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Having been part of a 12-rider breakaway, Gilbert limited his losses on the Monte Ologno and finally escaped on the descent to win stage 18 of the Giro d’Italia; Contador attacked Landa and increased his advantage to 5.15

Photo: ANSA / DAL ZENNARO - ZENNARO - PERI

ALBERTO CONTADOR

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GIRO D'ITALIA

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PHILIPPE GILBERT

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SYLVAIN CHAVANEL

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28.05.2015 @ 17:55 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Philippe Gilbert (BMC) emerged as a surprise winner of the first of the three late mountain stages in the Giro d’Italia when he timed his effort perfectly to come out on top in stage 18 of the Giro d’Italia. Having been part of 12-rider breakaway, he limited his losses on the Monte Ologno, rejoined the front group on the descent and went straight past them to solo to his second win in the race. Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) attacked Mikel Landa (Astana) when the Basque had been caught up in a crash and joined forces with Ryder Hesjedal (Cannondale-Garmin) to put 1.13 into the rest of the GC contenders.

 

In the 2013 Vuelta a Espana, Philippe Gilbert came very close to the win in a big mountain stage but the Belgian came up short against Daniele Ratto on a brutally cold day in Andorra. Today he proved his versatility when he finally added a big mountain stage in a grand tour to his already impressive palmares.

 

Stage 18 of the Giro d’Italia was an almost completely flat affair until the riders hit the Monte Ologno with 45km to go. The ascent was one of the hardest of the entire race but as it summited 35km from the finish, it was always destined to be a day for a breakaway.

 

That made it a perfect target for Gilbert who had come up short in stage 17 when his late attack was neutralized by Tinkoff-Saxo. With his power on the flats, he had a good chance to join the right breakaway and if he could limit his losses on the Monte Ologno, his good descending skills and fast sprint would make him hard to beat.

 

Gilbert made perfect use of all his skills to win a stage that should maybe have been a bit too hard for him. Despite being up against several strong climbers in the break that decided the stage, he timed his effort perfectly to take a huge solo win.

 

At the bottom of the climb, Gilbert was in a 12-rider group with Chad Haga (Giant Alpecin), Davide Villella (Cannondale Garmin), Matteo Busato (SouthEast), Pieter Weening (Orica GreenEdge), Sylvain Chavanel (IAM), David De La Cruz (Etixx Quick Step), Amael Moinard (BMC), Francesco Manuel Bongiorno (Bardiani CSF), Maxim Belkov (Katusha), Kanstantsin Siutsou (Sky) and Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2r La Mondiale) and they had been given the green light to fight for the stage win as the peloton was 12.15 behind as they entered the final 50km. The fight for position of course made the gap melt away but it was clear that the stage winner would be one of the escapees.

 

De la Cruz went straight to the front to set a fast pace and Haga was immediately distance. Busato was the next to surrender and suddenly only Bongiorno and Siutsou could stay with him. Moinard and Nocentini managed to rejoin them while Gilbert joined forces with Chavanel, Weening, Villella and Belkov to form a chase group.

 

Meanwhile, the brutal fight for position in the peloton created a big crash at a point when Tinkoff-Saxo had taken control. Most of the Sky team went down but the big victim was Mikel Landa who had to chase hard with several teammates.

 

Tinkoff-Saxo did not slow down, with Matto Tosatto and Manuele Boaro taking huge turns on the front. Sergio Paulinho took over and as soon as they hit the climb, Alberto Contador asked his teammates to go full gas.

 

Roman Kreuziger took a huge turn while Juan Jose Lobato (Movistar) went down in a bad crash further back. Only Contador and Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) could keep up with him and moments later the race leader took off.

 

Contador easily distanced all his rivals while Ryder Hesjedal (Cannondale) and Alexandre Geniez (FDJ) were his nearest chasers. Further back, a main group with Tanel Kangert, Fabio Aru (Astana), Yury Trofimov (Katusha), Andrey Amador, Ruben Fernandez (Movistar), Kruijswijk, Kenny Elissonde (FDJ), Jurgen Van Den Broeck, Maxime Monfort (Lotto Soudal), Damiano Caruso (BMC) and Leopold König (Sky) had formed. Kangert and Fernanez set the pace and they got some help from Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) who managed to rejoin them.

 

Landa was now on his own until he caught Edoardo Zardini (Bardiani) and those two riders worked really well together to reduce their deficit of 1.30 to Contador. Meanwhile, Chavanel and Gilbert had made it back to the front group.

 

Geniez was brought back by the chase group while Monfort and Fernandez were dropped from that group. Moments later, Landa managed to rejoin the Aru group which was 1.00 behind Contador. Later Zardini also made the junction while Visconti was doing all the work in the group.

 

In the front group, de la Cruz launched a big attack and only Bongiorno, Siutsou and Moinard could keep up with him. Nocentini, Chavanel and Gilbert formed a chase trio that constantly lost ground to the front quartet.

 

Contador was now riding faster than the main group and suddenly he had extended his lead to 1.40. Meanwhile, Aru was suffering and alongside Elissonde, Geniez and Kangert he was dropped from the Landa group. Later Zardini, van den Broeck and Kruijswijk also lost contact.

