Wearing the Maglia Rosa, she crossed the line 40 seconds faster than Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (Cervélo-Bigla), her nearest rival in the GC, to extend her overall lead by three minutes and 35 seconds with one stage remaining.
“Today was epic on the Zoncolan, but I loved it. I was looking forward to this day and of course, defending the GC and the Maglia Rosa was my primary objective, but I also wanted to win this stage really, really badly.
“I didn’t recon the climb beforehand, but I knew it was steep and I actually had something left to attack Ashleigh because I really wanted to win and the last few hundred metres there were so many people clapping and cheering, it was so special, and I had a little bit of time to enjoy the moment.”
After the stage, Moolman-Pasio spoke about how proud she was of her ride.
“I am proud of my ride today,” Moolman-Pasio said. “Obviously, there is the disappointment of not winning the stage, but I went all in. On the steeper part of the climb I accelerated and got into a hard tempo and Annemiek [van Vleuten] could follow. I tried to keep the hard tempo and just before we hit the flatter section, she attacked. I took a few minutes to consolidate and towards the end I was coming back but ran out of climb. I’m onto second on GC but there is the element of disappointment to not take the stage win.”
Moolman-Pasio started the day third overall and had her eye on making up time on the overall classification as well as the stage win.
“It’s a tricky balance between taking time on the GC from other riders and to go for the stage win and in the moment I did what I thought was right. Annemiek was in the lead and didn’t have to work so I was driving the pace. All in all, I’m proud of the team’s effort and I’m just disappointed I couldn’t repay them with the stage win.”
After a fast start and once again many attacks, finally, a breakaway of three riders formed a one-minute lead over the peloton.
The race passed through a brief storm, which saw the peloton split slightly and the trio was finally reeled in with 15km remaining.
As the riders started the infamous climb, a high pace was set by Boels-Dolmans with Megan Guarnier causing the front of the race to reduce to around 15 riders.
On the first steep pitch, it was Moolman-Pasio who made a big acceleration, with only van Vleuten able to follow.
With confidence after dominating in the uphill time trial on Thursday, van Vleuten waited patiently before accelerating away from Moolman with two kilometers to go and to an emphatic solo stage win.
Van Vleuten’s teammate Amanda Spratt fought on behind, eventually crossing the line in third place to jump up into third place overall with one stage remaining.