Mavi Garcia (UAE Team ADQ) relentlessly stuck to Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar), occasionally pushing the Dutchwoman to her limit but never backing down as the pair raced into Cesena on stage 4 at the Giro d'Italia Donne (opens in new tab).
The two powerful riders were equally matched on the day's hilly terrain, trading off blow-after-blow on the slopes of each punishing ascent in the closing 50km, even distancing their breakaway companion Marta Cavalli (FDJ) in the process.
"It would have been nice to win today, but I'm very happy with my performance. I felt very confident today because I felt very good. On the climbs, when I attacked with Annemiek van Vleuten and Marta Cavalli, I almost always stayed in front because the road was very hard, and I felt good, and then I also thought about the green jersey," Garcia said.
Garcia, Van Vleuten and Cavalli attacked over the second-category Colle del Barbotto with just over 50km to go. They built a nearly five-minute lead on the nearest chasers. Cavalli was distanced on the last ascent due to the relentless attacks from Garcia and Van Vleuten inside 12km from the line.
Garcia and Van Vleuten's face-off was reminiscent of their earlier battles at Emakumeen Nafarroako Klasikoa and Strade Bianche in 2020, where Garcia has shown time and time again her strengths as a world-class competitor.
"Annemiek van Vleuten tried a few times to attack me in the finale, but she couldn't breakaway today. Then I tried to get ahead of her in the last kilometre, but I couldn't make the difference," she said.
Garcia started her sprint early on a slight rise toward the finish line, but Van Vleuten caught and passed her through the final bend and sprinted ahead for the win.
Van Vleuten now leads the GC by 25 seconds on runner-up Garcia, 57 seconds on third-placed Cavalli, and then 5 minutes ahead of the next group led by fourth-placed Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo).
Garcia is also leading the mountains classification.
The three decisive mountainous days are coming later in the race on stage 7: Prevalle to Passo Maniva, stage 8: Rovereto to Aldeno, and stage 9: San Michele All'Adige to San Lorenzo Dorsino.
"This podium is very nice and allows me to still be in the game for the overall victory. Now, I want to stay at the front, and we'll see what happens over the next few days. It's a positive day for me, for the whole team, and I know I can aim for the final podium in this Giro."
Thank you for reading 5 articles this month*
Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
after your trial you will be billed £4.99 $7.99 €5.99 per month, cancel anytime. Or sign up for one year for just £49 $79 €59
Join now for unlimited access
Try your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
Kirsten Frattini is an honours graduate of Kinesiology and Health Science from York University in Toronto, Canada. She has been involved in cycling from the community and grassroots level to professional cycling's WorldTour. She has worked in both print and digital publishing, and started with Cyclingnews as a North American Correspondent in 2006. Moving into a Production Editor's role in 2014, she produces and publishes international race coverage for all men's and women's races including Spring Classics, Grand Tours, World Championships and Olympic Games, and writes and edits news and features. As the Women's Editor at Cyclingnews, Kirsten also coordinates and oversees the global coverage of races, news, features and podcasts about women's professional cycling.