Elisa Balsamo (Trek–Segafredo) claimed her second win at the Giro Donne with a tight sprint victory ahead of Charlotte Kool (Team DSM) on Stage 5.
Going into the final corner, a sweeping left-hander 200m from the finish line, Kool gambled on going early from the front of the field. On the right hand side, the Dutch rider chose to run wide, in an attempt to take it faster than her rivals and steal a march on all of them. The effect, however, was to allow Balsamo the inside line and the full width of the road.
As a consequence, the world champion lost little speed of her own. Rather than coming out of the turn ahead, as they straightened up, Kool was behind by several metres, with ground to make up. In the push for the line Kool looked for a moment like she had the leg speed to do it. She did not have enough road. An impressive bike throw brought her within a wheel’s diameter of Balsamo, but those extra metres proved pivotal, as the Italian held on to double her tally at this year’s Giro Donne.
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After Stage 4’s heart-racing romp around Cesena, the pan-flat parcours of Stage 5 meant most expected a somewhat sedentary stroll through Italy’s culinary capital, Emilia-Romagna. Although a group of five lesser-placed riders were allowed an easy escape from the clutches of the peloton, without so much as an uncategorised climb on which to trick the chasers, their chances of making it to the finish before being caught were near (if not quite) zero.
After Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar), Mavi Garcia (UAE Team ADQ) and Marta Cavalli (FDJ Nouvelle Aquitain) put even the podium out of reach of most teams, stage wins are already all they had to play for. There was little chance of the likes of Trek-Segafredo letting this one slip through their fingers.
Nonetheless, Hannah Barnes (Uno-X Pro Cycling Team), Giorgia Bariani (Top Girls Fassa Bortolo), Matilde Vitillo (Bepink), Anastasia Carbonari (Valcar-Travel & Service) and Iris Monticolo (Top Girls Fassa Bortolo) circulated as if the unlikely was indeed possible. Through and off they rode, well into the second half of the stage. After the intermediate sprint, won by the Austrian Carbonari, a stable three-minute gap grew close to an altogether more dangerous five.
That was when the big teams began a concerted, collective effort to bring them back. Whether the breakers became aware through their radios, or via the rapidly reducing number shown on the moto blackboard, their will began to falter.
Only Bariani did not lose hope completely, borrowing a bidon from her team-mate before setting out on her own, 20km from Reggio Emilia. For a while she was able to maintain the minute's advantage she held over the bunch at the moment of departure, but one rider was never going to defy one hundred.
The leftovers from the day’s breakaway were caught with 7.5km remaining, with the lone escapee the last to be captured inside the final 5km, and as the peloton entered Reggio Emilia, multiple teams fought for the front.
It was the second Grand Tour stage to finish in the city this season. On the equivalent day in the May’s men’s Giro d’Italia, Alberto Dainese (Team DSM) had sprung a surprise, beating more seasoned sprinters to the same finish line. Dainese’s colleague Kool was hoping for a similar result. Her team-mates Franziska Koch and Leah Kirchmann contributed a sizeable amount to the work of bringing back the breakers and ensure the stage came down to a bunch sprint. Jumbo-Visma and Trek-Segafredo were happy to let them, following wheels and guarding their principals.

'She's come of age!' Elisa Balsamo wins women elite road race world title

The battle for position going under the flamme rouge caused a crash which spit the bunch, though none of the GC or stage contenders were caught out.
Dropped off perfectly by their team-mates, Kool and Balsamo were shoulder to shoulder as they came into the final corner. The world champion, wearing the maglia ciclamino of points competition leader, had the inside line, however. On the wide boulevard, with all but Kool strung out behind, she was able to use the position to her advantage. She may not have been the fastest to the line, but by being tactically superior, she was first.
The victory served to tighten Balsamo’s grip on the points competition, which she leads from Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma).
Van Vleuten enjoyed a relaxing first day in pink. The next few stages promise to be anything but. Mavi Garcia is the current Queen of the Moutains. Niamh Fisher-Black (SD Worx) heads the young rider competition.

General Classification

1. Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) 11:51:35s
2. Mavi Garcia (UAE Team ADQ) +0:25s
3. Marta Cavalli (FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine) +0:57s
4. Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek Segafredo) +5:00s
5. Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine) +5:13s
6. Amanda Spratt (BikeExchange - Jayco) +5:14s
7. Elise Chabbey (Canyon Sram) +5:21s
8. Niamh Fisher-Black (Team SD Worx) +5:28s
9. Silvia Persico (Valcar Travel & Service) +5:29s
10. Erica Magnaldi (UAE Team ADQ) +6:10s
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