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Van Vleuten: The TT bike was an unconventional choice

After climbing to Diga di Campo Moro several minutes faster than all her competitors in Thursday's stage 7 mountain time trial, world champion Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott) could don the maglia rosa of the Giro Rosa overall leader. Van Vleuten said that she had put a lot of work specifically into this stage and was happy with the result.

"I put a lot of effort into this time trial with my team," Van Vleuten said. "We did a solid recon a long time ago and decided it was an unconventional course for the TT bike. I felt really good in my rainbow colours, I gave it everything out there and I was completely empty at the finish, but also super happy."

Enjoying an overall lead of almost three minutes on her team mate Amanda Spratt in second place and Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (Cervélo-Bigla) in third, van Vleuten is confident that her team can defend the pink jersey.

"I felt really good today, and it is great to see all the hard work pay off," van Vleuten said. "Now we are focused on the task at hand, taking it day by day. There is still the Zoncolan coming up and that is a very hard climb, but we are riding very well and can continue with confidence."

One day after her own stage win, Spratt lost the leader's jersey to her own teammate. Unlike Van Vleuten, the Australian did not go all-out from the start.

"I really tried to pace myself over the first part and then pick it up in the second part," Spratt said. "I am really very happy for Annemiek considering how hard she worked for it, and I have no hard feelings at all over the fact that she is the race leader now. The most important thing is that we kept the pink jersey in the team."

Moolman-Pasio was satisfied with her effort that netted the South African second on the stage and moved her onto the overall podium.

"I executed the race as we had planned, doing a good time but not absolutely killing myself," Moolman-Pasio said. "I am happy with the effort, now we just have to stay out of trouble tomorrow and wait for the Zoncolan and the final stage. Everything is running smoothly and the vibe in the team is good."

Moolman-Pasio's young Danish teammate Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig also did well, finishing eighth on the stage.

"It is a beautiful climb in a great setting, but it was also a hard test," Ludwig said. "It is great to have a time trial on a climb like this because it really shows you who is the strongest. I set high expectations for myself and hoped for more today, but I also have to be realistic considering my age and who finished ahead of me."

Lucinda Brand (Team Sunweb) was surprised by her own performance that was good for a third-place finish.

"Today's result was totally unexpected for me, I still cannot really believe it," Brand said. "I did a recon of the climb in May, so I knew that the second half was steeper, and also harder because of the altitude. The plan was not to go too hard on the first part so that I could still speed up on the second half and make a difference there, and that worked out really well."

The Giro Rosa continues tomorrow with a 126-kilometre stage around Breganze.

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