Giulio Ciccone takes emotional breakaway win on Stage 15 as GC favourites take it easy at Giro d’Italia
After the fireworks on Saturday, it was a far more relaxed outing on Stage 15 as the breakaway was allowed to stay clear. Giulio Ciccone ended his three-year wait for a third stage win at the Giro d’Italia after proving by far the strongest rider from a huge breakaway group. Richard Carapaz maintained his seven-second lead over Jai Hindley in the general classification ahead of the final rest day.
Stage 15 highlights: Ciccone soars, Carapaz breezes first day in pink
Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) soloed clear on Stage 15 to bring more home joy to the Italian Grand Tour.
Good things clearly come to those who wait. A day after losing the maglia rosa, Ciccone delivered Trek-Segafredo a first win of their own at the Giro d’Italia since his own last, three years previously.
Ciccone was overcome with tears after crossing the finish line, with the 27-year-old over a minute-and-a-half ahead of his closest challenger Santiago Buitrago (Bahrain Victorious). Buitrago, the last rider left behind by Ciccone and the first to cross the line behind him, was himself a picture of emotion at the finish. Second place represents the best race result for the young Colombian since joining the WorldTour two years ago.
Sunday’s profile had promised excitement in the second half, with three tasty categorised climbs on the menu. After the fireworks that unfolded 24 hours prior, the heavyweights were content to take it easy. Hostilities were largely suspended in the general classification as Ineos Grenadiers - the team of the new maglia rosa, Richard Carapaz - made light work of bunch control. After their own high octane exertions on Saturday Bora Hansgrohe, for their part, seemed satisfied to roll into the rest day with no more blood spilled.
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For spectators and athletes alike, patience was the order of the day. The road rose gently for 90km, ahead of the intermediate sprint and the first of the climbs, simultaneously inviting attacks and blunting them. For a host of reasons every rider, minus a few, was eager to make it into the day’s break; no sooner did it look to have been established than a dissatisfied pursuant put an end to riders ambitions.
The stage was more than halfway done - in terms of distance - before five riders really were clear. Then a wholesale severing in the peloton turned a select group into a sizeable one, with a total of 27 riders, making their way up the road and out of sight of the peloton. Best placed on GC was Thymen Arensman (Team DSM) at 11 minutes, while the rider with the most incentive to get moving was Koen Bouwman (Jumbo Visma), second in the mountains competition and with more than enough points available for him to take the jersey.
While the peloton rode as slowly as they could Bouwman was, indeed, inspired to ride harder than anyone up the Pila-les-Fleurs. Taking the full 40 on offer, he became the virtual KOM at the summit. On the descent he was joined by Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin Fenix) and Martjin Tusveld (Team DSM) ahead of the more testing second climb, the Verrogne.
‘It could have been a lot harder’ – Wiggins on Stage 15
From the chase group, with Buitrago and Antonio Pedrero (Movistar) on his wheel, Ciccone went on the attack. Before long those three were at the front of the race, while the other trio went backwards.
Meanwhile, back in the peloton, the ever yo-yo-ing Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) sought to take back some of the GC time he lost in Turin. With riders up and down the road to Cogne he could be sure of finding allies, who might help him bounce back into the top ten.
Ciccone led Buitrago and Pedrero over the summit of the Verrogne and onto the descent. Back into the Aosta valley they were joined by Hugh Carthy (EF Education Easypost), Martijn Tusveld (Team DSM) and Rui Costa (UAE Team Emirates) to make it six riders fighting it out for the win on the final climb.
It never looked like anyone but Ciccone. After tightening his shoes, the Italian was in no mood to hang around. Nor was he concerned by what his rivals could or could not do.
‘No point in attacking’ – Lloyd bemoans final climb on Stage 15 after GC stalemate
The winning move came on the low, steeper slopes of the Cogne. Ciccone, legs good, head better, hit out and never looked back. As the road levelled to an almost false flat, it became a team time trial of one. He had time to take it in, to process, but nothing could prepare Ciccone for the feelings that floored him on the line.
“I think this has been my most beautiful victory," he said afterwards. "It has been an indescribable period for me… It tries your mental strength. I kept waiting and waiting and trying and trying, and I found it.”
Martin's efforts were rewarded with restoration to the general classification's top ten. The Cofidis rider heads into the rest day two minutes down on Juan Pedro Lopez (Trek Segafredo) and one ahead of Alejandro Valverde (Movistar).
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