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Having joined forces with Kruijswijk on the final climb, Chaves caught early attackers Preidler and Atapuma before winning the four-rider uphill sprint in stage 14 of the Giro d’Italia; Kruijswijk was second and moved into the maglia...

Photo: Sirotti












21.05.2016 @ 17:42 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEDGE) confirmed that he is ready to go for victory in the Giro d’Italia when he came out on top on a very dramatic queen stage of the race. Having made it back to Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) on the final climb, he caught early attackers Georg Preidler (Giant-Alpecin) and Darwin Atapuma (BMC) before winning the four-rider uphill sprint. Kruijswijk finished second and moved into second while Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) lost 36 seconds and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) lost a massive 3 minutes.


In the last few days, several riders have said that one rider was looking stronger than everybody else on the climbs at the Giro d’Italia. Most of attention may have been gained by Vincenzo Nibali and Alejandro Valverde but many have warned that Esteban Chaves seemed to be the best climber in the race.


After two weeks of waiting, the truth was always likely to come out in today’s massive queen stage in the Dolomites where a total of six categorized climbs over a mammoth 210km distance was set to blot the race to pieces. That’s exactly what happened and when the dust had settled after a dramatic day, the predictions were confirmed as it was Chaves who had come out on top.


Chaves had patiently in the peloton while his teammate Ruben Plaza had tried to take a big solo win from a breakaway and instead it was the Astana team that threw the gauntlet. As expected the Kazakh team made the race explode on the Passo Giau and it was all just preparation for Vincenzo Nibali to make his expected move.


That attack came on the final climb with 27km to go but neither Chaves nor Steven Kruijswijk gave him an inch. The Italian still looked strong when he responded to the first attack from Chaves but when Kruijswijk countered, the pre-race favourite was dropped.


Chaves hesitated for a moment before he bridged the gap to Kruijswijk and from there the pair worked together to gain time on their biggest rivals. They caught early attackers Georg Preidler and Darwin Atapuma and when the quartet sprinted for the win, it was the punchy Colombian who emerged as the strongest.


However, the big winner was probably Kruijswijk as the Dutchman’s second place saw him move into second while Nibali lost 37 seconds to his rivals. The big loser was Alejandro Valverde who lost a massive 3 minutes while race leader Andrey Amador (Movistar) lost even more.


After a fast start that had seem Plaza make a big solo bid for victory, the race came to life on the Passo Giau. Hehit the key climb with a 2-minute advantage over Andrey Zeits (Astana), Darwin Atapuma (BMC), Moreno Moser (Cannondale), Kanstantsin Siutsou (Dimension Data), David de la Cruz (Etixx-QuickStep), Stefan Denifl (IAM), Maxime Monfort (Lotto Soudal), Georg Preidler (Giant-Alpecin), Damiano Cunego (Nippo), Pavel Kochetkov (Katusha), David Lopez, Nicolas Roche (Sky) and Matteo Busato (Wilier). Siutsou was the virtual leader and immediately went full gas as soon as the road started to climb. Only Preidler, Monfort, Atapuma, de la Cruz, Roche, Lopez and Cunego could match his speed as the group exploded to pieces.


Siutsou didn’t look back and when he had reduced the gap to 50 seconds, only Roche could hang onto his wheel. Meanwhile, the peloton hit the climb 8.40 behind Plaza, with Jose Joaquin Rojas setting the pace on the lower slopes.


Rojas was soon replaced by the Astana riders who dropped the hammer on the lower slopes. Eros Capecchi did the first damage as immediately created a big selection. Andrey Amador soon dropped to the rear end of the field.


Atapuma and Preidler made it back to Siutsou and Roche but they were no longer getting closer to Plaza. In fact, the Spaniard quickly pushed the gap out to a minute.


Siutsou dropped his companions bu Atapuma soon regained contact. Preidler was chasing just a few metres back but failed to regain contact.


In the peloton, Gianluca Brambilla (Etixx-QuickStep), Davide Formolo (Cannondale) and Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) were the first big names to get distanced as Astana set a brutal pace. Tanel Kanget was doing the damage and very soon only Kangert, Scarponi, Fuglsang, Nibali, Valverde, Amador, Kruijswijk, Battaglin, Majka, Jungels, Dombowski, Chaves, Uran, Zakarin,  Howson, Henao, Nieve, Zoidl, Pozzovivo, Dupont, Verona, Ciccone and Cardoso were left


With 45km to go, Howson and Verona were dropped from the peloton just as Siutsou and Atapuma caught Plaza. The Spaniard exploded completely and was unable to keep up with the pair.


