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Donna Rae-Szalinski: “You’ve got to be willing to fight on” after hard Giro Rosa Stage 6

A tough finish to the sixth stage of the Giro d’Italia Femminile saw Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling’s Mara Abbott slip out of the overall race lead after having taken the race to her main general classification rivals. The two-time race winner, who pulled on the Pink Jersey after a stunning solo victory in yesterday’s Mortirolo stage, was on the attack for much of the day, but was forced to concede 53 seconds to stage winner Evelyn Stevens (Boels-Dolmans) on the hard, hot climb to the Madonna della Guardia.

More significantly, however, Abbott also conceded 47 seconds to Stevens’ teammate Megan Guarnier, who took over the race lead.

“It was a hard day,” said Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling Directeur Sportif Donna Rae-Szalinski. “It’s heartbreaking to see a team put it on the line and not get what you’d hoped for. You can ask no more than you do your best on the day, and sometimes you get what you want, and sometimes you don’t. That’s sport.

“You’ve got to be willing to fight on.”

Abbott began the day 10 seconds ahead of Guarnier in the general classification but, having given herself prior knowledge of the course, decided to go on the attack to increase that lead.

“Mara had recon’d the course, and was confident of what she would be able to do,” Rae-Szalinski explained. “But I think the bottom line is that she had a hard crash yesterday, and it took a toll on her body, end of story.  Her endeavours… she tried her best, but I think yesterday’s crash had taken its toll.”

In addition to Abbott’s loss of time to Guarnier, Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling’s Elisa Longo Borghini also suffered in the heat and slipped from the third step on the podium, out of overall contention. The Italian Time Trial Champion still holds a commanding lead in the Mountains Classification, however.

“Elisa hadn’t intended to go for GC when we sat down at the start, but things panned out that there she was,” Rae-Szalinski said. “So it was a bonus that gave us two cards to play. But she suffered badly from heat stress today, and that took its toll.”

Abbott now trails compatriot Guarnier by 46 seconds in the race for the Pink Jersey but, with three stages still to come, Rae-Szalinski is confident that the black and orange team can still make its presence felt towards the end of a highly successful Giro Rosa.

“The girls gave everything they had today,” she said. “Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. We won three stages, so we can certainly hold our heads up this week. We’ve really fought hard. What can you say other than we tried our best today, but just one team was better.

“That’s the reality of life. You give everything and sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. The endeavour was there, the effort was there, it’s just on the day we didn’t have the goods.”

1. Evelyn Stevens (Boels-Dolmans)
2. Megan Guarnier (Boels-Dolmans)
3. Anna van der Breggen (Rabo-Liv)
5. Mara Abbott (Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling)

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