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After an incredibly fast start, Pirazzi joins a big 26-rider move, makes the 5-rider selection and finally launches a perfectly timed attack with 1km to go to take win number 3 for Bardiani

Photo: Sirotti














28.05.2014 @ 19:18 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Stefano Pirazzi continued the excellent Giro d'Italia for the Bardiani team when he took the third stage victory for the small pro continental team in today's 17th stage of the race. After a brutal start to the stage, the Italian joined a big 26-rider move that decided the stage win, made the 5-rider selection after the steep Poggio wall and finally launched a well-timed attack with 1km to go. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) enjoyed an easy second half of the stage and heads into the next three big mountain stages as the race leader.


With two stage wins, the Giro d'Italia had already been a huge success for the Bardiani team when they lined up for today's stage 17 of the race. However, the team has no intentions of resting on their laurels in the final part of the race and today they got another reward for their aggressive riding.


This time it was the senior member of the team, Stefano Pirazzi, who put the team in the spotlight when he added a stage victory to the mountains jersey he won 12 months ago. On a rolling, transitional stage that was destined to be won by an escapee, he emerged as the strongest and wiliest from a big 26-rider group.


With the stage being the final opportunity for most of the riders in the peloton, the start was a brutal one and the riders did more than 70km before the break finally took off. When the dust settled, Bardiani had done an amazing job to put no less than 3 riders in the big group.


From there, it was all about conserving energy for the finale and as the peloton showed no interest in bringing the break back, the second half of the stage evolved into a rather dull affair. However, the finale was an exciting one and again Bardiani was on their marks.


They briefly seemed to have missed out when Thomas De Gendt (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) took off on his own. Pirazzi showed his strength when he bridged across on his own on the steep Poggio wall 20km from the line while his teammates Nicola Boem and Marco Canola played an active role further back.


Tim Wellens (Lotto Belisol), Matteo Montaguri (Ag2r) and Jay McCarthy (Tinkoff-Saxo) also made the junction and as there was no cooperation in the chase group, it soon became clear that the quintet would stay away. Being no fast finisher, however, Pirazzi knew that he had to attack to take the win.


He tried twice and the second time he timed it perfectly when he took off just before the flamme rouge. Montaguti briefly tried to shut it down but when he stopped, the momentum went out of the chase and Pirazzi got a big gap.


When the sprint was launched, they got close but Wellens who beat McCarthy in a close battle, ran out of metres. Pirazzi had time to raise his arms and celebrate the biggest win of his career.


For Nairo Quintana, it was a pretty easy first day as race leader. When the early war had ended, the Colombian had his teammates Francisco Ventoso and Adriano Malori set a steady pace all day and he safely rolled across the line within the peloton with a time loss of a little more than 15 minutes.


He can expect to come under considerably more pressure tomorrow when the race continues with another stage in the mountains. The stage offers to big climbs in the first part of the stage before it all comes to a conclusion with the long, steep climb to Panarotta.


A lumpy affair

After yesterday's brutal stage, the riders got a bit of respite from the hard climbing in today's

208km stage 17 from Sarnonico to Vittorio Veneto. However, the stage was no flat affair as it contained a very lumpy second half that was littered with small steep climb. The riders went up the brutally steep Poggio wall just 20km from the finish and then it was a rolling terrain all the way to the finish.


Yesterday several riders were forced to abandon the race but all riders that finished the brutal stage to Valmartello took the start. Unlike yesterday's rainy conditions, the riders had rather pleasant weather when they left Sarnonica around noon local time.


An aggressive start

For the riders that are neither climbers nor sprinters, this was the final opportunity to chase some personal success and so all riders prepared themselves for a big fight right from the start. That turned out to be a true prediction as the pace was fast right from the gun and the attacking continued for a long time, with the peloton even splitting briefly at one point.


It seemed that most of the peloton tried to attack at some point. At the 46km mark, Stefano Pirazzi (Bardiani) initiated what seemed to be a promising move but he had no luck either.  The riders covered an impressive 52km in the first hour but there was still no sign of a break going clear.


The break takes off

After 68km of racing, Jos van Emden (Belkin) and Thomas De Gendt (OPQS) attacked and they were soon joined by Daniel Oss (BMC). The trio worked well together while behind a 20-rider group slipped clear.


The chasers caught the front trio while a few more tried to bridge across. Their effort proved to be in vain though as the peloton finally decided that they had had enough. In just a few kilometres, the 25-rider group had built up a gap of 4 minutes at the 93km of racing.