Scarponi took over from Kangert and immediately created a big selection in the peloton as Cardoso, Jungels, Ciccone, Cardodo, Battaglin, Henao, Dupont and Fuglsang were dropped. Hence, only Scarponi, Nibali, Valverde, Kruisjwijk, Majka, Chaves, Uran, Domrbowski, Amador, Zakarin, Pozzovivo and Nieve had survived as they entered the final 45km.


Nieve soon got distanced as Amador drifted to the rear end of the group. The group picked up Zeits who hit the front and gave Scarponi a short breather by riding on the front for a few kilometres.


Atapuma sprinted past Siutsou to win the KOM sprint while Preidler crossed the line in third. Scarponi again took over the pace-setting in the peloton.  Impressively, Nieve managed to rejoin the group as they tackled the final hairpin bends near the top.


Amador was losing gorund quickly and was caught by Henao, Fuglsang and Dupont as they approached the top  Scarponi led the group over the line 4.10 behind the leaders while the Amador group reached the top 53 seconds later.


Scarponi set a fast pace on the descent but he still lost ground to Amador who went full gas in an attempt to get back. Henao was the final rider to get dropped by the Costa Rican who made it back just as the descent ended.


Preidler rejoined the front duo on the descent and the trio hit the final climb with an advantage of four minutes over the peloton which brought back Plaza and Denifl just as they started to climb. Cunego and Monfort formed a chase dup 1.45 behind the leasders.


Scarponi set a fast pace to reduce the gap to just 3 minutes and it was all preparation for Nibali’s big attack. It came with 27km to go and only Kruijswijk could follow. Chaves quickly bridged the gap while Majka, Uran and Zakarin gave chase but Valverde only drifted backwards.


Valverde decided to wait for Amador and the Movistar pair were joined by Roche, Nieve, Pozzovivo, Dombrowski and Scarponi to form a group. The Movistar pair did all the work but didn’t get any closer to the Nibali trio. Amador was briefly dropped but dug deep to make it back while Roche lost contact for good


After a hard chase, Majka, Uran and Zakarin rejoined the Nibali trio and the sextet had already put 30 seconds into the Valverde group where the Spaniard was doing all the work. Meanwhile, Atapuma dropped his companions and was riding solo towards the top.


The Nibali group worked well together until Chaves was the first to move. He failed to get clear but Zakarin dropped off.


Kruijswijk countered and no one could respond to his fierce acceleration. Chaves hesitated for a moment but then accelerated to make it back to the Dutchman. Nibali cracked and was in lone pursuit while Majka and Uran drifted back to Zakarin.


Nibali was losing ground and saw Majka, Zakarin and Uran approach from behind while Fuglsang, Dupont and Henao made it back to the Valverde group. That was a welcome sight for the Spaniard as Dupont took over the pace-setting to work for Pozzovivo.


With 20km to go, Atapuma was 15 seconds ahead of Siutsou-Preidler, 55 seconds ahead of  Chaves-Kruijswijk, 1.20 ahead of Nibali and 3.00 ahead of the Valverde group. At the top of the climb, the two chase duos had merged and were 40 seconds behind while Nibali was 30 seconds further adrift. The Valverde group had lost 3.15.


Atapuma did a very good descent to keep a 30-second advantage as he entered the final 10km. Nibali was not getting any closer and was still 30 seconds behind his rivals while the Valverde group was stuck at 3.10, despite Amador and Valverde working well together on the front.


Atapuma hit the final steep 1.3km wall with and advantage of 20 seconds over the chase group from which Siutsou lost contact as soon as they started to climb. Nibali had reduced the gap to just 20 seconds.


Kruijswijk went full gas but Chaves and Preidler didn’t given him an inch and the trio crested the summit just 15 seconds behind Atapuma. Nibali caught Siutsou and was just 15 seconds further adrift. Amador was dropped from the Valverde group from which Fuglsang attacked.


