Ruth Winder was all smiles on the Giro d'Italia Donne podium as she was awarded the maglia rosa after the opening TTT that was won by her team Trek-Segafredo. It is the second time that Winder has led the Italian stage race, known as the women's only Grand Tour, but it came about almost by accident.
"We didn't know the times as we crossed the line, so it wasn't the plan for me to cross the line first and take the pink jersey. We were all just going full-gas to the line, and it just happened that around the last roundabout, I was second behind Ellen (van Dijk), and we were just sprinting full for the line," Winder explained.
The first time that the 27-year-old American wore the pink leader's jersey was in 2018. Having won the stage 1 TTT with her then-Team Sunweb, Winder went into a breakaway on stage 5, and her stage win moved her to the top of the general classification. The next stage three years ago was a mountaintop finish where Winder lost the lead, eventually finishing the race in 14th place overall.
By coincidence, this year, the stage following the day Winder took the race lead is again a mountaintop finish. But Winder has not given much thought to defending her lead as the team plans to support the GC bid of Italian Elisa Longo Borghini.
"We tried so hard today because we have such a strong leader with Elisa. I still feel a bit out of it, it was really hard, I am tired from that effort. Elisa is super strong and super Italian, very proud, and this race means a lot to her. Because we all have so much respect for her, it means so much for all of us as well. It was really important today to do a really strong TTT to set Elisa up for the entire week, and it gives lots of motivation for me and the whole team," Winder said.
Despite not having a leader's role in her team at this race, Winder will nonetheless enjoy her moment in the spotlight, lining up for the 99.3-kilometre stage 2 in the maglia rosa.
"It's a very special jersey, and I hope it gives the whole team magic. I am very excited to wear it, now we want to see what we can do the whole week, especially with Elisa."
With this in mind, it should not come as a surprise if Winder will be seen working at the front of the peloton on Saturday, dedicated to putting the team before any individual ambitions even when wearing the leader's jersey.
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