With a 4:11 lead on the GC after stage 8, Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott) didn't really have to worry about her maglia rosa on the final mountain stage of the Giro d'Italia Internazionale Femminile on Saturday. Instead, the race leader lent a hand to her teammate Amanda Spratt.
Spratt has been an excellent lieutenant for Van Vleuten throughout the race, reprising the role she had played in the 36-year-old's 2018 Giro Rosa victory. In recognition of her effort and that of the whole team, Mitchelton-Scott's tactic for stage 9 centred around getting Spratt from fifth place overall onto the GC podium.
Spratt was seven seconds behind Lucinda Brand (Team Sunweb) in fourth place and 1:07 behind third-placed Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) before the stage. The steep finishing climb to Malga Montasio was ideal for the Australian climber, and Van Vleuten put the pressure on early.
"I went with 11 km to go to make it hard so that Amanda could drop Kasia and Lucinda Brand," Van Vleuten explained. "I'm happy that we achieved that. But it was into a headwind, so maybe I went a bit too hard, too early, to also take the win on this beautiful climb."
Van Vleuten went solo four kilometres from the line when she dropped Anna van der Breggen (Boels Dolmans), but the road race world champion could come back and pass an exhausted Van Vleuten in the final kilometre to win the stage.
Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (CCC-Liv) had lost a large amount of time on the stage 6 mountain time trial, dropping to a disappointing ninth place overall. The South African revived her Giro Rosa with a third place at Malga Montasio, taking back enough time to move into fourth place on the general classification.
"It remains frustrating that I lost valuable time," said Moolman-Pasio. "But I can be happy with how things went today. I completely drained myself in the final to gain as much time as possible in the general classification. I was even hoping for more at a certain moment."
On Twitter, Moolman-Pasio added: "Often in life things don't work out how we'd like. But I was brought up to be a strong woman… To never, ever give up. I've experienced much adversity in life… But I'll always keep fighting until the end! Thanks to my CCC-Liv team. Third today and now fourth on GC at the Giro Rosa."
Lucinda Brand (Sunweb), meanwhile, suffered an unfortunate mechanical in the final kilometre as she dropped her chain. In part because of this, Brand dropped down the overall standings from fourth to seventh.
"Lucinda was super strong but unlucky in the last 300 metres," said Sunweb sports director Nicolas Marche. "She dropped her chain and wasn't able to continue riding. She needed to run to the line with her bike and so lost a lot of time. I wasn't even able to help because we had already taken the [race vehicle] deviation."