Atapuma did his best but with 1.9km to go he was brought back by Chaves, Kruijswijk and Preidler. The two GC riders worked well together as they headed up the rise to the finish and Preidler was in prime position to go for the win. However, the Austrian attacked way too early when he hit out with 800m to go. Only Atapuma cracked while Chaves and Kruijswijk moved onto Preidler’s wheel. From there, the outcome was never in doubt as Chaves easily came around to take the win, with Kruijswijk and Preidler completing the podium.


Nibali and Siutsou lost 37 seconds while Zakarin and Majka arrived with a loss of 2.29. Uran was 21 seconds further adrift while a disappointed Valverde arrived in his small group with a massive 3-minute delay.


With the second place, Kruijswijk takes the maglia rosa with a 41-second advantage over Nibali while Chaves is 1.32 adrift in third.There will be no room to recover though as the Dutchman faces probably the most important stage of the race tomorrow. Stage 15 is the 10.8km mountain time trial up the Alpe di Siusi. Only the first 1.8km are relatively flat and from there but from there the climb is relentless. It averages 8.4% during the next 8km before it levels slightly off near the top, meaning that huge time gaps will be created on the brutal climb.


The queen stage

After yesterday’s big mountain stage, it was time for the queen stage which brought the riders over 210 km from Alpago to Corvara. After a flat start, a long gradual climb led to the bottom of the category 1 Passo Pordoi and from there the climbs came in quick succession. There were a total of 6 climbs on the menu, most notably the brutally steep Passo Giau whose summit was located with 41.2km to go. Then the riders faced the easier Passo Valparola before they hit the final 19.4km. They were made of a descent, a short, steep wall with 4km to go and finally a gradual 2-3% uphill drag for the final 3km.


The 174 riders who reached the finish yesterday, were all there when the peloton rolled towards the Dolomites in bright sunshine. A Dimension Data rider was unlucky to puncture in the neutral zone, but he was back in the field when the flag was dropped to signal the official start.


Demare abandons

Lars Bak (Lotto Soudal) was the first riders to attack but like everybody else who tried in the first part, he did not get away. Lotto Soudal and Bardiani were both very active, but it was impossible to get clear.


After 43km of racing, the peloton was split into two big groups and the gap between the two quickly grew to 30 seconds after a blistering first hour during which 48.5 km were covered. 36 riders made up the first group and when the peloton took a breather, the gap quickly went out to 3.26. At the same time Arnaud Demare (FDJ) left the race.


37 riders get clear

The first group consisted of Axel Domont, Hugo Houle (AG2R-La Mondiale), Andrey Zeits (Astana), Nicola Boem, Francesco Manuel Bongiorno, Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani - CSF), Darwin Atapuma (BMC Racing), Moreno Moser, Nathan Brown ( Cannondale), kanstantsin sivtsov (Dimension Data), David De La Cruz, Matteo Trentin (Team Quick Step), Sergey Firsanov (Gazprom-RusVelo), Stefan Denifl (IAM Cycling), Diego Ulissi, Valerio Conti, Sacha Modolo, Manuele Mori ( Lampre-Merida) Tim Wellens, Pim Ligthart, Maxime Monfort (Lotto Soudal), Carlos Betancur, José Herrada (Movistar), Damiano Cunego, Giacomo Berlato (Nippo-Vini Fantini), Ruben Plaza (Orica GreenEdge), Georg Preidler (Giant- Alpecin) Egor Silin, Rein Taaramäe (Katusha), Twan Castelijns, Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo), David Lopez Garcia, Nicolas Roche (Sky), Laurent Didier (Trek Segafredo), Matteo Busato and Daniel Martinez (Wilier-South East) and impressively Pavel Kochetkov (Katusha) managed to bridge the gap to make it a 37-rider break. They continued to build the advantage which was 4.38 after 73km of racing.


Movistar took control in the peloton and they kept the gap between the four- and five-minute marks. Meanwhile, Matthias Brändle (IAM)left the race and the average speed dropped to 41km/h after two hours of racing.


Hard work by Berlato

Ulissi and Trentin sprinted for the points in the intermediate sprint and it was the Lampre-Merida rider who came out on top. Ligthart rolled across the line in third.


