Stage 9 featured a 109.8km mountainous circuit race with start and finish in Motta-Montecorvino, and consisted of four laps of 27.5km each, as well as an uphill finish. The team headed into the final stage with Mikayla Harvey, the best under-23 rider, leading her competitors by a margin of 5:35 minutes. It could be expected that the battle for the podium placings would be a heated contest today, and in the first steep climb, several riders were already dropped, signalling that this stage would be anything but easy. With 75km remaining, a large group of riders got away and carved out an advantage of several minutes over the chasing field. During the final lap, Niamh Fisher-Black made her presence felt in the leading group, and as the finish line drew closer, attacks started to fly off the front. In the end, Niamh broke clear and sprinted to the line against two other riders, and was able to take a very impressive second place, only narrowly missing the win.
After today’s stage, the riders have completed a total of 975.8km of racing, featuring a great deal of climbing at the 2020 edition of the event. Having a strong team and a good game plan was critical to do well here, and Équipe Paule Ka brought just that to the race. With Mikayla Harvey winning the white jersey and placing fifth in the GC, Lizzy Banks taking a phenomenal stage win and finishing narrowly outside the top 10 overall, as well as podium places on the final two stages with Mikayla and Niamh, the team’s performance at the Giro Rosa has been a memorable one.
Mikayla expressed her joy at her achievements at the race: “It has been an incredible nine days and it feels surreal to come away with the white jersey. The team has done such an impressive job, my teammates protected me all week, and I am also so grateful for the support of team management and staff, who also helped throughout the race. The past week and a half has certainly been a beautiful and rewarding journey. I have learned so much and received so many nice messages of support from friends and family. Everyone back home has been supporting me and cheering me on, it’s been phenomenal. It has been an emotional ride, placing third on yesterday’s stage and then finishing the Giro Rosa today in fifth overall. The achievements of the entire team have been really great to see. Now it’s onwards to the next goals, and I’m motivated and looking forward to racing the World Championships next week.”
After the race, Niamh commented on her feelings about finishing second on the Giro Rosa’s final stage: “Getting my first WorldTour podium is amazing. We started today with the plan of protecting Mikayla and her position in the GC as well as the young rider’s jersey. My role was to cover the attacks and to be there when I was needed. But I ended up in the front group and about half way through the stage, Thomas gave me the green light to go for the win. This situation was a little daunting, as I had not ever been in the position where I could go for a win in such a big race. I had to dig deep to stay up there. Over the last 5km I just hung in there and waited for my opportunity. At 300m to go, I didn’t look behind me but just around the last corner, I was passed by the FDJ rider and was pipped on the line. It was a little frustrating, but I can’t complain, having just finished second on a stage in such a renowned WorldTour race.”
Team Owner Thomas Campana similarly praised the strong achievements of the team: “It was a another hard stage today, but we did a thorough course recon and were well-prepared. It was expected that there would be a lot of tactics playing out in terms of the GC and the stage win, and we had to be astute with our resources, having only four riders starting the stage today. However, again, the riders showed great cohesion as a group and came together to protect Mikayla throughout the stage. That gave us the opportunity to give Niamh the chance of going for the win. She took on the challenge well, found the right group and then moved forward to attack, in the end taking a strong second place, a great result for such a young rider. This top result once again demonstrates the talent that is present in the entire group. In general, with fourth place in the team time trial, podium places on stages, the white jersey, a stage win and a top 10 place in the GC, the team performed very well, and can now look towards the next goals in the season.“