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Mayuko Hagiwara makes history with Giro Rosa Stage Six Victory

Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling’s Mayuko Hagiwara made history in the sixth stage of the 2015 Giro Rosa, between Tresivio and Morbegno, as she became the first ever Japanese rider to win a stage of Women’s Cycling’s Grand Tour. Having been on the attack for most of the 104km stage, the Japanese Champion escaped the group of overall race favourites at the foot of the final climb, and managed to hold off a fierce chase to the finish. Pink jersey Megan Guarnier (Boels-Dolmans) took the sprint for second place, 24 seconds behind Hagiwara; South African Champion Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (Bigla) finished third with Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling’s Elisa Longo Borghini and Mara Abbott safely in the group behind her.

“Today was a very hard day, but today my job was to go in the attack if possible and make it hard for the other teams,” Hagiwara said afterwards. “So I tried my best, and it was good! Still I can’t believe it, but tomorrow there is also a race, and there are three hard stages left, so now my head is only for tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, and Sunday.”

As such a hard worker for her teammates, Hagiwara usually plays a huge part in the victories of others. Taking the biggest international victory of her career, however, she could scarcely believe it, as she covered her face with her hand in happiness as she crossed the line.

“It was very special for me, and a very big result,” she said. “But today was really for teamwork, and I didn’t care if I was caught. Until the finish line I thought the bunch would catch me, because they were only a few seconds behind and are strong riders. But I didn’t care because Elisa and Mara were there, and I can do my best and my all.”

The sixth stage was to be the first of the race that featured serious, challenging climbs, with two of second category and one of first category. Hagiwara escaped on the very first climb, inside the first 15km, along with five other riders and, having started the day just one minute and one second behind Guarnier, was very soon the virtual Pink Jersey on the road.

“It was my job today,” Hagiwara explained, “just to give my all for the team, that’s how I could give everything today.”

With a lead of more than three and a half minutes at the midpoint of the stage, it looked for a while as though this group was to be able to stay away to the finish. Slowly, however, the Pink Jersey group began to pull the leaders back, and reduced it to under two minutes as they approached the first category climb to Sondrio.

At this point Longo Borghini attacked the Pink Jersey group, along with Moolman Pasio, and managed to make contact with the leaders. The race came together just before they hit the foot of the climb, however, but this was where Hagiwara was to strike again.

“We worked hard because we wanted to make the gap bigger,’ Hagiwara said. “But on the final climb we were together, so I tried an attack and no one followed me, so I was alone and gave everything. I wanted to make it harder for the other teams.”

Attacking solo this time, the Japanese Champion was more than two minutes ahead with 25km to go, and the virtual race leader once again. This was reduced to 1’46” as she crested the top of the climb, and was down to just 46 seconds as she hit the final, flat 10km to the finish.

Despite the strength of the chase, which contained five members of the Rabo-Liv team, and three of Boels-Dolmans, the four-time former Japanese Time Trial Champion held them off all the way to the line. The 24-second gap, along with the 10-second time bonus, saw Hagiwara rise to seventh place overall, and now trails Guarnier by just 33 seconds.

Crossing the line in the group behind Guarnier, Longo Borghini rises to fourth overall, just 25 seconds back, and retains her blue jersey as the Best Italian Rider in the race. Abbott too rises to eighth place, just 53 seconds behind her American compatriot.

Despite her high overall position, however, and despite her stage victory, Hagiwara remains focused on her role in helping her teammates to their own success as usual.

“From tomorrow maybe there will be more big gaps because it is a hard stage, and then there is an individual time trial, and Sunday is a mountain finish,” the Japanese Champion explained. “So still I will do my best for the team, to win the GC. Only Mara and Elisa can possibly win.”

1. Mayuko Hagiwara (Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling)

2. Megan Guarnier (Boels-Dolmans)
3. Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (Bigla)


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