Stevens emerged triumphant at the end of the 111km stage from Tarcento to Montenar, which culminated in a 3km climb to the finish line. Boels-Dolmans' assault on the leader's jersey started on the penultimate climb of the stage, however, which began with 15km to go.
“Lizzie [Armitstead] set the tempo on the first climb,” Stevens added. “Then she kind of took Megan and me into the second climb again. Before the climbs there were lots of attacks that got nowhere because my teammates were amazing in covering them. Karo [Canuel] is the Energizer Bunny of chasing down moves.”
Rabo-Liv's Anna van der Breggen launched the first attack on the final climb, but was swiftly brought back. Wiggle-High5's Mara Abbott then set a searing pace up the climb which forced a selection into an elite group including Stevens and Longo Borghini, dropping overnight race leader Megan Guarnier.
Stevens squeezed past Longo Borghini in the final metres of the stage to take the maglia rosa on time bonuses for the stage win. Stevens leads the general classification two seconds ahead of Kasia Niewiadoma (Rabobank-Liv). Guarnier now sits third overall at 18 seconds.
“It all came back together after Anna’s attack,” Stevens noted. “Then Mara [Abbott] (Wiggle-High5) set tempo. I attacked with one-kilometre to go.”
“Mara lifted the pace. Elisa [Longo Borghini] (Wiggle-High5) opened it up. I came around her with 50 metres, and I put my hands in the air.”
The 120-kilometre third stage of the Giro Rosa will between Montagnana and Lendinara in Italy’s Veneto region, and should be a day for the sprinters.