Frapporti takes off in pursuit

The group was made up of Enrico Gasparotto (Astana), Matteo Montaguti (AG2R La Mondiale), Stefano Pirazzi (Bardiani), Nicola Boem (Bardiani), Marco Canola (Bardiani), Jos Van Emden (Belkin), Daniel Oss (BMC), Oscar Gatto (Cannondale), Johan Le Bon (FDJ), Jussi Viekkanen (FDJ), Daniano Cunego (Lampre-Merida), Matteo Bono (Lampre-Merida), Lars Bak (Lotto-Belisol), Tim Wellens (Lotto-Belisol), Igor Anton (Movistar), Thomas De Gendt (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), Serge Pauwels (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), Davide Malacarne (Europcar), Simon Geschke (Giant-Shimano), Alberto Losada (Katusha), Eduard Vorganov (Katusha), Philip Deignan (Sky), Evgeni Petrov (Tinkoff-Saxo), Jay McCarthy (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Fabio Felline (Trek Factory Racing). Androni had missed the move and so Marco Frapporti set off in pursuit. Impressively, the Italian bridged a 1-30 gap to make it 26 riders in the front group.


Most of the teams - including the sprint teams were represented in the group and so the peloton was leased to take it easy after a tough start. While Wellens made sure to score maximum points on the first climb, Francisco Ventoso and Adriano Malori took control of the bunch and allowed the gap to grow rapidly. With 100km to go, the escapees were already more then 7 minutes ahead, and the advantage passed the 10-minute mark 20km further up the road.


Calmness in the peloton

The riders in the peloton were not the only ones to go slowly as the escapees now knew that they would stay away. Hence, they were keen to prepare and save some energy for the finale and so they slowed completely down, with some of the riders even taking a natural break. Cunego suffered a puncture but had no difficulty getting back to the break.


The gap went up to 12.20 before Movistar slightly upped the pace and brought it back to 11.45. Meanwhile, Wellens sprinted ahead to win the intermediate sprint ahead of Montaguti, De Gendt and Frapporti.


Wellens attacks

Movistar continued to bring down the gap while up ahead, the riders hit the second climb of the day. Wellens attacked on the lower slopes and got a small gap before cresting the summit as the lone leader. Malacarne attacked near the top and bridged the gap but De Gendt brought it back together on the descent. At the top of the climb, the gap was 10.46.


The break again slowed down to prepare for the finale while the gap went down to less than 10 minutes. Everybody seemed to be waiting for the Poggio wall when De Gendt caught them all by surprise 29km from the finish, launching the first attack. As nobody responded he quickly got a big gap, with his teammate Pauwels doing an amazing job to disrupt the chase.


Vorganov crashes out of contention

Pirazzi, Oss, Gatto, Veikkanen, Geschke, Petrov and Boem all tried to attack but only Pirazzi and Veikkanen briefly had a bigger gap. Disaster struck for Vorganov, Le Bon and Frapporti as they went down in the roundabout after the riders had hit a section with wet roads. While Le Bon and Frapporti were quickly back on their bikes, Vorganov was taken out of contention.


De Gendt hit the wall with an 18-second gap while Bak led the chasers onto the climb. Geschke upped the pace but it was Pirazzi who had the strength to take off. Geschke set off in pursuit while the rest of the break splintered to pieces.


Pirazzi bridges the gap

Impressively, Pirazzi bridged to De Gendt just after the top while Gatto and Boem were the next to cross the line. Then Wellens, Geschke, Montaguti, Felline, McCarthy, Losada and Canola followed in a small group.


At this point, the peloton had hit the slick roads and while all GC riders stayed near the front, there was an agreement to take it very easy, meaning that the gap was growing very quickly. Up ahead, Geschke and Gatto both went down on the slippery roads and while the former was back on his bike immediately, the latter was out of the action with a mechanical.


More riders join the front group

Pirazzi struggled to keep up with De Gendt on the descent but managed to rejoin him a little later. McCarthy and Montaguti joined them with 15km to go and shortly after Wellens also made the junction.


Behind, Oss, Felline, Petrov, Pauwels, Canola, Boem, Van Emden, Geschke, Bak, Losada, Deignan and Le Bon made up their nearest chasers but while the front quintet worked excellently together to maintain a 20-second gap, the chasers kept attacking each other. Losada, Deignan, Pauwels, Le Bon and Boem all tried to get clear but had no success.


No organized chase

With 7km to go, Felline got a big gap and Boem managed to join him. A little later Van Emden and Canola also made the junction and it seemed that they had a chance to get back to the front. However, they were brought back 3km from the line and then it was Bak to make an unsuccessful attack.


The game of cat and mouse had now started and the first to launch an attack was Pirazzi 2.5km from the line. Montaguti brought it back together and from there all the work was left to the Ag2r and OPQS riders.


The decisive move

Just before the flamme rouge, Pirazzi made his next move and this time no one responded. Montaguti refused to again do all the work and so De Gendt moved to the front to set a steady pace. It was too late though and when Wellens beat McCarthy in the sprint, it was only for second place.


The peloton had upped the pace as Ag2r's lead in the teams classification had come slightly under threat and so the French team put Patrick Gretsch, Axel Domont and Julien Berard on the front. The trio worked hard until the flamme rouge where Julien Vermote took over for OPQS. Iljo Keisse did a small sprint with Rigoberto Uran on his wheel and they led the peloton across the line with a time loss of 15.36.



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