Omar Fraile wins stage 11 while Dumoulin remains in pink – Giro d’Italia

Giro d’Italia 2017

Stage 11

Breakaway rider Omar Fraile starred over four demanding climbs before finding the extra reserves to claim a superb victory in the Tuscan hills on a thrilling stage 11 at the Giro d’Italia.

Fraile, the 26-year-old Spanish climber from Team Dimension Data, yo-yoed constantly off the front of the 161km stage in Tuscany, picking up maximum points over three climbs before getting the better in a nail-biting four-way sprint in Bagno di Romagna to take his first ever stage victory in a Grand Tour.

Darting out from the back of the leading quartet, Fraile rounded Frenchman Pierre Rolland (Cannondale-Drapac) and Estonia’s Tanel Kangert (Astana) before holding off Portuguese former world champion Rui Costa (UAE Team Emirates) to take an outstanding win by two bike lengths – all while the remnants of an initial 26-man break closed in on the home straight.

Costa Rican Andrey Amador – a Movistar team-mate of Colombian pre-race favourite Nairo Quintana – came home in that break to move up to sixth in the overall standings, while the impressive Kangert also moved into the top ten – at the expense of Dutchman Steven Kruijswijk, who had another day to forget.

Race leader Tom Dumoulin – who secured the maglia rosa after his barnstorming victory in Tuesday’s individual time trial to Montefalco – finished safely in a group of main favourites 1:37 down on Fraile and the other leading escapees. The towering Team Sunweb rider retained his emphatic lead of 2:23 over Quintana, with a second Dutchman, Bauke Mollema of Trek-Segafredo, completing the top three at 2:38.

Frenchman Thibaut Pinot was sprightly, the FDJ rider attacking his rivals on the final climb to crest the summit with a small gap before being reeled in on the descent. Pinot stayed fourth on GC just two seconds behind Mollema, while Italian defending champion Vincenzo Nibali of Bahrain Merida – who, like Pinot, stretched his legs on the steep double-digit final ramp on Monte Fumaiolo – completes the top five at 2:47.

But it was a bad day for LottoNL-Jumbo’s Kruijswijk, who dropped out of the top 10 after finishing in a group alongside Welshman Geraint Thomas of Team Sky some 48 seconds behind the other GC favourites.

There was also a final nail in Tejay Van Garderen’s GC coffin when the American from BMC rolled home more than 21 minutes in arrears after being dropped early on the final climb.

Played out under the kind of blue sky and bright sunshine that you associate with Tuscan holidays, the short but sharp stage from cycling legend Gino Bartali’s birthtown of Ponte a Ema had ambush written all over it. And sure enough, Quintana’s Movistar team had read the memo.

Placing three riders – Jose Herrada, Jose Joaquin Rojas and Amador – in an early break of 26 riders showed that Movistar meant business, with the advantage soon stretching out to a few minutes as Dumoulin found himself isolated in a streamlined peloton that shed riders as soon as the only flat stretch of road came to an end with 15km on the board.

Tom Dumoulin makes a descent during today’s stage.

While Fraile would be the Dimension Data rider who left his imprint on this stage, it was the Spaniard’s compatriot and team-mate Igor Anton who crested the summit of the Cat.2 Passo dello Consuma just behind the Belgian youngster Laurens de Plus (Quick-Step Floors) after the two had edged ahead on the long opening climb.

The break had come back together on the descent as Fraile responded to an attack by compatriot Mikel Landa (Team Sky) at the start of the Cat.3 Passo delle Calla. The two Basque climbers combined well to open up a maximum lead of 2:15 over the chasing group and 5:05 over the pack, which by now was being controlled by the returning Sunweb team-mates of the maglia rosa.

Fraile – the king of the mountains at the past two editions of the Vuelta – showed his maglia azzurra intentions by taking maximum points over the Consuma and the Cat.3 Passo del Carnaio ahead of Landa. But the duo was swept up by the chasing group shortly after passing through the finish line at Bagno di Romagna ahead of the final 50km out-and-back loop.

By now, the Trek-Segafredo and FDJ team-mates of Mollema and Pinot had come to the front of the pack to help Sunweb lead the chase and stave off the threat posed by Amador, who looked to be making the biggest gains in the general classification.

With Fraile and Landa caught – and the latter subsequently spat right out the back – Amador’s Movistar team-mates upped the tempo in the break to whittle down the numbers on the 23km-long Cat.2 Monte Fumaiolo. But after both Herrada and Rojas peeled off, it was not Amador who launched an attack, but Belgian youngster De Plus, who was pegged back by Portuguese veteran Costa, Kangert and Rolland.

As the gradient peaked out in double figures near the summit, Rolland put in a big attack – only to be caught by a grimacing and determined Fraile just ahead of the line. The Spaniard’s grit had seen him draw level with Mount Etna winner Jan Polanc (Bahrain Merida) in the KOM standings.

Meanwhile, just over two minutes further down the road, Nibali put in the decisive attack which saw both Thomas and Kruijswijk distanced.

Fraile and Rolland joined forces on the descent and were caught on an uphill lip by Costa. The trio held a slender 10-second lead as the road flattened out and the race entered the final 5km. Behind, Kangert attacked from a chasing group of around 10 riders, the Estonian drawing level with the leaders just ahead of the flamme rouge.

Rolland, chasing Cannondale’s first WorldTour win in two years, entered the home straight on the front alongside Kangert – but it was Fraile, the most inexperienced of the quartet, who launched a powerful sprint from the back. Costa tucked into the Spaniard’s slipstream, but an inspired Fraile had too much and capped a formidable day by securing Dimension Data’s first ever stage win in the Giro.

Four more riders just made the junction to finish in the same time before Amador came home three seconds down in another group of four chasers. The main pack was led home by Spain’s Ruben Plaza (Orica-Scott) at 1:37 alongside the likes of team-mate Adam Yates, Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2R-La Mondiale), Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin), Davide Formolo (Cannondale-Drapac), Quintana, Nibali, Pinot, Mollema and the white jersey, Bob Jungels (Quick-Step Floors).

Kruijswijk led a chasing group over the line 2:25 in arrears alongside Thomas, who was made to suffer from his strong second-placed ride in Tuesday’s time trial.

Two lower-category climbs in the middle of Stage 12 throw a bit of uncertainty into the mix for the longest leg of the race, a 229km ride from Forli to Reggio Emilia that should, on paper, open the doors once again for the sprinters.

Stage 11 results (Florence to Bagno di Romagna, 161 km)

1) Omar Fraile (Dimension Data) 4:23:14”. 2) Rui Costa (UAE Team Emirates) ST. 3) Pierre Rolland (Cannondale). 4) Tanel Kangert (Astana). 5) Giovanni Visconti (Bahrain). 6) Ben Hermans (BMC Racing). 7) Dario Cataldo (Astana). 8) Simone Petilli (UAE Team Emirates). 9) Maxime Monfort (Lotto) +3”. 10) Laurens De Plus (Quick-Step).

General classification after stage 11

1) Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) 47:22:07”. 2) Nairo Quintana (Movistar) +2:23”. 3) Bauke Mollema (Trek) +2:38”. 4) Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) +2:40”. 5) Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain) +2:47”. 6) Andrey Amador (Movistar) +3:05”. 7) Bob Jungels (Quick-Step) +3:56”. 8) Tanel Kangert (Astana) +3:59”. 9) Domenico Pozzovivo (AG2R) +4:05” .10) Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha) +4:17”.

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