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Women's Cycling Balsamo wins another stage, Van Vleuten wears the leader's jersey

AS PREDICTED, the 126km stage five — Carpi to Reggio Emilia — of cycling’s Giro Donne, the women’s tour of Italy, ended in a sprint today, albeit with a reduced bunch due to a crash just at the flamme rouge, which marks one kilometre to the line.

Italian world champion Elisa Balsamo pulled off her second win of the tour, pipping Dutch riders Charlotte Cool and Marianne Vos, the third time in the race that those three have crossed the line, in a variety of orders, in the top three placings, once again proving the trio’s indomitable power in the sprint.

But if today’s stage was predictable, Monday’s, the first in the race to test riders’ climbing form, was anything but. Big time gaps appeared on the leader board as the veteran Annemiek van Vleuten of Holland crossed the line in Cesena minutes ahead of the main field, followed home by Mavi Garcia of Spain and Marta Cavalli of Italy, leaving many to wonder if this 10-stage race is now simply down to those three to fight it out.

General category placings after five stages: Van Vleuten (11 hours, 51 minutes and 35 seconds); Garcia (+25 seconds); Cavalli (+57 seconds); Elisa Longo Borghini (+5 minutes).

Wednesday’s stage, a lumpy 114km from Sarnico to Bergamo, perhaps offers riders a chance to make up some time on the leaders. But on current form, nobody would bet against 39-year-old Van Vleuten, who has announced she will retire next year, extending her lead.

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