The Giro d’Italia’s general classification continued to keep everyone on their toes as Richard Carapaz made his way into the maglia rosa in stage 14, and GC favourite Primož Roglič lost time via a late crash in stage 15.
Carapaz launches attack to edge into maglia rosa
Stage 14 from Saint Vincent to Courmayeur had a big question mark over how it would pan out. The stage featured two category 1 climbs as well as a pair of category 2 climbs. The final climb of the day, 10.5km in length and 9.7% in gradient peaked with 24.5km to go, but after a long descent the road then went back uphill on a category 3 rise of 7.7km at 3% gradient.
The stage began aggressively with Katusha-Alpecin’s Marco Haller and Cesare Benedetti of BORA-Hansgrohe going out on the attack, but the drama unfolding behind them as Simon Yates launched a volley of attacks. With Giulio Ciccone on the hunt for KOM points that lead was brought back rapidly though and a large group of riders formed at the front of the race. Yates’ attacks had the keen interest of Roglič straight away, with the Slovenian not letting any daylight form between himself and the Brit early on; while Richard Carapaz of Movistar came across.
The trio of riders danced across to the large leading group, with the rest of the GC contenders quickly following suit. At the top of the climb Ciccone went maximum points and after a brief flurry on the front from Damiano Caruso of Bahrain-Merida, Hugh Carthy of EF Education First and Pello Bilbao of Astana, a group of eight riders formed at the front of the race with Ciccone, Carthy, Lucas Hamilton of Mitchelton-SCOTT, Ivan Sosa of Team Ineos, Andrey Amador of Astana, Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec’s Mattia Cattaneo and Fausto Masnada and Mitchelton-SCOTT’s Chris Juul-Jensen finally formed at the front and formed an advantage of 2.54mins with 88km to go.
Jumbo-Visma took up the pace-setting on the front with a little help from Katusha-Alpecin as the break’s lead harmlessly sailed over the 3 minute barrier and up to almost 3.30mins before beginning to drop again. On the climb of Verrogne Tony Gallopin of AG2R La Mondiale and teammate Hubert Dupont, Damiano Caruso of Bahrain Merida and Ion Izagirre of Astana attacked from the main field and had a lead of 1.10mins over the bunch by the summit of the climb; while the break were 2.17mins ahead of the peloton.
The stage would be decided, however, on the slopes of Colle San Carlo; the final category 1 climb of the day. By the bottom of the climb the break’s lead had dropped to 1.45mins with Jumbo-Visma having continued to set the tempo until now. It was here that the attacks began with Mikel Landa and Richard Carapaz of Movistar, Vincenzo Nibali of Bahrain Merida, Miguel Angel Lopez of Astana and Primož Roglič all making initial moves that were brought back.
Of the break of the day only Cattaneo, Sosa and Ciccone lasted with 31km to go but that dropped to just Ciccone shortly after. Damiano Caruso, formerly in the break, dropped back to do a sterling effort for Nibali, but with 28km to go Richard Carapaz went on the attack and this time found daylight as Roglič opted not to – or was unable to – chase. Carapaz drew out a lead of 34 seconds by the time he reached the summit of the climb; but the famed descender Nibali threatened to wipe out the Ecuadorian’s entire advantage.
With 15km to go Carapaz’s lead was just 17 seconds, but the Movistar rider pulled out his advantage again, pushing onwards and regaining a lead that even went out beyond the 1.10min margin with 5km to go. With 3km to go Carapaz had a lead of 1.14mins, while Simon Yates made another attack and this time he was given the blessing – or resignation – of the contenders behind him. The Brit wouldn’t catch Carapaz, who pressed on with the knowledge that a maglia rosa awaited for him if he could keep up his effort.
Carapaz finally crossed the line 1.32mins ahead of Yates, with Vincenzo Nibali leading home the GC favourites 1.54mins back. The result gave Carapaz the overall lead by just 7 seconds from Roglič with Nibali moving into third at 1.47mins.
Cataldo wins as Roglič loses time
On paper stage 15 from Ivrea to Como was to be a little more processional for the contenders, a chance to take things a bit easier. It was expected that Carapaz could potentially hold the pink jersey for at least this stage, with the only potential hiccup coming with two second category climbs and a final third category climb that peaked with just 9km to go.