 

Bongiorno led Situsou, de la Cruz and Moinard over the top while Gilbert, Nocentini and Chavanel followed 50 seconds later. At the same time, Kangert and Aru did a good job to limit their losses and alongside, Van Den Broeck, Zardini and Kruijswijk, they managed to rejoin the Landa group which lost a bit of momentum when Visconti had to change his bike.

 

Geniez and Elissonde also got back before they crested the summit where Hesjedal caught Contador. Those two riders were 1.07 ahead of the main group and were working excellently together.

 

Bongiorno attacked on a small hill and Siutsou briefly lost contact. That spelled the end for the cooperation in that group which kept attacking each other and so the chasers which had been joined by Busato, were getting closer.

 

Hesjedal and Contador picked up Villella and those three riders managed to extend their advantage to 1.45. Meanwhile, Visconti was still doing all the work in the chase group which had been joined by Franco Pellizotti (Androni) and later also Monfort.

 

Having finished the hard part, Kangert and Aru started to work with Visconti but they could do nothing but stabilize the situation. Meanwhile, Gilbert had dropped his companions and was now about to rejoin the front group.

 

With 19km to go, he made the junction and he didn’t hesitate at all, launching an immediate attack. No one responded and when Busato, Chavanel and Nocentini also made it across, he was already 25 seconds ahead.

 

From there, it was clear that he would win the stage as there was no cooperation at all in the chase group. There were several attacks but Moinard did a perfect job to protect his teammate.

 

Meanwhile, Trofimov had launched a brief attack on the descent but as he was brought back, his teammate Belkov waited for them. The Russian started to work with Kangert, Visconti, Elissonde and Aru and so Contador, Hesjedal and Villella started to lose ground.

 

At this point, Gilbert was already celebrating his win and he had plenty of time to savour the moment when he crossed the line. Bongiorno managed to get clear in the finale to take second while Chavanel won the sprint for third.

 

Inside the final 3km, Hesjedal and Contador dropped Villella and they worked hard all the way to the line to take 11th and 12th on the stage. 1.13 later Geniez led the main group home.

 

As a consequence, Contador extended his advantage over Landa to 5.15. He takes that comfortable buffer into tomorrow’s second big mountain stage in a row. It’s a mammoth 236km affair that has a completely flat first part before the riders get to the difficult finale. Here they will go up three category 1 climbs, with the final one leading straight to the finish in Cervinia.

 

A tough finale

After an easier stage, it was back into the mountains for stage 18 which brought the riders over 170km from Melide to Verbania. After a completely flat first part, the riders got to the difficult finale when they hit the bottom of the category 1 Monte Ologno whose 10.4km with an average gradient of 9% made it one of the hardest climbs of the entire race. The summit was located with 35.6km to go and from there it was a short rolling section and a long descent to a very short flat section.

 

The riders had nice sunny conditions when they gathered for the start in Melide and as expected they got the race off to a brutal opening phase. Everybody knew that this was the perfect day for a breakaway to make it to the finish and so there were lots of attack right from the gun.

 

Pineau abandons

Sylvain Chavanel (IAM) was one of the first riders to give it a go after 2km of racing but his move was quickly brought back. Instead, the attacking continued for a long time but no one was able to get clear.

 

When Jerome Pineau (IAM) left the race after 30km of racing, a group still hadn’t escaped. 10km later it was still together but the elastic finally snapped after 44km of fast racing.

 

The break gets clear

The break that was given the green light to go clear was made up of Chad Haga (Giant Alpecin), Davide Villella (Cannondale Garmin), Matteo Busato (SouthEast), Pieter Weening (Orica GreenEdge), Damiano Cunego (Nippo Fantini), Roberto Ferrari (Lampre Merida), Sylvain Chavanel (IAM), David De La Cruz (Etixx Quick Step), Philippe Gilbert and Amael Moinard (BMC), Francesco Manuel Bongiorno (Bardiani CSF), Maxim Belkov (Katusha), Kanstantsin Siutsou (Sky) and Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2r La Mondiale). They quickly got an advantage of 2.20 while Jesus Herrada (Movistar) and Fabio Felline (Trek) formed a chase group 40 seconds further back.

 

Ferrari and Cunego went down in a crash and unfortunately this forced Cunego to leave the race. Meanwhile, the peloton slowed down and allowed the gap to go out to 6.34 with 100km to go. At this point, Felline and Herrada had caught Ferrari but they were losing ground. With 85km to go, they sat up and waited for the peloton which was led by Christopher Juul and Ivan Rovny for Tinkoff-Saxo and had been distanced by 10.50.

 

The gap grown to more than 12 minutes

Gilbert won the first intermediate sprint while the esscapees worked well together to extend their advantage when de la Cruz fought his way back from a puncture with 75km to go, the gap was already 11.55 and it even went out to 12.55 before the peloton reacted.

 

It was Sky who finally took some initiative when Bernhard Eisel started to work with the two Tinkoff riders. His effort brought the gap down to 12.30 before he swung off and left it to Rovny, Juul and Tosatto to set the pace. Meanwhile, Gilbert sprinted ahead to win the final intermediate sprint, followed by Siutsou and Bongiorno.

 

While the escapees readied themselves for the finale, the fight for position started in the peloton. FDJ took control with Anthony Roux, Cedric Pineau and Arnaud Courteille and so they were in a good position when a big crash split the field and set the scene for a dramatic finale.

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