Jungels defends white jersey on Giro mountain top finish
The Luxembourg champion arrived together with the main bunch on stage 6 and remained in the top 10 of the general classification for the sixth day in a row.
First summit finish of the 99th Giro d'Italia came on Thursday, at Roccaraso, which was returning to the race after a 29-year hiatus. The stage, which included one more categorized climb before the arrival, welcomed the riders with rain, fog and low temperatures, and was animated in its opening half by three riders – Alessandro Bisolti (Nippo-Vini Fantini), Alexandr Kolobnev (Gazprom-RusVelo) and Eugert Zhupa (Willier-Southeast) – who took six minutes before hitting the first ramps of the day. On the climb and the descent, Movistar came to the fore and led the way for the peloton, which reduced the handicap to under a minute before eventually easing up the pace.
As soon as this happened, Laurent Didier (Trek-Segafredo), Pim Ligthart and Tim Wellens (both from Lotto-Soudal) took off and needed just a couple of kilometers to bridge to the break, which then extended its lead to more than eight minutes with around 40 kilometers left. At that moment it became clear that the escape will play for the win, and hostilities began soon on the 17-km long Roccaraso, as Didier launched an explosive attack on the 7% gradients. The Luxembourg rider faded in the next kilometer, and was caught and distanced by Tim Wellens, who then soloed to the win.
From the peloton, Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) and Kanstantsin Siuton (Dimension Data) made their move and put 40 seconds between them and the chasers, but in the last two kilometers some reacted and began firing their attacks. As a result, in a matter of no time, Domenico Pozzovivo (AG2R) and Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha) bridged across and rode a steady pace to increase the gap. In the end, Fuglsang and Zakarin were the ones to round out the podium, 1:19 behind the winner, while the peloton followed a handful of seconds later.
That group also included Bob Jungels, the Luxembourg champion who is riding the Giro d'Italia for the first time in his career and has been in the GC top 10 since the opening day, which scheduled a short invididual time trial. Although he lost some time on the challenging ramps of Roccaraso, Bob showed that he can stay with the best on a mountain top finish and extended his lead in the best young riders classification, which means that he will go into Friday's stage (Sulmona – Foligno, 211 kilometers) with a margin of 1:16 over second placed Davide Formolo (Cannondale).
One of the eight riders to join Etixx – Quick-Step in the winter, the 23-year-old victory opened his account in the blue and black kit of the team with a stage victory at the Tour of Oman, followed shortly by a GC podium in Tirreno-Adriatico; now, the Giro is a new step in Bob's career, with the performances he got underlining once again the potential and versatility that were there for everyone to see since he was competing in the amateur races.
"It's been a really hard day. I was quite ok with the rain in the beginning, only thing that I found awkward was the super strong rhythm the bunch had on the first ascent. Then, because of the rain and the fog, it became very dangerous on the downhill, but I overcame also that hurdle. In the last 20 kilometers, we hit the climb at a very fast pace and I felt that I wasn't having my best day, the cold being the reason behind this. The result I got is a pretty good one and I am satisfied with it. I gained some time on the other riders in the white jersey rankings and also kept my place in the top 5 of the general classification. Now the next goal is to do a good time trial on Saturday", said Bob, who's riding only his third Grand Tour.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele