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With a powerful attack on the final climb, Tiralongo distanced his rivals in a 10-rider breakaway to win the hilly stage 9 of the Giro d’Italia; Contador responded to Aru’s attacks and defended his overall lead

Photo: Sirotti










17.05.2015 @ 17:36 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Paolo Tiralongo (Astana) completed a great first week of the Giro d’Italia for Astana by taking his third stage victory in his home grand tour on the ninth day of the race. Having been part of an original 11-rider breakaway, he dropped final rival Tom-Jelte Slagter (Cannondale) with 4km to go and held off his chasers to take a huge solo win. Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) responded to Fabio Aru’s (Astana) attacks and even though he lost one second in the sprint, he defended his overall lead.


Paolo Tiralongo has spent most of his career as a loyal domestique and has never had many chances to chase personal success. In fact the 37-year-old veteran was still without a single victory when he lined up for the 2011 Giro.


Despite still being working as a support rider, he has started to clock of wins in the final part of his career and his home grand tour has been his happy hunting ground. It all started when former team captain Alberto Contador helped him take a big win in the 2011 Giro d’Italia and one year later he repeated that feat when he won an uphill sprint in Serra San Bruno.


In 2014 and 2015, he has been Fabio Aru’s bodyguard but despite that role he has found room to have his most successful season yet. A few weeks ago he won the final stage of the Giro del Trentino and today he took another big win in the Giro when he emerged as the strongest from an 11-rider breakaway on a very fast and hilly day in the Apennines.


Tiralongo was joined by the Cannondale-Garmin pair of Tom-Jelte Slagter and Ryder Hesjedal, Amael Moinard (BMC), Jesus Herrada (Movistar), Simon Geschke (Giant-Alpecin), Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani), Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo), Carlos Betancur (Ag2r), Kenny Elissonde (FDJ) and Maxim Belkov (Katusha) in the group that escaped after a furious start and very fast start to the race. The plan was again to be a support rider for Aru later in the stage but things turned out differently than planned as he suddenly got the chance to chase personal success.


The group got an advantage of 6 minutes before a big surge by his team on the day’s main climb brought it down to 2 minutes. However, Astana cancelled their offensive and so it quickly became clear that the escapees would fight for the stage win.


Colbrelli had fallen off the pace and Slagter escaped on a descent when they hit the bottom of the final category 2 climb with 16km to go. At that point, it seemed that the Dutchman would take the win as he was 1.45 ahead of his chasers while the peloton was 5 minutes behind.


Elissonde launched the first attack from the chase group and Tiralongo managed to join the tiny Frenchman. However, the group came back together and as they failed to cooperate, things were looking good for Slagter.


Belkov and Moinard had briefly been dropped but they made it back to the front group. The Russian later lost contact for good as the attacking continued, with Herrada being among the aggressive riders.


With 13km to go, Tiralongo made his big attack. Initially, Betancur could follow him but the Italian quickly distanced the rest and gradually edged closer to the fading Slagter. At the top, he was less than 10 seconds behind while Kruijswijk, Hesjedal and Herrada were next at 25 seconds.


In the peloton, it was a true war. From the lower slopes, Tinkoff-Saxo had set a hard pace, first with Manuele Boaro and later with Michael Rogers and Roman Kreuziger. That had whittled the group down significantly and reduced the gap down to just 3 minutes.


Finally, Fabio Aru launched his expected attack but Alberto Contador, Mikel Landa and Richie Porte could all match him. Stefano Pirazzi (Bardiani) also briefly made it into the group but he was quickly distanced as Landa started to work hard.


In the 15-rider peloton, Damiano Cunego (Nippo) and Jurgen van den Broeck (Lotto) was leading the chase but they were losing ground quickly. At the top, the Contador quartet was just 1.22 behind Slagter while the peloton was at 1.44.


Tiralongo caught Slagter on the descent while the chase group came back together. Meanwhile, Aru asked Contador to contribute to the pace-setting and after Porte had initially refused, the quartet started to work well together to increase their advantage over the peloton that got a lot bigger on the descent.


With 4km to go, the front duo hit the final small climb and here Slagter was unable to follow the Italian. He quickly fell back to the chase group from which Kruisjwijk attacked.


Entering the final kilometre, Kruijswijk was still 22 seconds behind and so it was clear that Tiralongo would take the win. He rolled across the line with a 21-second advantage over the Dutchman while Geschke won the sprint for third.


56 seconds later Aru launched a furious sprint on the uphill finishing straight and he managed to gain a second on Contador and Porte. Pirazzi had attacked out of the peloton but was caught just before the line where it was Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) who was first from the peloton.


Contador now leads Aru by a single second as he goes into the first rest day. He should get an easy return to racing on Tuesday as stage 10 is almost completely flat with just a very small climb at the midpoint, making it a perfect day for the sprinters.