The front group turned straight onto the lower slopes of the Passo Pordoi and it was Berlato who sacrificed himself for Cunego, doing all the work in the break. In the peloton, Jasha Sütterlin and Rory Sutherland were setting the pace for Movistar and they had allowed the gap to go out to 6.15 at the bottom of the climb


Denifl attacks

Berlato’s fast pace forced Movistar to ride hard in the peloton and so riders were constantly sent out the back door in the main group. The Italian kept riding on the front until Denigl launched an early attack. However, he was closely marked by Cunego and so most of the group came back together.


Denifl kept riding on the front before he made a second attack but Cunego didn’t give him an inch. Hence, the group came to a standstill until Mori took over the pace-setting while Sütterlin ended his work in the peloton and left it to Sutherland to set the pace.


KOM points for Cunego

Denifl attacked again 500m from the top, but he was unable to beat Cunego who was clearly the fastest. Lopez rolled across the line in third. The Spaniarard joined the dup on the descent.


While Sutherland slowly led the peloton to the top with a time loss of 7.04, Lopez continued his attack on the descent. Moser and Wellens joined him and those three riders hit the Passo Sella with a small advantage.


Lopez tales off

Atapuma split the group to pieces as he and a few more riders tried to bridge the gap to the three leaders. However, Lopez had no intention to wait and he attacked again, immediately putting Wellens and Moser in difficulty.


Wellens did his best to follow the Spaniard but the Belgian ultimately cracked and so the Spaniard soloed clear. Meanwhile, Berlato sat up after his hard work and Boem was also distanced.


Betancur waits for the peloton

Movistar asked Betancur to wait for the peloton as they needed manpower to control the race while Sutherland kept the gap to Lopez at around 7 minutes. Meanwhile, Przemyslaw Niemiec (Lampre-Merida) and Bert De Backer (Giant-Alpecin) left the race.


At the top of the climb, Lopez had a 20-second advantage over Roche and Atapuma, with Siutsou following a few seconds further back. Cunego won the sprint from a small group that included the likes of Monfort, Plaza, de la Cruz and Taaramae. Sutherland brought Berlato back and led the peloton to the top with a time loss of 8.28.


Plaza moves clear

Monfort, Moser, De La Cruz, Preidler, Siutsou, Plaza, Kochetkov, Roche, Atapuma and Lopez gathered to form a front group as they hit the Passo Gardena. Zeits, Herrada and Cunego quickly joined them to make it a 12-rider group.


Plaza surged clear as they hit the Passo Gardena while de la Cruz and Lopez set off in pursuit. Atapuma joined them to make it a trio and Domont and Roglic made it back to the Cunego group.


The peloton loses ground

At the top of the climb, Plaza had a 15-second advantage over his three chasers while the next group was further adrift. Sutherland and Jose Joaquin Rojas led the peloton to the top 8.59 behind the lone Spaniard.


Plaza crossed the finish line for the first time with an advantage of 25 seconds over his three chasers while the Cunego group was at 1.07. Hence, he won the final intermediate sprint, with Lopez taking second and de la Cruz third. Ulissi og Wellens, Mori, Conti, Houle and Brown formed a small group that had lost almost 4 minutes. In genereal, the group had exploded and riders kept crossing the line in small groups. Sutherland and Rojas led the peloton to the finish with a time loss of 9 minutes.


A chase group gathers

While Plaza extended his advantage to 45 seconds on the Passo Campolongo, stomach problems forced Ryder Hesjedal (Trek) to abandon. The Spaniard reached the top of the climb to win the KOM sprint, with Lopez and de la Cruz leading Atapuma across the line 48 seconds later. The Siutsou-Cunego group had lost 1.18 after having dropped Roglic, Herrada, Cunego and Domont. As opposed to this, Busato and Denigl had made it across.


The three chasers were caught by the Siutsou group while Sutherland slowly led the peloton to the top of the climb 9.30 behind Plaza. However, Sutherland and Rojas emptied themselves in the flat section and so they reduced the gap to 8.40 as they entered the final 55km. They brought Ulissi back in the process, with the Italian literally waving goodbye to his GC ambitions. Meanwhile, Plaza pushed his advantage over his 12 chasers out to 2 minutes and Cunego regained contact with that group.




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