Stage 9. The last mountain stage, the penultimate stage of the race. With only a flat final stage to come, this was the last opportunity for the GC riders to get one up on their nearest rivals, the last chance for the mountain goats to earn a potentially career-changing stage win.
There were no killer gradients, no monstrous extreme altitude climbs. But with climbing from the start, three category one climbs, a category three climb, and over 3000 metres of vertical gain, this was no easy stage either. The stage finished with two ascents of the Nevegal climb, and it was on these slopes that the decisive action occurred.
The early stages of the race were more about whittling down the bunch than establishing breakaways and after about 80 kilometres, only around 45 riders were left in the peloton. As they passed through the town of Belluno there was a fright for the Maglia Rosa Juan Ayuso and our diarist Tom Gloag, who both fell on the cobblestone streets. But they recovered quickly and rejoined the reduced bunch well before the major action began.
On the first pass on the Nevegal, Trinity Racing drove things, whittling the bunch down yet further and as they crested the summit there were just twenty riders left in the group. Development Team DSM then took up the pace until, in the last six kilometres, there were unsuccessful attacks from our diarist Tom Gloag, Asbjorn Hellemose and then Anders Johannessen. It was Yannis Voisard from the Swiss Racing Academy who then seized the moment and his attack stuck, earning him his first ever UCI race win.
Behind him, Ayuso led in a fractured lead group, with the other Johannessen, Tobias Halland, on his wheel. Tom Gloag crossed the line in sixth just a few seconds later.
Our other diarist Harrison was the next best Brit in 21st, a minute and 25 seconds behind the stage winner. Ben Healy, who did a lot of work for Tom during the stage, finished 25th.
On GC, Tom remains 4th and looks likely to stay there, barring disaster or a superlative final stage ambush. His teammate Ben Healy, one of the most aggressive riders in this year’s race, now lies 15th, while Harrison has made it into the top 20, sitting 19th overall.
The final stage from San Vito al Tagliamento to Castelfranco Veneto feels a little anti-climatic given its relatively flat nature. It’s unlikely to result in any major GC changes. But with tired legs and a few hills in the middle of the stage, a bunch sprint isn’t a foregone conclusion either. So this could be one for the break, perhaps even Ben Turner, who has continued to look incredibly strong. Let’s see…
We have the pleasure of dispatches from both Harrison and Tom once again in our diary segment. It was an eventful stage for them both. Harrison was on the attack, crashed hard and yet was still at the pointy end of the race right until the final slopes. Tom sounds tired, and understandably so, after throwing the kitchen sink at his GC rivals. Like Harrison, he crashed too, although says he came off pretty lightly.
Show sponsored by Continental Tyres.
Featured photo: Giro d’Italia Giovani Under-23