A hilly course

After the first big mountain stage, there was no room to rest in stage 9 which brought the riders over 224km from Benevento to San Giorgio del Sannio after road construction had forced the organizers to add another 9km to the distance. After a lumpy first part, the riders tackled a category 2 and a category 1 climb in quick succession at the midpoint and then got to a rolling section with lots of ups and downs. In the finale, they went up a very steep category 2 climb that summited just 11.6km from the finish and from there it was a short descent, a small climb and a slight rise to the finish.


Yesterday’s cloudy rainy weather had been replaced by nice sunshine when the riders gathered in Benevento for the start. All riders who finished yesterday’s stage, took the start and many had done a warm-up as they knew that the start would be blisteringly fast.


The peloton splits

That prediction turned out to be right as there were lots of attacks right from the beginning. The fast pace in the rolling terrain meant that the peloton split in two and a 50-rider first group managed to distance the rest. Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) found himself in the second group but his team managed to bring it back together.


A 13-rider group attacked and when they were brought back Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida), Adam Hansen (Lotto Soudal) and Ryder Hesjedal (Cannondale) gave it a go. They had no luck either and the subsequent attempt from Diego Rosa (Astana) was not successful.


The peloton splits again

Grega Bole (CCC) and Sylvain Chavanel (IAM) formed what looked like a promising move. They managed to build an advantage of 20 seconds but after 38km of fast racing, it was back together.


The peloton split again and this time Elia Viviani (Sky) and Benat Intxausti (Movistar) were among the riders that found themselves in the second group. They quickly lost ground and found themselves with a deficit of 1.30 after one hour of racing during which 44km had been covered.


The break is formed

Finally, the elastic snapped when 11 riders escapes after 52km of racing. Amael Moinard (BMC), Ryder Hesjedal, Tom Jelte Slagter (Cannondale), Jesus Herrada (Movistar), Paolo Tiralongo (Astana), Simon Geschke (Giant-Alpecin), Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani), Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo), Carlos Betancur (Ag2r), Kenny Elissonde (FDJ) and Maxim Belkob (Katusha) managed to get an advantage that was already 1.26 at the 54km mark.


The peloton was keen to let that group go and so the gap grew quickly. At the 68km mark, it was 3.40 and it continued to get bigger while Tinkoff-Saxo set a steady pace in the peloton.


Tinkoff-Saxo in control

When they hit the bottom of the category 2 Monte Termino, the gap had gone out to 4.30 and for most of the climb, Tinkoff-Saxo kept it stable around that mark. At the top, it had gone out to 5.53 though. Here Geschke took maximum points ahead Betancur, Tiralongo, Kruijswijk, Hesjedal and Moinard.


Manabu Ishibashi (Nippo) abandoned the race while Tinkoff-Saxo made a surprise move as they sent Sergio Paulinho (Tinkoff-Saxo) off in an attack. The Portuguese quickly got a gap of a minute over the peloton as they started to climb the category 1 Colle Molella after Hesjedal had beaten Moinard and Herrada in the first intermediate sprint.


Astana do some damage

Colbrelli was distanced as soon as they started to climb while Astana hit the front to set a furious pace. They quickly brought Paulinho and Colbrelli back and at the top of the climb, they had reduced the deficit to less than 2 minutes and whittled the group down to 30 riders.


Astana stopped their acceleration while Paulinho started to ride steadily on the front. As a consequence, the gap went out to 3 minutes.


Cataldo attacks

Suddenly, Dario Cataldo (Astana) attacked and this forced Tinkoff-Saxo to react strongly. Several riders were dropped as Michael Rogers had to dig deep to bring the Italian back.


Cataldo was caught when the gap was down to less than 2 minutes and then the race calmed down again. Paulinho and Manuele Boaro set a slow pace that allowed several riders to rejoin the group, including Ivan Basso who took over the pace-setting.


Slagter takes off

A motorcycle accident made the commissaires briefly neutralize the race and this allowed the front group to extend their advantage to more than 4 minutes. Meanwhile, lots of riders rejoined the peloton and it was now Christopher Juul, Matteo Tosatto and Basso working on the front.


Slagter attacked on the descent and when he had gained a minute. Belkov took off in pursuit. Those two riders were first in the final intermediate sprint followed by Geschke and the rest of the group


Lots of attacks

Geschke briefly joined Belkov before the group came back together. Hesjedal was the next to attack and later Moinard tried. The lack of cooperation meant that Slagter had a 1.45-second advantage with 50km to go. At this point, the peloton was 6 minutes behind.


The chasers started to cooperate and so they managed to stabilize the gap. The same was the case for the peloton which kept their deficit between 5.00 and 6.00 for a long time.


Tinkoff-Saxo accelerate

With 40km to go, Tiralongo attacked but after he had been joined by Herrada, it came back together. The acceleration distanced Belkov but the Russian managed to rejoin the group.


There was a bit of attacking in the chase group after they had briefly cooperated to bring the gap down to 1.30. Hence, it again went out to 1.45 which was the difference as they hit the final climb. Approaching the ascent, Tinkoff-Saxo accelerated with Juul, Tosatto and Basso before Boaro, Rogers and Kreuziger made the group explode on the slopes.



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