Giro d'Italia Donne 2006
Erba - Madonna del Ghisallo, 71km
With a 10km climb to finish the Giro, this was a very tough stage. Add to that the fact that Nicole Brändli (Team Bigla) led Susanne Ljungskog (Buitenpoort-Flexpoint) by a single second for the race lead and it was going to be interesting too.
The race rolled out of Erba away from the climb to Madonna del Ghisallo, but on a climb anyway. The first rea; action of the stage was at the sprint point, where Regina Schleicher (Nürnberger) won, followed by Susanne Ljungskog and Olga Slyusareva (Colnago Fenixs). Ljungskog became the virtual leader of the Giro, by one second from the maglia rosa wearer, Nicole Brändli.
As the climb began, the bunch split. Brändli and Fabiana Luperini (Top Girls Fassa Bortolo) were in the first group of five riders, the second group, of 20 riders was 12 seconds back. A few minutes later, Edita Puckinskaite made her move from the lead group, she quickly gained distance on Luperini, Svetlana Bubnenkova (Colnago Fenixs), Brändli and Ljungskog (her fellow breakaways).
Puckinskaite continued to increase her lead throughout the climb, she beat Bubnenkova and Luperini to the line by 14 seconds, they had ridden away from Brändli and Ljungskog, who finished 21 seconds behind the stage winner. That was enough - Puckinskaite had started the day 20 seconds down. Her bonus for winning the stage, 10 seconds and that 21 seconds in riding time made the winning gap 11 seconds overall in Puckinskaite's favour for the overall classification.
Edita Puckinskaite fought for every second of advantage as she crossed the line. There was no extended victory celebration for the stage - she raised a weary hand, but she was more concerned about the race going on behind her.
By the time Nicole Brändli and Susanne Ljungskog rode into view, it was over, Puckinskaite had stolen the Giro from them. Both looked exhausted.
The bunch rolled in not long afterwards, each Nobili Rubinetterie rider who appeared around the corner and over the line raised their arms and celebrated Puckinskaite's win. Sigrid Corneo raised both arms in a victory salute to her team-mate as she arrived. This was a very happy team - as a sponsor's representative described it, "Nobili-Fest". The celebrations at the team cars continued what Puckinskaite had started on the podium, spumante showers for anyone within range. Indeed, Puckinskaite had accidentally sprayed the priest who presented her with the mountains competition jersey. Her apology was accepted in good humour.
Nicole Brändli, so often a leader in this Giro took second overall, but did not leave with a competition win to her name. Susanne Ljungskog won the points competition overall and Olga Slyusareva (Colnago Fenixs), the sprints competition. Puckinskaite was also the mountains champion.
After the stage, World Road Champion, Regina Schleicher (Nürnberger), World Track Champion, Vera Carrera (Chirio), race winner, Edita Puckinskaite and her Nobili team-mate Silvia Valsecchi, all donated their jerseys to the church in Madonna del Ghisallo.
Edita Puckinskaite "I rode hard to take this victory today. This victory is very special and makes up for all the disappointments, espcially since in 2003, I lost the Giro on the final stage."
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