Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling's Elisa Longo Borghini, Mara Abbott and Mayuko Hagiwara remain close to the top of the General Classification of the 2015 Giro Rosa, following the first mountain stage of the race, between Trezzo sull'Adda and Aprica. The final climb to the finish failed to prove difficult enough to split a large group of riders, although World Champion Pauline Ferrand Prevot (Rabo-Liv) was able to escape in the final kilometres to win the stage. Pink jersey Megan Guarnier (Boels-Dolmans) beat Anna van der Breggen to the line in the sprint for second place, one second behind the French rider, with Longo Borghini, Abbott and Hagiwara safe in the group behind them.
"The climb was nothing special today," Longo Borghini confirmed, after having preserved her fifth place overall - just 20 seconds behind Guarnier - and holding onto her Blue Jersey as Best Italian Rider. "We were about 35 riders at the end of the climb; it's an easy climb."
Having comfortably completed what should have been the first major uphill challenge of the race, Longo Borghini feels confident about her own condition - and that of her teammates - ahead of the days to come. Tomorrow's 102.5km stage between Tresivio and Morbegno should present more of a challenge for the climbers in the race, and the 23-year-old is looking forward to it.
"This will be the Queen Stage of the race," the 23-year-old confirmed. "I'm feeling fine; Mara for sure is climbing well, and Mayuko is really strong!"
Hagiwara, whose breakaway performance on stage three lifted her to twelfth position, less than a minute away from pink, was on the attack again on stage five. After Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling's former two-time road World Champion Giorgia Bronzini had been part of a dangerous-looking nine-rider group that escaped midway through the stage, Japanese Champion put herself into another attack on the early, steepest part of the climb.
Although her small group was unable to stay away for many kilometres, as the gradient eased, Hagiwara's position on the general classification forced the other teams to chase her down.
"Today that move was my 'have to do' thing!" Hagiwara explained. "It was my job to react to other moves, because we have to be there.
"Tomorrow will be another hard day," the hardworking Japanese Champion added. "I will do my best for the team and give my maximum!"
Abbott's two Giro victories, in 2010 and 2013, were built on stage victories in the high mountains. Today's finish in Aprica, however, with its relatively gentle gradients, offered little opportunity for the 29-year-old American, but she too is looking forward to the days ahead.
"Today was never really a tough climb on paper," Abbott said. "The upcoming stages are going to be really tough though, I'm excited for all the days to come!"
Finishing safely in the peloton beside Longo Borghini and Hagiwara, Abbott remains in ninth place, 44 seconds behind compatriot Guarnier.
photos Janos Schmidt