What had been hyped as a battle between Alejandro Valverde and Vincenzo Nibali for the maglia rosa took on a very different aspect in the final kilometres of the Giro d’Italia’s queen stage into Corvara. Rather than these former Grand Tour winners, it was Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEdge) and Steven Kruiswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) who took the headlines.
The incredibly difficult ‘Queen stage’ of the 99th Giro d’Italia got underway in dry conditions but with ominous grey clouds hanging overhead. Lotto-Soudal took early control at the front of the peloton with several attacks attempting to form without success over the first 40kilometres.
Eventually a large group of around forty riders went clear on the approach to the Passo Pordoi. After 55kilometres of racing the breakaway had over four minutes on the bunch with Movistar now taking up the mantle of leading the chase.
At the start of the legendary climb up the Passo Pordoi the front group was six minutes 23seconds ahead of the peloton with Movistar being forced to continue the work at the front of the bunch in defence of the pink jersey of Andrey Amador.
The breakaway group split slightly on the descent of the Pordoi with David Lopez (Sky) off the front alone. Over seven minutes separated Lopez and the peloton at the start of the second climb the Passo Sella. The Sky rider was caught by the remnants of the breakaway with Ruben Plaza (Orica-GreenEDGE) the next rider to attack on the Passo Gardena.
Pushing on alone the Spaniard claimed the mountain points at the summit with 20seconds on the chasing Lopez and Moreno Moser (Cannondale) going into the descent.
This was proving to be a great ride by Plaza as he continued to put the hammer down on the Passo Campolongo with three chasers 50seconds behind him and the peloton a further eight minutes down as Plaza climbed solo to again claim the mountains points. Time trialling his way along the rolling roads between the climbs Plaza was motoring towards the iconic Passo Giau and maintaining his lead over the three groups behind.
Plaza had a minute and a half on the first group of chasers going onto the penultimate climb with the pink jersey group at nine minutes. Immediately reaching gradients of 14%, the Passo Giau came with 50kilometres left to race and riders were starting to get dropped from the first chasing group of Lopez and the Valverde/Nibali main contender group.
Kanstantsin Siutsou (Dimension-Data) and Darwin Atapuma (BMC) attacked from the chasing group and caught Plaza near the summit of the Passo Giau with 45kilometres to go.
The pink jersey group was also changing shape as Astana moved to the front and upped the pace with Amador immediately losing contact as the group thinned out dramatically. The Movistar rider managed to regain contact with the favourites group after a hair-raising descent ten kilometres from the final climb.
The eleven kilometre Passo Valparola was the last climb before the short Muro del Gatto just before the finish in Corvara and it was here that Nibali attacked with Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNl-Jumbo) and Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEdge) jumping immediately onto his wheel before Nibali went again. Valverde and Amador were now both dropped as was Uran and Rafal Majka (Tinkoff).
Uran and Majka regained contact a couple of kilometres later as Chaves began to unleash a series attacks off the front of the group. Kruijswijk followed suit managing to distance Nibali but Chaves stayed with the LottoNL-Jumbo rider and attacked again gaining ten seconds into the Italian Champion.
Chaves and Kruijswijk were now tearing the Valparola climb apart with Nibali falling further behind and the trio out front at 50seconds and dropping.
Atapuma attacked over the summit and started the long descent alone as Chaves and Kruijswijk caught Siutsou and Georg Preidler (Giant-Alpecin). The quartet were 20seconds behind Atapuma with Nibali now taking risks on the downhill a further 38seconds behind.
Into the last ten kilometres and Chaves was driving the group forward still 20seconds down on Atapuma heading onto the short but steep Muro del Gatto. Siutsou was now dropped and caught by Nibali as the Chaves trio caught Atapuma in the last five kilometres.
The four riders now shaped up for the sprint with Chaves positioning himself perfectly before launching himself into the final 100metres to take a spectacular victory.
Stage fifteen takes place tomorrow with an individual uphill time trial of 10.8kilometres from Castelrotto to Alpe di Siusi. With an average gradient of 8% and a maximum of 11% the challenging route runs entirely uphill.
Giro d’Italia 2016 – stage 14 results (Alpago – Corvara):
|1||Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEdge)||
|2||Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNl-Jumbo)||
|3||Georg Preidler (Giant-Alpecin)||
|4||Darwin Atapuma (BMC)||
|5||Vincenzo Nibali (Astana)||
|6||Kanstantsin Siutsou (Dimension Data)||
|7||Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha)||
|8||Rafal Majka (Tinkoff)||
|9||Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale)||
|10||Domenico Pozzovivo (AG2R)||
General classification after stage 14:
|1||Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNl-Jumbo)||
|2||Vincenzo Nibali (Astana)||
|3||Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEdge)||
|4||Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)||
|5||Andrey Amador (Movistar)||
|6||Rafal Majka (Tinkoff)||
|7||Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha)||
|8||Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale)||
|9||Kanstantsin Siutsou (Dimension Data)||
|10||Jakob Fuglsang (Astana)||
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andrey amador esteban chaves Giro d'Italia LottoNL-Jumbo maglia rosa stage 14 Steven Kruijswijk tour of italy