Denz doubles up as Bruno Armirail takes pink on stage 14 – Giro d’Italia

Giro d’Italia 2023

Stage 14

Nico Denz (Bora-Hansgrohe) won his second Giro d’Italia stage in three days, triumphing once again from the breakaway on stage 14 to Cassano Magnano.

The German, who was triumphant in Rivoli on stage 12, almost celebrated too soon at the end of the 194km stage, but just held on to beat out Derek Gee (Israel-Premier Tech) for the victory. Alberto Bettiol (EF Education-EasyPost) rounded out the podium after leading out the sprint after the lead two break groups came together inside the final kilometre.

Denz, Gee, and Bettiol were all part of the chase group behind a lead group of three heading into the dying kilometres of the stage, with Stefano Oldani (Alpecin-Deceuninck), Toms Skujins (Trek-Segafredo) and Davide Ballerini (Soudal-QuickStep) all out front having attacked at around 50km to go.

As they raced into the final, it had looked like they would contest the victory, but things came back together inside the last kilometre of the race. Bettiol, Denz, and Gee immediately came over the top around the final bend, with the German punching past on the final rise to the line.

Gee, who has been among the revelations of the race, finished fast but fell just half a wheel short and would be forced to settle for a third second place at his debut Giro d’Italia.

“I felt super good today and I got from the beginning the opportunity to go for the break, which I used again,” Denz said after the stage. “I was marking Trek, Israel and Movistar, who were all with numbers. I thought we lost it because it seemed that they couldn’t close it.”

“But then the attacks went on the hills in the final. I still felt really good and followed. In the end, we almost closed it but when we stopped pushing, I thought it was all for nothing. I didn’t want fourth because I already won so I closed it and then Bettiol launched. I jumped on his wheel and went full to the line and – again, crazy.”

53 seconds after the battle for the win, Groupama-FDJ man Bruno Armirail rolled across the line in 15th place. Taken in isolation it wasn’t a standout result, but with the Ineos Grenadier-led peloton riding a go-slow for much of the stage, the Frenchman would be elevated into the maglia rosa. The peloton eventually crossed the line at just over 21 minutes down, giving the 2023 Giro d’Italia its fourth leader and the first French leader of the race since Laurent Jalabert in 1999.

The peloton on the Passo del Sempione.

Stage 14 of the Giro d’Italia would take the remaining riders back across the Swiss border and back into Italy, with a 193km stage from Sierra to Cassano Magnago in Lombardia.

A largely flat stage, the sole difficulty along the way would nevertheless be a major one, coming with the Simplonpass, a 20km climb averaging 6.2%, though the peak came some 140km from the finish line.

From the start, there was a big battle for the breakaway, one that would go on for 30km at the start of the stage before a large group of riders established themselves off the front. 19 men got off the front after a lot of back and forth and plenty of attacks through the opening kilometres.

Maglia azzurra contender Davide Bais (Eolo-Kometa) was in there along with Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo), Alberto Bettiol (EF Education-EasyPost), and sprinters Davide Ballerini (Soudal-QuickStep) and Fernando Gaviria (Movistar).

A group of seven came across partway up the Simplonpass, with Warren Barguil (Arkéa-Samsic) and Israel-Premier Tech trio Simon Clarke, Derek Gee, and Stephen Williams among them. Further up, Eolo-Kometa pair Mattia Bais and Mirco Maestri got across having only attacked after the peloton slowed down to let the break go.

The rain once again began to fall on the riders as they headed uphill, the peloton six minutes down on the break as they raced to the 2,004-metre summit. At the top, Bruno Armirail tried to fend off Davide Bais on behalf of his Groupama-FDJ teammate, mountain classification leader Thibaut Pinot.

However, the Italian, who spent six days in blue between Pinot’s spells in the classification lead, had too much for Armirail, coming from behind in the final metres to grab 40 points and retake the jersey.

The gap back to the peloton only grew more and more as the riders flew down the wide, smooth road of the descent. As the riders crossed the border it was past nine minutes, and by the time Marius Mayrhofer (Team DSM) beat Toms Skujins (Trek-Segafredo) and Gee at the intermediate sprint, it was up to 11.

Geraint Thomas crosses the line knowing he has lost the overall lead.

The situation would remain the same for some time on the flat roads south towards Lake Maggiore, at least until Bettiol ventured off the front at 62km to go. Racing through the still-pouring rain, the Italian set off a chain reaction of moves behind as the battle for the stage win got underway.

