SIMON Yates makes his move on the big climb, writes JOHN TREVORROW:
THE dreaded Monte Zoncalon lived up to it’s mythical reputation and supplied the perfect platform for a brilliant Giro d’Italia stage.
Although the usual breakaway just managed to succeed it was race leader Egan Bernal that again proved he is the strongest in this bike race. But it was a late attack from Simon Yates (Team BikeExchange) on the steepest slopes of the monster mountain that put all the other contenders out the back. In the final kilometre Bernal jumped clear of the Englishman but Yates – the Australian-based team’s No 1 rider — can be very pleased with his stellar performance that saw him move into second spot overall. Bernal now leads Yates by 1:33, with Damiano Caruso (Bahrain Victorious) third at 1:51.
The usual breakaway got clear on the long flat section and the group had some serious firepower but no one challenging for the overall. But surprisingly it was the Astana squad of Aleksandr Vlasov ,who was sitting in second spot overall, that rode on the front for around 100 kms – that is normally the job of the team of the Maglia Rosa in this case Ineos Grenadiers . When questioned during the stage, the Astana team manager said: “Only a champion should win on the Zoncolan.”
It backfired on him as not only did they not pull back the break but Vlasov cracked in the final couple of kilometres to drop down to fourth overall 1.57 behind the Colombian.
Italian Lorenzo Fortuna (Eola-Kometa) was not only the surprise winner but it was his first ever professional victory. Although Kiwi George Bennett (Jumbo Visma) and Dutchman Bauke Molema (Trek Segafredo) were the highest credentialed climbers in the break, it was the 25 year old Fortuna who showed he didn’t need any luck to beat the experienced opposition. He attacked with Jan Tratnik (Bahrain Victorious) and then left him with 2.3km to go, just as the climb hit a gradient of a ridiculous 27% and managed to hold off the chase to take a memorable and well-deserved win.Unfortunately Aussie Jai Hindley had to withdraw before the stage start with severe saddle sores. Second in last year’s Giro, Hindley was 25th overall 17:42 behind Bernal. The leading Australian is currently Nick Schultz (Team BikeExchange) now 17th at 10.15 behind Bernal but has been a brilliant support rider for Yates. Meanwhile in Spain two former GreenEdge teammates almost came to blows when they crashed while fighting it out for the stage win on the final day at the Ruta del Sol. A select group of nine were racing to the finish and South African Daryl Impey formerly part of the Aussie GreenEdge squad, hit the lead inside the final 200 m while former teammate Aussie Rob Stannard was coming past when the two collided and both hit the deck only metres from the finish line. Stannard was the first one up and didn’t hold back on his tirade against his former teammate.