US National Champion, Mara Abbott made history as the first American to win the UCI 2.2 Giro Ciclistico Internazionale Femminile, commonly known as the Giro Donne, that concluded in Monza, Italy, on Sunday. The US National Team concluded the 10-stage race, capturing victories in each of the final three stages along with the coveted maglia rosa.
“It is so meaningful to be able to win the Giro," Abbott said. "This is one of the biggest races on the calendar for women, and I am so honored to be able to take the victory for America with my team. I feel so lucky to have been a part of the Giro Donne this year, and I can't even believe that I have the honor of taking home a pink jersey!"
Abbott won the race more than two minutes advantage on Judith Arndt (HTC-Columbia) in second and an additional minute on the current UCI World Champion Tatiana Guderzo (Team Valdarno) in third.
Abbott placed second to German Claudia Haussler in the overall classification in the previous year's event. The only other American to equal that performance was her teammate and former world time trial champion Amber Neben, who placed second to Italy's Fabiana Luperini in the 2008 edition.
"Mara earning pink at the Giro is an indication of the hard work that has been put in these past few years," said Nicola Cranmer, Abbott's directeur sportif at the Peanut Butter & Co TWENTY12 Team. "The foundation has been set by USA Cycling's Director of Athletics Jim Miller and the future is being created by directeurs like Kristin Armstrong and Manel Lacambra the riders are learning to race together as a team, learning how to sacrifice and support the race leader."
The US National Team sent a strong squad lead by Abbott and including Theresa Cliff-Ryan, Amber Neben, Sinead Miller, Shelley Evans, Carmen Small, Alison Starnes and Amanda Miller. Former Directeur Sportif of Cervelo, Manel Lacambra recently took over Jim Miller's duties in directing the USA Cycling women's program and guided the team at this year's Giro Donne.
"The National program has had a primary emphasis on development over the past couple of years so you didn't see the USA National Team on top of too many international podiums, but with patience the program is now a force to be reckoned with," Cranmer said. "Domestic US teams are beginning to have a broad vision and support their nations efforts to becoming a force in the world of cycling by releasing riders for National Program races, this is happening more and more. The talent in the US is apparent and its now beginning to take form in great international results. The future is looking very good!"
German Ina-Yoko Teutenberg (HTC-Columbia) opened the Giro Donne with four consecutive stage wins and the lead in the overall classification. Dutchwoman Marianne Vos (Netherlands Team) took the overall race lead from Teutenberg during stage five that marked the start of the decisive mountain section of the race.
It was Abbott who proved to be the strongest climber when the roads took a turn up through the steeper and lengthier mountains in the Italian Alps. She made her first bid for the leader's jersey after winning stage 8 atop Livigno. She moved into the race lead following her second consecutive win in stage nine at the small mountain town of Stelvio, with a 19-second difference ahead of Judith Arndt.
"The courses were amazing," Abbott said. "It was so special to have the opportunity to win at the top of a climb like Stelvio. I came into the Giro knowing inside that I had the strength to win but that I would need luck, my team and a lot of mental fortitude. All of these things came through for me to an even greater extent than I ever could have imagined."
Abbott's teammate Shelley Evans has been knocking on the door of a coveted stage win at the Giro Donne after placing inside the top 10 on several previous stages. That win finally arrived at the stage 10 finale, in which she won the bunch sprint and out-paced Kirsten Wild (Cervelo Test Team) in second and Giorgia Bronzini (Gauss RDZ-Ormu).
Neben was sidelined from racing after a crash in stage 9 that resulted in a broken collarbone.