Mayuko Hagiwara (Wiggle Honda) made history Thursday by winning stage 6 of the 2015 Giro Rosa. Often riding in the role of a domestique for her teammates, Hagiwara was given the green light to go on the attack after finishing 5th on stage 3. The Japanese rider covered her face in disbelief upon crossing the finishing line after holding off a fierce chase. Megan Guarnier (Boels-Dolmans) followed in second, 24 seconds later to keep the maglia rosa, with Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (Bigla Pro Cycling) in third.
“Today was a very hard day, but today my job was to go in the attack if possible and make it hard for the other teams,” Hagiwara said at the finish. “Still I can’t believe it, but tomorrow there is also a race, and there are three hard stages left.”
Last year, she had also finished third on stage 3 at the Giro. The 28-year-old has won her national time trial championships five consecutive times, though finishing second this year, and the road championships in Japan three years in a row.
The Japanese rider signed with Wiggle Honda in 2013, but found the adjustment to European racing difficult. Thursday’s win is not only the biggest of her career, but a triumph over the struggles she faced in joining the WorldTour. Her focus, however, continues to remain on the team and job ahead.
“It was very special for me, and a very big result,” she said. “But today was really for teamwork, and I didn’t care if I was caught. Until the finish line I thought the bunch would catch me, because they were only a few seconds behind and are strong riders. But I didn’t care because Elisa [Longo Borghini] and Mara [Abbott] were there.”
Race leader, Megan Guarnier and her team were attentive in their fight to keep the maglia rosa, beginning the chase and catching the break right before the final climb. Hagiwara struck yet again thanks to her time-trialling ability, gaining the solo lead.
The strength of the chase including riders from Rabo-Liv and Boels-Domans, were unable to catch Hagiwara. In winning the stage, she leaped to seventh place on GC, 33 seconds down from Guarnier.
Hagiwara’s teammate, Longo Borghini was part of the group behind along with Abbott, rising to fourth overall on GC, retaining the blue jersey as the Best Italian Rider in the race. Abbott rose to eighth place, 53 seconds behind Guarnier.
Wiggle Honda is currently down two riders after both Anna Sanchis and Audrey Cordon Ragot were forced to abandon due to a crash on stage two. The squad was hoping to use their climbing talents to assist Abbott in the final stages. Mara Abbott is a two-time race winner of the stage race.
Despite Hagiwara's position on GC, and stage victory, she remains focused on her role within the team. “From tomorrow maybe there will be more big gaps because it is a hard stage. I will do my best for the team, to win the GC,” Hagiwara explained, “Only Mara and Elisa can possibly win."