GIRO’17 St.15: King Of The Jungels!

Giro Stage Report: Bob Jungels emerged from an elite group to take a wonderful stage victory in Bergamo after a punishingly quick day on stage 15 of the 2017 Giro d’Italia. The GC battle was reignited but ultimately ended all square.

This was meant to be a day for a breakaway to go clear and stay clear, but apparently nobody had told that to the peloton. They covered more than 100km in the first two hours and never really let-up as they brought back break attempt after break attempt and had many tired riders struggling to cling to the wheel in front. A five man group went away early on, and that looked like the break of the day, but they were never allowed to gain much time and were brought back well before the tricky final 50km. Another break, this time with ten riders, were the next to try their look. When they got two minutes quickly, it looked like that would be enough to give them the stage win but Orica-Scott were keen not to let that happen and they set a furious pace to bring them back inside the final 10km as they entered Bergamo. The final difficulty was the climb of the Bergamo Alto and Bob Jungels set a fire under the GC battle by attacking early on, he was caught, but he’d pulled an elite group clear and the rider from Luxembourg always looked like he was the strongest and he was clinical in the sprint finish to take another Giro stage win for himself and the team.

Despite a large portion of today’s 199km stage taking place on flat roads, it’s anything but a flat stage. The first 149km, from the village of Valdengo will cause no issues for the GC contenders but the final 50km are a fantastic mystery tour into the foothills of the Alps and the sharp rises around Bergamo. The first categorized climb of the day is the second category, 931m, Miragolo San Salvatore, which is almost immediately followed by the third category, 948m, Selvino. Despite no more categorized climbs, that’s not the end of the difficulties, the brutal finale includes the Bergamo Alto climb. It kicks off just under 5km from the finish and tops out with 3.5km to go. It features exceptionally steep stretches of 12% and cobbled sections on the top. If anything, the descent is even harder, it’s very, very fast and twisty, expect the GC contenders to be at their limit here.

The Storm Before the Calm
This was a stage that would’ve been highlighted in the roadbook’s of any breakaway contenders well before the Giro began. With so many people keen to get away, the pace was exceptionally high for the first hour, more than 50km were covered as the peloton let a five man group go; Jan Barta (Bora-Hansgrohe), Eugert Zhupa (Wilier Triestina), Jeremy Roy (FDJ), Moreno Hofland (Lotto Soudal), and, Dries Devenyns (Quick-Step Floors), and then relentlessly chased them down. At the first sprint point, the gap was reduced to less than 10 seconds but that began to grow back out as the pace eased very slightly. It was still far from a sure bet that this group would go clear, their gap was only 35 seconds and the peloton were keeping up their chase.

Just as it looked like they would let the gap go, it was hauled back once again to within 10 seconds as they went flat out through the feed zone with almost no riders able to take they musettes, without risking taking their soigneur’s arm with them. With 100km left to ride, the peloton were barely three riders wide at the widest point as the race continued its relentless sprint across the northern suburbs of Milan. With the break within spitting distance, Devenyns went clear from the leading five with Jan Barta following him.

The pace had claimed its first victim as lead-out man, Rudi Selig (Bora-Hansgrohe), decided against hauling himself through the mountains with no sprint stages left to contest.

It was also game over for the three other breakaway contenders as Devenyns and Barta were the only ones left around. It was soon back together as the duo couldn’t sustain the pace to stay away from the hideously high speed that was being delivered from behind. With two hours of racing gone, the average speed was a frightening 52.5km/h. There were now just 40km left to go before they hit the first of the climbs, 40km to try and settle down into some kind of rhythm.

Fully Formed?
With 86km to go, it looked as though we finally had our break of the day, ten riders, representing ten teams had forged clear: Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors), Philip Deignan (Sky), Julen Moreno (Wilier Triestina), Enrico Battaglin (LottoNl-Jumbo), Jacques Janse van Rensburg (Dimension Data), Silvan Dillier (BMC), Enrico Barbin (Bardiani-CSF), Rudy Molard (FDJ), Evgeny Shalunov (Gazprom-RusVelo), Simone Petilli (UAE Team Emirates). With very little interest behind, and some very tired legs, the gap rolled out to a day high of two minutes. It wasn’t yet a done deal however, as Orica-Scott had missed the break and their pace setting was making sure that it was hard work for the leader’s to grow a substantial gap.

