been.”
García had been attentive on the first two climbs of the day and was ready when the peloton reached the Colle Paravenna, a 6.5-kilometre climb that crested nine kilometres from the finish. With an average gradient of 6.1% and sections that were twice as steep as that, it offered ample terrain on which to make a difference.
On the lower slopes, García could easily follow the accelerations of Niamh Fisher-Black (Team SD Worx) and Realini and countered when Realini eased off, riding the small Italian climber off her wheel and gapping the group of favourites that fell apart due to her attack.
“We had thought about doing it according to my feelings, and after Realini’s attack, I saw the opportunity. I wanted to go and try to win,” García explained.
Climbing through the olive groves, she steadily increased her advantage to 25 seconds as the splits behind her came back together. And on the steep final two kilometres of the Paravenna climb, Van Vleuten made her move, initially shaking off Fisher-Black, Realini, and Labous, but the latter two fought their way back onto the maglia rosa’s wheel.
Pushing hard, Van Vleuten quickly reached García who slotted in at the back of the group but lost contact just before the top of the climb.
On the plateau at the top, Realini and Labous took turns to widen the gap while García lost ground, being swallowed by a group that came up from behind. And on the finishing climb to the Santuario Nostra Signora della Guardia, she could not follow the pace, crossing the line 1:57 minutes behind stage winner Van Vleuten.
This time loss made García drop to seventh in GC, two minutes behind new third place Realini and with virtually no chance to make up significant time on the less challenging Sardinian stages – but the courage to launch her attack early on the climb was commendable.