It’s almost difficult to put into words what happened on the Cima Coppi stage of the Giro. Where do you start? In what was one of the most dramatic days of racing, attacking, counter-attacking, undermining and heroics we’ve seen a near meltdown by the top contenders as Thomas DeGendt attacked the Stelvio and won the stage. He also quite literally nearly put himself in position to win the race.
Over the Mortirolo the race was animated by Olivier Zaugg (RNT), winner of the 2011 Giro di Lombardia, while the main favorites were playing a chess game of positioning and strategy. Garmin and Liquigas had Vandevelde and Caruso in pursuit of Zaugg a few minutes up the road, but also in position to support their leaders on the false flat to Bormio ahead of the Stelvio. As the favorites approached the summit of the Mortirolo, Thomas De Gendt attacked with a teammate and looked to take advantage of the favorites who seemed to be waiting for the final climb. Damiano Cunego and Mikel Nieve also attacked the group and eventually bridged to De Gendt to make a strong and dangerous looking groupetto consisting of De Gendt (VAC), Cunego (LAM), Nieve (EUS), Izaguirre (EUS), Amador (MOV) and Kangert (AST). The Maglia Rosa group came of the Mortirolo and onto the flat just over a minutes behind.
The False Flat
The Maglia Rosa group hit the false flat with a regroup in mind. Eat, Piss, Drink and get arranged. However, the De Gendt group wasn’t waiting around. As Zaugg was caught and the lead group gained another motivated rider Euskaltel and VacanSoleil were pushing hard very hard. Behind? Not so much. In fact, the favorites were looking at one another saying “you chase”. Then the race radios came into play. Where is Stetina? Where was Vandevelde? Basso, Rodriguez and Scarponi were forcing Hesjedal to the front and Ryder wasn’t going to shepard them to the Stelvio to be attacked. The lead swelled. De Gendt wasn’t waiting around. By the time Garming got Stetina and Vandevelde into the group and got to the base of the Stelvio De Gendt, Cunego and Nieve had over 3 minutes.
With all the main GC contendors looking at Hesjedal as the favourite they were happy to sit on as Vandevelde did a crazy amount of work trying to bring back the break. However, there was no stopping De Gendt on this day. By the 10km remaining banner he had 5’09” and was virtually in third. By 6.5km remaining he had 5’40” and was virtually in second just a hand full of seconds behind Rodriguez. At this point, there was panic in the peloton, but as Garmin and Sky chased, everyone was on their limit, hopelessly listening to race radio declare De Gendt was riding into the Maglia Rosa. John Gadret now impatient with the pace attacked. Then attacked again as Ryder shut him down. Hesjedal, at this point, just had to ride as he turned himself inside out clawing second after second off De Gendt. Basso and Pozzovivo were the first to show weakness. Then Haneo and Uran saw the gap growing. Basso tried to respond but blew in doing so as Scarponi and Rodriguez, lead by Hesjedal powered away. De Gendt finished with Cunego just 400m behind. Nieve, who had been dropped came over third. Scarponi attacked both Hesjedal and J-Rod, as the others had done the dirty and forced Ryder to do all the work in effort to take time within the last km. Rodriguez attacked next with 1.2km remaining and passed Scarponi like he was standing still and took fourth. Scarponi and Hesjedal came in almost together. When they looked at the time they had brought De Gendt back by two minutes, enough for Rodriguez to stay in pink and Ryder to protect his position.
Tomorrow, is the final stage – a completely flat time trial around Milano and one which will likely see De Gendt move onto the podium. Rodriguez now has 31 seconds on Hesjedal which looks like it may not be enough, but things could get closer than imaginable as De Gendt is likely the best TT’er of them all and he’s not that far down.
Stage 20 Top Ten
1. Thomas De Gendt (VAC)______6h54’41”
2. Damiano Cunego (LAM)_______+56″
3. Mikel Nieve (EUS)__________+2’50”
4. Joaquim Rodriguez (KAT)____+3’22”
5. Michele Scarponi (LAM)_____+3’34”
6. Ryder Hesjedal (GRM)_______+3’36”
7. John Gadret (ALM)__________+4’29”
8. Rigoberto Uran (SKY)_______+4’53”
9. Sergio Haneo (SKY)_________+4’55”
10. Ivan Basso (LIQ)__________+4’55”
Complete Stage 20 results: Gazzetta Official
General Classification after 20 stages
1. Joaquim Rodriguez (KAT)____91h04’16”
2. Ryder Hesjedal (GRM)_____+31″
3. Michele Scarponi (LAM)_____+1’51”
4. Thomas De Gendt (VAC)_____+2’18”
5. Ivan Basso (LIQ)___________+3’18”
6. Damiano Cunego (LAM)______+3’43”
7. Rigoberto Uran (SKY)_______+4’52”
8. Domenico Pozzovivo (COG)___+5’47”
9. Mikel Nieve (EUS)__________+5’56”
10. John Gadret (ALM)_________+6’43”
11. Sergio Luis Haeno (SKY)____+7’20”
12. Dario Caltaldo (OPQ)_______+12’14”
Complete General Classification: Gazzetta Official