Annemiek Van Vleuten, defending the Giro Rosa title, moved into the overall lead today after winning the fifth stage ©Getty Images

Annemiek van Vleuten of The Netherlands, favoured to retain her overall title in the women’s Giro d’Italia - or Giro Rosa - took a significant step today as victory in stage five earned her the pink leader’s jersey.

The 36-year-old double world time trial champion attacked on the final 10 kilometres climb of the 87.5km course from Ponte in Valtellina to Lago di Cancano, passing breakaway rider Leah Kirchmann en route to the line in this highly esteemed International Cycling Union (UCI) Women's World Tour event.

The Mitchelton-Scott rider finished in 3 hours 09min 47sec, almost three minutes clear of her fellow Dutch rider, Team Sunweb’s Lucinda Brand, who was 2min 57sec behind.

Poland’s Kasia Niewiadoma, riding for Canyon SRAM Racing, was third, ahead of Italy’s Soraya Paladin, on the same time.

The other riders in the main chasing group were Australia’s Amanda Spratt, Rio 2016 gold medallist Anna Van Der Breggen of The Netherlands, Ashleigh Moolman of South Africa and Italy’s Erica Magnaldi and Elisa Longo Borghini.

Van Vleuten now leads the general classification in 11: 17:44, 2min 16sec clear of Niewiadoma, 3:.05 ahead of Moolman, 3:12 ahead of Spratt and 3.24 ahead of Van Der Breggen.

Tomorrow’s sixth stage is due to involve a 12.1km time trial from Chiuro to Teglio.

The race is set to end with the 120km stage 10 on Sunday (July 14) from San Vito al Tagliamento to Udine.