Elia Viviani has his third stage victory of this year’s Giro, but his first Giro d’Italia stage win of this year’s race on Italian soil. After winning stages 2 and 3 in Israel, Viviani had been through a bit of a victory drought; but that ended as he beat Sam Bennett and Danny van Poppel in stage 13.
The 180km from Ferrara to Nervesa della Battaglia were expected to be more conventionally sprint-focussed. Up until 149km of racing the roads were basically pancake flat. From there a couple of mild lumps in the road would see the only category 4 climb peak at 160.7km and then it was all go to the finish line.
It’s been nice to have a couple of ‘easier‘ days controlled by the sprint teams, but the finishes are always nervous keeping Yatsey safe. Huge weekend coming up now!! 📷 Getty Images. pic.twitter.com/yznB6f1FJz
— SamBewley (@SamBewley) May 18, 2018
At the drop of the flag a breakaway group of five riders went up the road in the form of Eugert Zhupa of Wilier Triestina-Selle Italia, Alessandro Tonelli of Bardiani CSF, Marco Marcato of UAE Team Emirates, Markel Irizar of Trek-Segafredo and Andrea Vendrame of Androni-Giocattoli-Sidermec. Quick-Step Floors, working for Elia Viviani, and BORA-Hansgrohe for Sam Bennett, controlled matters at the front of the peloton as the breakaway’s lead sat at around the 3 minute mark for much of the early stages, before dropping to 2 minutes at around 136km to go.
Today the GC contenders would be grateful for the willingness of Quick-Step Floors and BORA-Hansgrohe to set the pace at the front of the peloton, as the following stage would see the mountains return in a monstrous stage concluding with the climb of Monte Zoncolan. The last three stages hadn’t been straightforward by any means but for the most part the GC contenders had not had too much to do in the early stages of each day at least. That would all change in stage 14.
Gradually the break’s lead stretched back out again to 3 minutes, where it remained for the bulk of the stage until 60km to go where the pace began to lift in the peloton and the gap started to tumble. At 40km to go all but 1.27mins remained of the break’s lead, but they were looking resilient, riding well together and happy to retain their mutual allegiance for now.
It was at this point in the stage that other teams began to take more an interest in the front of the peloton. Thibaut Pinot’s Groupama-FDJ team and Chris Froome’s Team Sky occupied opposite sides of the Quick-Step Floors/BORA-Hansgrohe train, while Mitchelton-Scott – with Sam Bewley – never far away from the front.
At 30km to go the breakaway led the way through the finish line for the first time, with their advantage cut to less than a minute now. It gave the field a chance to look at what was ahead in the finishing sprint. This time Elia Viviani of Quick-Step Floors was far better positioned, right at the head of the race with his blue train protecting him.
With about 28km left to race an attack went up the road from the peloton courtesy of Tony Martin of Katusha-Alpecin. He was immediately chased by riders from Quick-Step Floors and BORA-Hansgrohe who were’t interested in supporting the move, but also joining the move were Davide Ballerini of Androni-Giocattoli and Krists Neilands of Israel Cycling Academy. They were much more willing to get involved and it provided a new dynamic to the race; with the breakaway still up the road with a 49 second lead at 25km to go. Eventually the group of 4 chasers – Tony Martin, Krists Neilands, Davide Ballerini and Eros Capecchi of Quick-Step Floors – established themselves a bit more in pursuit of the leaders, but the peloton had them well within reach and all was back together for them with 23km remaining.
Groupama-FDJ marshalled their troops at the head of the race approaching 20km to go; taking over from the sprint teams, with UAE Team Emirates on their wheels. At the summit of the climb there was no contest for KO points, with Andrea Vendrame taking maximum points. The gap, though, was a slender one now, with just 22 seconds separating break and bunch.
Next to take the reins at the head of the bunch was Bahrain-Merida, but a little more of a lead had built up for the break, indicating that the final few kilometres could be very interesting for everyone; and a straightforward catching of the break would not be materialising. At 10km to go the gap was still 19 seconds as Katusha-Alpecin surged forward with LottoNL-Jumbo also moving up to line up Danny van Poppel.
Steadily the gap was dropping to 14 seconds at 8.5km to go, but it was interesting to note that Quick-Step Floors and BORA-Hansgrohe were conspicuously few in number at the front of the race for now as the gap dropped to less than 10 seconds. Finally with 6.2km to go it was gruppo compacto and all on for a bunch sprint.
Katusha-Alpecin continued to lead, with Elia Viviani some 40 riders back in the pack and having to work his way forward. Tony Martin and Alex Dowsett were pushing a solid tempo on the front, trying to keep the pressure on Quick-Step Floors, but Viviani was slowly and steadily getting himself into position, as was Sam Bennett.
At 3km to go Bahrain-Merida took over at the front of the race. They were pursued by AG2R La Mondiale, with Mitchelton-Scott also moving forward. At 2km to go the maglia rosa was well sheltered and positioned in the top ten riders, while LottoNL-Jumbo struck for control of the race. EF Education First-Drapac joined the yellow jerseys at the front of the race an moved over to the left hand side, shutting down a move forward from Quick-Step Floors; but suddenly with 1km to go Wilier-Triestina’s Marco Coledan attacked and stole a march on the peloton who were caught out.
As the sprinters began to lead things out it was anyone’s race to win, but with the metres closing Sacha Modolo and Elia Viviani shut down the move and flew towards the line. Viviani was easily strongest though and as they rounded the bend he sprinted forward and didn’t look threatened as he claimed his third stage win of the Giro and his first of this year on home soil.
Sam Bennett had to come through on the right hand side, going the long way around and putting in a big turn of pace to take second ahead of Danny van Poppel and a frustrated Sacha Modolo who banged his hands in frustration as he crossed the line in 4th place.
Both George Bennett and Sam Bewley finished safely in the bunch, ready for a big day in the mountains tomorrow, with Tom Scully crossing the line a minute back after working to position Sacha Modolo in the finale.