Giro d’Italia 2019
Carapaz now leads Italy’s Nibali (Bahrain Merida) by 1’54” with Slovenia’s Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) in third at 2’16”. Landa retains his fourth place, at 3’03”.
First over the line at the biathlon shooting range in Antholz was Ag2R-La Mondiale’s Peters, who soloed clear of a strong 18-man break to secure his first professional win – and his team’s first triumph on the Giro since 2011.
Peters, 25, finished an impressive 1’34” clear of Colombian Esteban Chaves (Mitchelton-Scott) after putting in his decisive attack 16km from the finish and ahead of the fourth and final climb of the day.
Italy’s Davide Formolo (Bora-Hansgrohe) beat compatriot Fausto Masnada (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec) and Latvia champion Krists Neilands (Israel Cycling Academy) in the sprint for third place.
The GC danger man in a break which at one point held an eight-minute advantage over the peloton, Formolo rose two places and into the top 10 at the expense of the previous maglia rosa, Slovenia’s Jan Polanc (UAE Team Emirates).
Britain’s Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) continued his yo-yoing race, the Vuelta champion being distanced on the final climb to concede 20 seconds to the Nibali group to drop more than seven minutes down on Carapaz in eighth place.
There were no changes in any of the other classifications with Frenchman Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ) retaining the sprinters’ maglia ciclamino, Italy’s Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) the climbers’ maglia azzurra, and Lopez the young riders’ maglia bianca.
Played out under cloudy skies in South Tyrol, the undulating 181km stage saw the riders head past Bolzano and up the Isarco Valley deep into the Dolomites.
Despite the race’s proximity to some of Europe’s mightiest mountains, there was just a sprinkling of lower-category climbs on the menu – starting early on with the Passo dell Mendola, a Cat.1 climb in last year’s race but confusingly not granted any classification this time round.
An 18-man break formed on the descent after numerous groups rode clear of the peloton on the climb. The riders were:
Andrea Vendame and Fausto Masnada (both Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec), Nans Peters (Ag2R-La Mondiale), Amaro Antunes and Victor De La Parte (both CCC), Tanel Kangert (EF Education First), Krists Neilands (Israel Cycling Academy), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal), Esteban Chaves (Mitchelton-Scott), Nicola Conci (Trek-Segafredo), Koen Bouwman (Jumbo-Visma), Bob Jungels(Deceuninck-QuickStep), Davide Formolo (Bora-Hansgrohe), Gianluca Brambilla (Trek-Segafredo), Jan Bakelants and Chris Hamilton (both Sunweb), Valerio Conti (UAE Team Emirates) and Mirco Maestri (Bardiani-CSF).
It was the Belgian Bakelents who made the first move, attacking on the Cat.4 climb to Elvas before opening up a gap of 40 seconds going over the top.
Behind, the break split into numerous groups with De Gendt – Mr Breakaway himself – leading the chase on the next climb, the Cat.3 ascent to Terento.
Bakelants was reeled in ahead of the summit before the fragmented break was reunited by the time they zipped through the second intermediate sprint – won, as was the case at the first sprint, by the livewire Masnada.
The presence of stage 6 winner Masnada may have spurred compatriot Conti onto making a move inside the final 25km: it was the Androni rider who beat Conti to the stage win the day the UAE Emirates rider moved into the pink jersey.
But Conti’s first foray on the front of the race was short-lived and soon the break was riding back as one, approaching the final climb of the day and entering the last 20km with a gap of around six minutes on the pack.
Team Ineos took up the chase in the peloton, the presence of 12th place Formolo up the road perhaps deemed a threat to their man Pavel Sivakov’s hopes of a top-10 finish in Verona.
The gap had come down to around five minutes when Peters looked to have thrown caution to the wind with a lone attack 16km from the finish. Hardly renowned for his climbing, Peters, the former white jersey, was clearly underestimated by the break.
Conti, who enjoyed six days in pink earlier in the race, put in three big attacks from the chase group – but by the time Chaves rode past the Italian and in lone pursuit of Peters, the Frenchman had over a minute to play with.
Weary from four gruelling days in the mountains, no one had the legs to match Peters and the chase was from a string of knackered individuals rather than a united collective.
In the end, the narrow, twisting biathlon ski track which doubled up as the finish posed more problems for Peters than any of his fellow escapees, although the Giro debutant, his tongue out a la Thomas Voeckler, was able to soak up the atmosphere and celebrate a maiden pro win with gusto.
As the rest of the break arrived in dribs and drabs, thinks kicked off in the thinning pack of favourites after an acceleration by Astana saw the likes of Yates and Poland’s Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe) distanced.
A big attack from Landa was initially covered by Hugh Carthy (EF Education First) but not closed down by Nibali and Roglic, who soon found themselves distanced by Carapaz and Lopez in the final kilometre.
The time gaps were small but perhaps significant: for all his promise, Nibali has yet to take any time off Carapaz in the mountains, while Roglic continued his trend of losing time in every uphill finish since his two victories in the earlier time trials.
Sunday’s 17km time trial in Verona will give the Slovenian a chance to take back time on his rivals – but the short course would translate into seconds rather than minutes.
Before two big days in the Dolomites, Thursday’s 222km Stage 18 reopens the doors to the remaining sprinters with a largely downhill and flat ride from Valdaora to Santa Maria di Sala.
But with maglia ciclamino rivals Demare and Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe) the only two reputed fast men left in the race, another breakaway victory should not be ruled out.
The fight for pink, though, should be put on hold until Friday, allowing Carapaz to raise a glass of local Arunda to celebrate his birthday and yet more time gains.