Stage four of the Giro Rosa was as close as we get to rest days in women's cycling; after three hard road stages I think everyone sub-consciously wanted one too.
118km from Alba Adriatica to Jesi, the race had the potential to reek havoc. Following the Adriatica coast for the first 76km before turning inland to the finish in Jesi, most people were expecting – and some were hoping for – some gutter action. In the end the however, the predicted crosswinds we're a no show like Wiggo at the Tour this year.
So instead, the majority of peloton enjoyed an extended recovery ride for the large part of the race. While one escape artist put up quite a fight and extend her lead to over three minutes at some points she was dragged back in by the peloton when we all finally woke up after forcing down some caffeinated gels.
A short, third category climb that came with less than 15kilometres was the catalyst for the gels.
Orica-AIS, who took over the mountains jersey yesterday from my teammate Ashleigh, kept the pace high on the short, gradual climb and stretched the peloton but were unable to splinter it.
I was well positioned as we crested the climb with Ashleigh, Elisa and Audrey close by so we immediately switched our focus to the bunch sprint scenario we had discussed in the team meeting before the race.
The climb was followed by a twisting descent which quickly gave way to a technical approach to the last 1km which swept uphill before the final right hand corner with 150ms to go.
On paper it looked like a great sprint for me, but in reality the little pinches leading up to the finish were too much for my sprinter legs and I fell off the pace with 800ms to go leaving Elisa and Ashleigh to fight for the stage honours.
Had we known the finish would be so tough we might have changed the team plan to go for our French super woman Audrey Cordon who has an impressive turn of pace in tough bunch kicks which she showed when she finished third in the tough Belgian classic Omloop van het Hageland earlier this year. Or even Ashleigh who won Holland Hills Classic in 2013 from a bunch kick.
Hindsight is a beautiful thing.
Despite this, the girls did fantastic job of setting up the leadout train which, if anything, will be good practice for the last sprinters stage tomorrow before we head into the mountains in stages seven, eight and nine.
Despite me falling off the pace Elisa was able to finish the race off in impressive style with a top ten. More importantly, she stayed out of trouble while other GC riders got caught behind crashes and punctures in the closing kilometres.
Vos showed how impressive she is again by winning her second stage of this years Giro while Shelly Olds finished second and Lucinda Brand was third. My heart goes out to poor Lucinda who probably had the stage locked up before she prematurely saluted and a fast finishing Olds almost stole the race victory. Luckily for Rabobank Vos was there to keep the victory in the team.
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