The average pace had actually slightly increased since the break went and it was beginning to have an impact on the time gap, which was now flirting with the two minute mark. Caleb Ewan and Alexander Edmonson (Orica-Scott) were doing the heavy lifting as they made their way to the foot of the opening climb.

11km before the first slopes of the climb and the gap fell below two minutes. Despite having less firepower than the break, the Orica-Scott riders were winning the battle for a weary peloton. Caleb Ewan’s pace setting was splitting the bunch, although at the moment no serious contenders had been caught out. It was also slicing into the lead, which now stood at a much more bridgeable 1.19. That was soon sub one minute as they were fast approaching the opening climb.

Out of the Frying Pan
The peloton had moved away from the flat, and the frantic speeds, but they were now on the very difficult 8.7km climb of the Miragolo San Salvatore. The opening kilometers were relatively straightforward but after 2km it ramped up to 7.6% for the majority of the rest of the climb. The constant pressure was telling for the lead group and as they hit the lower slopes, it was clear that it was going to be a reduced break as just; Deignan, Van Rensburg, Barbin, Moreno and Molard remained at the front.
In the peloton, and Orica-Scott had stopped working as soon as the slope kicked in and handed over the responsibility to Team Sunweb. Caleb Ewan had killed himself to hack away at the break’s lead and, with no more stages left to go, he stepped off and abandoned.

Sunweb were holding the lead to 50 seconds but they only had three riders left, any attack from the GC favorites would surely isolate the pink jersey holder with 44km left to go. As the peloton hit the steepest parts of the climb, Sunweb were now down to just two men in support of Dumoulin. The lead group were also shrinking, Van Rensburg’s pace had dislodged both Barbin and Moreno and he was looking very good.

The leading trio had a 50 second gap on the still large chasing peloton. Meanwhile, 20 seconds behind the lead group, Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) and Pierre Rolland (Cannondale-Drapac) had gone clear of the peloton as they navigated the twisty and beautiful descent.

There may not have been any drama on the climb but there was on the descent as Nairo Quintana (Movistar) slipped out on a corner and went down. Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) held up the group to allow the Colombian to get back on, but he was on a team mates bike and as soon as the climbing started again, he was forced into a bike change. Sunweb might have held up the group but Bahrain-Merida hadn’t received that memo and they were ramping up the pace once more.

The leading group was back up to five as Sanchez and Rolland joined the original trio. They had a lead of 44 seconds as Orica-Scott resumed their chasing duties behind, with Nibali and Bahrain-Merida in close proximity. Quintana was also back and had retaken his position just behind the pace setting teams.

The descent was very technical and it was taking victims with Davide Formolo (Cannondale-Drapac) and Kenny Elissonde (Sky) both going down on a tight left hander. The majority of the peloton were down it safe and just 30 seconds behind as they flew into the final 14km, and the fantastic finale of the Bergamo Alto.

All Goes Bang in Bergamo
It wasn’t looking good for the peloton, on the flat run in to the finale they were taking serious losses and had just 20 seconds as they smashed into the final 10km. Unfortunately, for Tanel Kangert (Astana), the Estonian’s race was over after he cut back across some road furniture and came flying over his bars. There was nobody waving to alert the approaching riders and it was a terrible way to exit for the 7th place rider on GC.

Despite all the odds, the breakaway did reach the Bergamo Alto climb before the peloton but they now had just ten seconds to play with. Luis Leon Sanchez led them on but the major move was behind as Giovanni Visconti (Bahrain-Merida) ratcheted up the pace and dragged the peloton back to the leaders. Bob Jungels (Quick-Step Floors) was the first of the GC men to attack and he quickly opened up a gap through the massed throngs at the roadside. Domenico Pozzovivo (AG2R-La Mondiale) responded and dragged Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) with him. Nibali led them onto the descent and they were putting pressure on Dumoulin who had just been dispatched. Nibali’s efforts weren’t creating a gap though and he’d just succeeded in pulling eight of the big favorites clear.