Stage 12 winner Nico Denz (Bora-Hansgrohe) came across first before the remainder of the group eventually joined in, bringing it all back together. Laurens Rex (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty), Stefano Oldani (Alpecin-Deceuninck), Skujins, and a bridging Ballerini were the next to go, stealing a march on the rest into the final 50km.

More attacks flew behind on the counter but the four out front built their lead to over 30 seconds before Movistar and Bahrain Victorious set their handful of men to work on behalf of sprinters Gaviria and Andrea Pasqualon.

That advantage grew out to 50 seconds as the riders raced towards the final 20km, while the slow-moving peloton at 17 minutes behind the chase threatened to gift the maglia rosa to Armirail.

A small rise at 17km to go provoked attacks from the chase, with Gee and Bettiol leading the offensive. The upping of the pace brought the leaders’ advantage down to 30 seconds as the riders hit the final 13km, while Gaviria was among the riders dropped from the move.

Out front, Skujins used a rise in the road to push on and drop Rex from the move, while back in the chase Mayrhofer and Denz joined Gee and Bettiol on the attack. Rex was caught by that group soon after at just under 20 seconds down on the leaders.

Skujins, Ballerini, and Oldani worked together well into the final 5km, holding an ever-decreasing gap as the metres raced by. That gap edged down towards the 10-second mark heading into the final kilometre before Oldani made his move at the front.

It wouldn’t be a victorious jump, however, with a final push from Denz brought the chasers across 500 metres from the finish.

Bruno Armirail dons the famous Maglia Rosa.

From there, Bettiol led the chasers immediately past the trio they had just caught, with Denz once again proving the strongest man from a small breakaway group to shoot to another Giro stage victory.

Tomorrow’s stage 15 is the Giro’s take on Il Lombardia. The 195 kilometres route takes in four intermediate climbs before a punchy finale in Bergamo. The short and sharp Colle Aperto into the old town precedes a flying descent to the line.

The race opens on slightly undulating terrain before the Valico di Valcava appears after 35 kilometres. The 11.6 kilometres climb rises to the highest point of the route at 1,336 metres. The average gradient sits at 8%, while the steepest sector at 17% comes 7.5 kilometres into the ascent, after which the slope does not drop below 10% for 3 kilometres straight.

A long descent and 20 kilometres on the flat precede the climb to Selvino, a village northeast of Bergamo. The ascent is 11.1 kilometres long and averaging 5.6%. Right after the downhill the Miragolo San Salvatore throws in another 5.2 kilometres at 7%.

The riders move through Bergamo for the first time with almost 60 kilometres to go, only to race back towards the Valico di Valcava. They don’t go all the way to the top this time though. Just before reaching an altitude of 1,000 metres they reach Roncola Alta after 10 kilometres of climbing at 6.7%.

From Roncola Alta the riders enter a downhill back to the Brembo River. The route then continues on the flat to the outskirts of Bergamo. It would be easy to continue straight towards the finish line, but no, a punchy climb up to Città Alta – or, Upper Town – is introduced to add an extra element of excitement to the race.

The riders tackle the Colle Aperto, a ramp of 1.6 kilometres at 7.9% with the last part on pebble paving, before flying down into the Città Bassa – or, Lower City.

Stage 14 result:

  1. 1. Nico Denz (Ger) Bora-hansgrohe, at 4-37.30
  2. Derek Gee (Can) Israel-PremierTeach
  3. Alberto Bettiol (Ita) EF Education-EasyPost, all at same time
  4. Laurenz Rex (Bel) Intermarché-Circus-Wanty, at 1s
  5. Davide Ballerini (Ita) Soudal-QuickStep, at same time
  6. Toms Skujinš (Lat) Trek-Segafredo, at 4s
  7. Marius Mayrhofer (Ger) Team DSM, at 10a
  8. Stefano Oldani (Ita) Alpecin-Deceuninck, at 20s
  9. Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Bahrain-Victorious, at 50s
  10. Mirco Maestri (Ita) EOLO-Kometa, at same time.

General Classification:

  1. Bruno Armirail (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, in 56:17.01
  2. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 1:41
  3. Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma, at 1:43
  4. João Almeida (Por) UAE Team Emirates, at 2:03
  5. Andreas Leknessund (Nor) Team DSM, at 2:23
  6. Damiano Caruso (Ita) Bahrain Victorious, at 3:09
  7. Lennard Kämna (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 3:33
  8. Thymen Arensman (Ned) Ineos Grenadiers, at 4:26
  9. Laurens De Plus (Bel) Ineos Grenadiers, at 4:29
  10. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 4:54.

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