Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling’s Mara Abbott raised herself to a final second place overall in the 2015 Giro Rosa, with a stunning, solo stage victory on the ninth stage, between Verbania and the ski resort of San Domenico di Varzo. The 29-year-old American, who finished second on the corresponding stage last year, escaped Pink Jersey Anna van der Breggen (Rabo-Liv) in the last four kilometres of the long, steep climb, to cross the line 55 seconds ahead of the Dutchwoman.
The victory was enough to lift Abbott three places in the General Classification, but van der Breggen held on to her Pink Jersey to take victory by a minute and a half. Former Pink Jersey Megan Guarnier finished the stage in fourth place, and took the final place on the overall podium.
“This was a really amazing way to finish the Giro,” Abbott enthused after her victory. “I am so grateful to the team for having faith in me until the end.
“The whole team was amazing, they took care of me all day,” she added. “I was very proud to be following Giorgia Bronzini’s wheel! It meant a lot to me.”
The 92.7km stage featured several early attacks, but it was not until late on that a group of eleven riders got away. In this break was Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling’s Stage Six Winner Mayuko Hagiwara, unselfishly looking after her teammates interests as usual. The Japanese Champion’s group was just over a minute clear when the final climb began.
The breakaway group was soon passed by the leaders of the race, whereupon Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling’s Elisa Longo Borghinibegan to put pressure on the others on behalf of teammate Abbott. Despite racing on her home roads, and defending her Blue Jersey for the Best Italian Rider, the 23-year-old Tour of Flanders winner began to split the group of overall favourites.
“Elisa put in some amazing attacks at the start of the climb and, when I saw the other riders starting to gap each other, I went,” Abbott explained. “With about seven or eight kilometres to go van der Breggen and I went, and then I got away from her with about four kilometres to go.”
With a deficit of two minutes, 29 seconds to van der Breggen at the start of the day, Abbott knew she literally had a mountain to climb to take her third overall Giro Rosa victory, but gave her all in one last-ditch effort to unseat the Dutchwoman on the steep climb to the finish.
“I knew that there was a big gap to win the overall, but anything can happen,” Abbott said. “I’m really happy to get the team on the podium for the overall.”
Having given everything she could for Abbott, Longo Borghini herself finished the stage in 13th place, six minutes and five seconds behind her Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling teammate. Despite having to overcome a physical problem in the closing stages of her fourth Giro Rosa, the Italian finished the race in eighth place overall, and took the Blue Jersey for a second straight year.
“Of course I’m happy to have taken the Blue Jersey, and to finish in the top ten after the problem I had with my leg,” Longo Borghini said. “Today we won the stage with Mara, and she moved up to second in the GC.
“I’m really proud of my team!”
Photo Credit (pics 1, 2, 3 & 5): Sonoko Tanaka
Result Stage 9
1. Mara Abbott (Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling)
2. Anna van der Breggen (Rabo-Liv)
3. Flavia Oliveira (Alé-Cipollini)
photo Cheltenham jockey club
photo Cheltenham Racecourse