Dario Cataldo of Astana and Mattia Cattaneo of Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec went off on the attack and with Movistar, Jumbo-Visma and Mitchelton-SCOTT on the front of the peloton they enjoyed the freedom to build a significant lead of 12.24mins with 147km of the 232km stage remaining. Jack Bauer was back in his element at the sharp end of the peloton.
The leading duo didn’t contest the intermediate sprints, concentrating on building time and growing their advantage to over 14 minutes and even over 15 minutes with 115km to go. Neither one of the riders was a threat overall, with Cattaneo starting the stage 37.41mins back on Carapaz and Cataldo starting over an hour back.
With 67.5km to go the climbing began for the day. The time gap had dropped as Mitchelton-SCOTT began to turn up the heat on the front of the peloton, with the two leaders holding on to a lead of 9.30mins as the climb of Madonna del Ghisallo began. That time gap dropped rapidly as Mitchelton-SCOTT continued to set the tempo with Movistar in tow.
With 45km to go for the leaders the fuse was lit in the peloton with Simon Yates going on the offensive in the company of Nibali, Landa and Carapaz. The attack was nullified quickly but that didn’t stop Yates from going up the road again and forming a lead of just shy of 10 seconds as Movistar settled into setting the pace. Eventually Yates would again be brought back by the time the race reached the summit of the Colma di Sormano, leaving Cataldo and Cattaneo torace away with their lead still hanging above the 4 minute bracket with 37km to go.
As the final climb honed into view the break’s lead grew again and with 21.5km to go the gap was 4.35mins for the leaders; who still looked the favourites for the stage honours. With 20km to go for the leaders, though, a crash brought down Chris Hamilton of Team Sunweb and Joe Dombrowski of EF Education First. That was the first of the significant crashes to impact riders in the GC group. Primož Roglič then had a mechanical issue that put him into chase mode with 20 seconds to make up on the group ahead with 18km to go.
The crowds flocked onto the final climb to welcome the two Italian leaders, whose advantage was still a healthy 3.39mins with 12.4km remaining. Both were content to work together as behind them the attacks began courtesy of Hugh Carthy of EF Education First. It wasn’t long before Yates went on the attack though, and it was his attack that went on to decimate the field behind him. Nibali was wise to the move and so too Carapaz, but Roglic was now on the defensive, losing time as Nibali and Carapaz dropped Yates and joined Carthy with a 26 second lead to Roglič.
After a brief at the head of the race Cattaneo and Cataldo arrived at the summit together, with a lead of just a minute still in hand as Carapaz sensed an opportunity to go on the attack and gain significant time on his rivals; particularly Roglič who crested the summit 28 seconds back on the maglia rosa.
Nibali took up the pace on the downhill, with Carapaz and Carthy doing well to keep pace with the Shark of Messina. Meanwhile disaster followed Roglič crashed, hitting the race barriers, and suddenly seeing the time gap to his rivals open up. The Slovenian quickly remounted but the race was all for the taking in terms of the GC as Nibali began to put the hurt on Carapaz and Carthy with 5km to go; stretching his rivals with his superior descending skills.
Behind Nibali, Yates caught the maglia rosa and together with Carthy formed a chase trio behind the former Giro champion. For Roglič, though, time was opening up, with the Slovenian having a 36 second deficit at 2km to go. Up ahead there was even a question mark over whether the leaders would take out the stage as Cattaneo bean to refuse to take turns with Cataldo; the cat and mouse games had begun.
With 1.5km to go Carapaz, Carthy and Yates joined Nibali as Cataldo continued to lead Cattaneo through 1km to go. Cataldo was forced to lead out the sprint, with Cattaneo looking the favourite to take the win, but the ProContinental rider had nothing left in the tank and it was the Astana rider who claimed the stage. 11 seconds later Simon Yates led home the chasing quartet, with Miguel Angel Lopez, Rafal Majka, Domenico Pozzovivo, Mikel Landa and Davide Formolo 25 seconds further back and the group containing Primož Roglič finally finishing another 15 seconds adrift.
Overall Carapaz kept and even gained time in the overall standings, with his lead now 47 seconds to Roglič with Nibali third at 1.47mins, Majka fourth at 2.35mins and Mikel Landa 5th at 3.15mins.