In what was mooted as a sprint stage, Annemiek van Vleuten delivered another strong GC performance. In the end, she took second place to Italy’s Elisa Longo Borghini in a thrilling sprint finish, but succeeded in gaining time on almost all of her competitors.
The fourth stage took place between Fidenza and Borgo Val di Taro, featuring several climbs which were only Cat 3s but positioned close to each other near the end inviting attacks., Dutch Ilse Pluimers, Italian Silvia Zanardi, and Denmark’s former world champion Amalie Dideriksen chose to attack early on and established a lead of under two minutes.
However, Pluimers when managed to break away from her fellow leaders it looked like the break would be doomed. She embarked on an ambitious solo ride to try and claim more QoM points. She entered the last forty kilometres with a significant lead, but the peloton became increasingly anxious, culminating in a fall from Van Vleuten as her wheel touched that of an SD Worx rider. Elisa Longo Borghini was also involved. Despite the setback, she quickly rejoined the main group.
Later, riders Fem van Empel, Neve Bradbury, and Pauliena Rooijakkers all attempted to attack, but it was Veronica Ewers who succeeded in reaching Pluimers. Ewers then left Pluimers behind and aimed for the stage win. However, during the final climb, she was joined by Van Vleuten and Longo Borghini.
The trio led the race to the finish line in Borgo Val di Taro, despite the pursuing efforts from SD Worx and Team DSM. It became clear that the winner was among the three leaders, and in the final sprint, Longo Borghini proved the fastest, successfully repelling Van Vleuten’s attack and securing her second stage win in the Giro d’Italia, having previously won a stage in 2020 where she outsprinted Anna van der Breggen in a sprint-a-deux.
Van Vleuten, while finishing third in the day’s results, improved her standing for the final victory. As the leader of Movistar, she is currently in the strongest position to win the Giro Donne, with five stages remaining.
“I must say that I had marked this race as a sprinter’s race, but my sports director came to me and said that the best defense was to attack. I immediately agreed with his plan, since I like to race aggressively. That’s the best tactic for me. In the finale, there was still a climb in three steps.
The team did a great lead-out to the foot of the climb. That was necessary, as it was a pretty short climb. So I needed a tough approach. I then went for it and only Elisa could keep up. My main goal was to gain time on my competitors. In the last kilometre, I could also think about winning the stage.
I know that Elisa is a bit faster in a sprint and I had already given a lot. I felt that I didn’t have a real sprint left in my legs, but of course, you always want to win. But it wasn’t really close in the sprint. She was clearly faster.”Annemiek van Vleuten
2023 Giro Donne Stage 4 result
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Main photo credit: Tornanti