Jungels was the next to go, but he didn’t have a kick and just drove the leaders into the final straight. Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) was the next to go but he went from too far and Adam Yates (Orica-Scott) launched over the top to take out the stage win. But it was left to the man who started it all off to take the stage honors and Bob Jungels crossed the line for a fantastic victory. The rider from Luxembourg might not have what it takes on the high mountains but he’s a thrilling rider to watch on hills and small group sprints. Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin) had been distanced on the descent but he clawed his way back in the finale to ensure that he didn’t lose any time. Adam Yates (Orica-Scott) could only manage fourth place despite all the work his team had done to make the race super hard into the final two climbs.

Stage winner Bob Jungels (Quick-Step Floors): “It’s not easy to realise but I’m super happy with this victory. I knew I had good legs today as I felt good in the climbs. I tried my luck in the final climb but it was a bit longer than I expected. In the downhill I was in a perfect position, on the wheel of [Domenico] Pozzovivo for sprinting. This is my first sprint victory. To do it at the Giro in front of these guys is wonderful.”

Race leader Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb): “It was a hard day at a very high average speed. There were a lot of breakaways but always some teams weren’t happy with it. Eventually after 110km, a group went. Then it was a very hard finale with a lot of favourites attacking but we stayed calm and it was a good day for us.”

Giro d’Italia Stage 15 Result:
1. Bob Jungels (Lux) Quick-Step Floors in 4:16:51
2. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar
3. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ
4. Adam Yates (GB) Orica-Scott
5. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) AG2R-La Mondiale
6. Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe
7. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
8. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Sunweb
9. Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Katusha-Alpecin
10. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo
11. Jan Polanc (Slo) UAE Team Emirates
12. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) LottoNl-Jumbo
13. Sébastien Reichenbach (Swi) FDJ at 0:14
14. Mikel Landa (Spa) Sky
15. Davide Formolo (Ita) Cannondale-Drapac
16. Laurens De Plus (Bel) Quick-Step Floors at 0:25
17. Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
18. Ben Hermans (Bel) BMC
19. Gorka Izagirre (Spa) Movistar
20. Andrey Amador (CRc) Movistar
21. Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC
22. Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
23. Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) Katusha-Alpecin
24. Simon Geschke (Ger) Sunweb
25. Hubert Dupont (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale at 0:40.

Giro d’Italia Overall After Stage 15:
1. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Sunweb in 63:48:08
2. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar at 2:41
3. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ at 3:21
4. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Bahrain-Merida at 3:40
5. Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Katusha-Alpecin at 4:24
6. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo at 4:32
7. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) AG2R-La Mondiale at 4:59
8. Bob Jungels (Lux) Quick-Step Floors at 5:18
9. Andrey Amador (CRc) Movistar at 6:01
10. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) LottoNl-Jumbo at 7:03
11. Adam Yates (GB) Orica-Scott at 7:43
12. Davide Formolo (Ita) Cannondale-Drapac at 8:09
13. Dario Cataldo (Ita) Astana at 8:14
14. Jan Polanc (Slo) UAE Team Emirates at 9:11
15. Ben Hermans (Bel) BMC at 10:51
16. Maxime Monfort (Bel) Lotto Soudal at 11:47
17. Rui Costa (Por) UAE Team Emirates at 16:52
18. Jan Hirt (Cze) CCC Sprandi Polkowice at 19:45
19. Sébastien Reichenbach (Swi) FDJ at 21:31
20. Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe 0:22:27
21. Laurens De Plus (Bel) Quick-Step Floors at 22:31
22. Hubert Dupont (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale at 22:53
23. Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Bahrain-Merida at 24:47
24. Simone Petilli (Ita) UAE Team Emirates at 26:06
25. Jesper Hansen (Den) Astana at 26:36.

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