Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott), once again, showed her strength, grit and tenacity, with a solo victory during stage 2 at the 2020 Giro Rosa. It wasn't a smooth ride to the finish line, however, as the world champion suffered an untimely mechanical and was force to get off her bike and run up the decisive final gravel climb of the Seggiano.
"We did a recon of this stage so I knew the gravel section was really hard and super technical and there was a bit of a risk of unclipping, so that is why I went from the bottom," Van Vleuten said of her winning move at the base of the Seggiano.
Overnight leader, Elisa Longo Borghini’s title of first Italian to wear the maglia rosa in twelve years turned out to be short-lived, as the prolific Van Vleuten was unbeatable over the undulating gravel roads.
The first road race stage kicked off with plenty of drama during a 124km route through Tuscany, which took in two gravel, or strade bianche, sectors and 3,100m of altitude.
Two weeks after finding herself outnumbered and unable to escape the group for her trademark solo victory at last month’s La Course, Van Vleuten made sure she was the one who got away again this time.
The 37-year-old made her escape at the bottom of the decisive gravel climb which came 16km from the finish in Arcidosso, after having calculated exactly where she would attack, at the bottom.
The unpredictability of the gravel meant that even after previewing the course, Van Vleuten fell foul to the surface, sliding out at the bottom and needing a wheel change. However, the thick gravel had little traction and she was force to hold her handlebars and run for part of the climb.
Even that didn’t stop her from storming to a solo victory, however, as she powered to the line, staving off a chasing Anna van der Breggen (Boels Dolmans), to take the win by 1:16 and claim the pink leader's jersey.
"Annemiek is just on another level,” said Mitchelton-Scott sports director Andrew Smith, “she even had a bit of a walk just because the gravel was super bad on that final section and she had to get off but kept her calm and showed her class.”
Despite soloing to victory in her usual style, Van Vleuten’s win was down to teamwork, he said, “It was good work, especially Grace [Brown], who did a great job lining it up for Annemiek and [Amanda] Spratty before the gravel section, so it was really good teamwork.”
Asked about her tactics now that she leads the race, Van Vleuten remarked, “It is very special to wear the jersey, I am here with my team to go for my third victory but there’s so many days to come so I am not thinking about pink at the moment, I will just race and focus everyday as it is really needed at this Giro Rosa. Today was an opportunity to take time and I am happy I took it," she said.
Now, it is the task of the rest of the peloton to try to take it back.
Visit Cyclingnews' dedicated women's page for full reports, results, news, features and galleries from the 2020 Giro Rosa.
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