Alpecin-Fenix made their numbers matter on the longest stage of the Giro d’Italia on Thursday with what pundit Robbie McEwen described as “an elaborate decoy game” from the Belgian team. The presence of Dutch star Mathieu van der Poel and compatriot Oscar Reisebeek helped pave the way for a first professional win for Italy’s Stefano Oldani, who held off Lorenzo Rota (Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert) and Dutchman Gijs Leemreize (Jumbo-Visma) in a thrilling three-up sprint in Genova.
The trio kicked clear on the third and final climb of the day during the 204km stage from Parma before holding a chasing quartet at bay on the fast run to the finish. Dutch veteran Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) won the sprint for fourth ahead of Colombia’s Santiago Buitrago (Bahrain Victorious), Dutchman Wilco Kelderman (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Australia’s Lucas Hamilton (BikeExchange-Jayco).
Van der Poel and Reisebeek were all smiles when they crossed the line almost eight minutes down alongside the remnants of the day’s 25-man break, over a minute ahead of a peloton that was brought home by the Trek teammates of the Spanish race leader Juan Pedro Lopez.
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Lopez retained his 12-second lead over Ecuador’s Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) and Portugal’s Joao Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) on a day there was no change in the top 10 of the general classification.
But by infiltrating the day’s break, Kelderman and Hamilton both rose 10 places on GC to put themselves right in the shop window ahead of the next mountainous phase of the race.
Kelderman is now 2:51 down and in 13th place after wiping out most of the losses he incurred after a mechanical issue ahead of Sunday’s finish on Blockhaus, while Hamilton is now 3:45 down in 16th place as the Australian climber became a GC option for BikeExchange following the implosion of the team’s leader Simon Yates on Sunday.
But the day belonged to Alpecin-Fenix who used Stage 1 winner Van der Poel as the ultimate foil for their man Oldani, who proved the strongest in an unlikely leading trio who had zero pro wins between them.
Dutch debutant Leemreize tried his luck with an early attack after a tight left-hand turn going onto the home straight, and, once reeled in, it was the rangy Jumbo-Visma rider who led out the sprint from the back on the slight ramped finale. But Oldani – a previous top-five finisher in a Giro bunch sprint – used his superior kick to power to the front before holding off compatriot Rota with a slight deviation to close the door and ensure he, and not his Intermarche rival, took a second win for Italy in as many days.

‘We did it’ - Oldani on delivering for Alpecin-Fenix

“For sure it was not easy,” the 24-year-old said afterwards. “I knew [Lorenzo] Rota, he’s my friend, I knew he was also fast. I had to watch out and, for sure, the other guy [Leemreize] it was obvious that he wanted to try to anticipate. But in the end it looks like I did it.”
Asked how important a role Van der Poel played in Alpecin-Fenix’s second win of the race, Oldani said: “He was crucial. We knew already that if we had more than one rider in the break a lot of guys would be watching Mathieu and so it would be a good chance for the other guys. Today we managed it really well. We were the only team with three riders in the break, so we did it.”
The longest stage of the 105th edition of the Giro threatened to be the fastest: the peloton covered an astonishing 45km in a frantic opening hour of racing where the pace was so high all attempts at forming a breakaway were thwarted – including an audacious effort from the second placed rider in the general classification, the 2019 champion Richard Carapaz of Ineos Grenadiers.
Attacks had come from the outset as Stage 8 winner Thomas De Gendt, free from domestique duties following the earlier withdrawal of his Lotto Soudal teammate Caleb Ewan, tried his luck with an early acceleration. Alpecin-Fenix were at the heart of most forays off the front, with another former stage winner, that man Van der Poel, clearly eager to get into the day’s move.
It was perhaps no surprise, then, that when a breakaway finally stuck, at the umpteenth attempt, it followed an initial dig from Van der Poel and his Belgian teammate Dries De Bondt, who launched from the wheel of the maglia ciclamino Arnaud Demare after the Frenchman had won the intermediate sprint at Borgo Val di Taro off the back of almost 60km of fast and furious racing.
While De Bondt dropped back, Alpecin-Fenix had three riders present in a group of 22 riders that got the gap, with an Italian trio from the second-tier wildcard teams managing to bridge over ahead of the first of three climbs, the Passo del Bocco.

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One of two riders in the move looking to complete his Grand Tour grand slam of wins, Mollema led the leaders over the summit with an advantage of five minutes over the pack, which was being led by the Dutchman’s Trek-Segafredo team in a bid to protect the pink jersey of the Spaniard Juanpe Lopez.
The best-placed rider in the break was Kelderman (Bora-Hansgrohe), over 11 minutes down on GC, and so Lopez’s lead was never under threat. But the 24-year-old did look to be struggling earlier on in the stage as he clung onto the back of the pack on the fast ride up the false flat of the Taro valley.
There was a poignant moment on the descent of the Passo del Bocco as the Giro returned for the first time in eleven years to the spot where the Belgian rider Wouter Weylandt tragically lost his life in 2011, with the race director Mauro Vegni having stopped earlier to pay his respects at the roadside memorial.

Wouter Weylandt (1984-2011)

If the battle to get into the day’s break had been fierce and prolonged then the battle from within that break to stake a claim on the stage kicked off in earnest on the penultimate climb, the Cat.3 La Colletta, with around 55km remaining.
Rota threw the dice for Intermarche two days after he was so instrumental in putting out all the fires for teammate Binam Girmay, who duly delivered to become the first Black African to win a Grand Tour stage.
With teammate Rein Taaramae also in the break, Rota went clear in what looked to be a softener for the Estonian. But once he was joined by Oldani and Leemreize, the gap quickly grew and the dynamic changed.

Stefano Oldani of Italy and Team Alpecin - Fenix, Gijs Leemreize of Netherlands and Team Jumbo - Visma and Lorenzo Rota of Italy and Team Intermarché - Wanty - Gobert Matériaux compete in the breakaway during the 105th Giro d'Italia 2022, Stage 12

Image credit: Getty Images

Despite Oldani’s presence on the front, Alpecin-Fenix were not yet counting their chickens as both Van der Poel and Riesebeek attacked on the descent as Italy’s Davide Ballerini (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) struck out in pursuit.
The definitive shake-up of the breakaway occurred on the last third-category climb of Valico di Trensasco when Van der Poel popped along with a whole host of the other escapees, including Magnus Cort (EF Education-EasyPost) – the other rider chasing a Giro stage win to complete his collection in all of cycling’s major tours.
In a bid to keep his own grand slam dreams alive, Mollema formed a chasing quartet alongside Kelderman, Hamilton and Buitrago but they went over the top with a deficit of 38 seconds that refused to drop during the fast 10km descent toward Genova.
As the leaders passed over the new San Giorgio bridge built to replace the Ponte Morandi, which collapsed in a rainstorm in August 2018, the gap was pushing one minute and it became clear that the win would go to one of three riders who had never stood atop a podium in their professional careers.
Aware of his inferior sprint, Leemreize struck out early but the Dutchman was reeled in before the pace slowed to a near standstill before he went for broke once more. But Oldani used his experience and speed to emerge victorious and complete what must have been a highly satisfactory team effort from Alpecin-Fenix.
The Giro continues on Friday with the 150km Stage 13 from Sanremo to Cuneo which features one steep climb up from the Ligurian coast ahead of what could well be a fast finish and a final sprint royale ahead of the mountains.

‘It’s last-chance saloon for a lot of riders’ - Wiggins on Stage 13

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