Giro d’Italia - Stage 14 LIVE: Egan Bernal bares his teeth on Zoncolan, Simon Yates makes a move
After a pan-flat run from Ravenna to Verona on Friday, the 104th edition of the Giro d'Italia really gets going on Saturday with the showdown on Monte Zoncolan. Egan Bernal remains in the pink jersey for Ineos Grenadiers and will be braced for a real battle. It promises to be a must-watch stage and you can follow along with live text coverage with Mr Felix Lowe.
‘What a victory for one of the second division teams!’ - Fortunato wins gruelling Stage 14
He missed out on the win but Egan Bernal cemented his grip on the maglia rosa. The Colombian is now 1'33" clear of Simon Yates with Damiano Caruso third at 1'51", Vlasov down to fourth and Carthy down to fifth.
It was a brave effort from Simon Yates but he's noww been dropped by the maglia rosa, who has not only passed George Bennett from the break, but also sails past Bauke Mollema just before crossing the line - around 11 seconds ahead of the Briton. The other GC riders come home in dribs and drabs - and Vlasov is one of the big losers as he comes home over a minute down on Bernal, as does Evenepoel...
Victory for Lorenzo Fortunato!
What a way to win your first race as a professional... wow, that's unbelievable... superb stuff from the Italian, who comes home 23 seconds clear of Jan Tratnik.
0.5km to go: Fortunato favours the brave
The lone leader is digging deep and running the gamut of pain faces - but his rival is weaving across the road behind. The Italian will surely do it... and this is the climb where his boss, Ivan Basso, won 11 years ago!
Meanwhile, on the front of the race, Lorenzo Fortunato goes under the flamme rouge with about 10 seconds on Tratnik, who has not given up. The 25-year-old Italian has never won a pro bike race and this is his debut Giro d'Italia. And he's now grimacing in a world of pain on the steepest 27% section of this climb... can he hold on?
1.5km to to go: Yates attacks
The Colombian race leader takes a look over his shoulder and surveys the scene, perhaps weighing up a move. He'll see that Evenepoel is right at the back but Vlasov, Buchmann and Yates are right there. This group has now caught Ponomar, who was in the break.
And now Yates makes his move! The British rider has a dig and the only rider who can follow is the pink jersey, Bernal.
2km to go: Fortunato drops Tratnik
Wow - what a win this would be for the wildcard Eolo-Kometa team... Fortunato drops Tratnik on this steep section while behind it's the impressive Covi who rides clear of the chasing quartet. You wouldn't have expected this ahead of the climb.
Meanwhile, back with the GCV group - which is around 25-strong still - Mikel Nieve has been dropped while Evenepoel and Formolo are starting to struggle. Rein Taaramae, however, tries his luck and goes clear.
3km to go: It's show time!
We now hit the business end of this stage as the leaders hit the steepest part of this climb. Tratnik has the power but he's such a unit and will surely struggle on the double-digit gradients. Fortunato, meanwhile, is lean and light but also light on experience. But the Bennett group is 55 seconds back and they will need to do something soon if they want to put themselves in the picture for an epic win.
4.5km to go: Narvaez done
The Ecuadorian has done his job and hands the reins over to Castroviejo as Martinez now comes up ahead of Bernal on the front of the pack. The leaders, meanwhile, are now well up into the mist and gloom. The duo has 45 seconds on the four chasers and 4'10" on the maglia rosa group.
5.5km to go: Nibali cracks
There's your answer: there will be no Shark attack today. The Sicilian veteran - a two-time Giro champion - is off the back. It was always a big ask for him to perform given his wrist injury and advancing years. And that's your answer to the question 'Will Vincenzo Nibali ever be a factor in a Grand Tour again?'
6km to go: Half-hour of truth for Evenepoel
The Belgian tyro had not raced this year before the Giro and this, being his first Grand Tour, is the first time the 21-year-old has raced beyond 10 days. We should add that Evenepoel has never raced on a mountain like this in race circumstances. Today we will have a better idea of his prospects in this Giro. For now, he's still here with his Deceuninck Quick-Step teammate Joao Almeida.
7km to go: Fortunato joins Tratnik
The Italian manages to catch the Slovenian and they have 50 seconds on the chasing quartet of Bennett, Mollema, Covi and Oliveira. Moscon, meanwhile, is done: Narvaez now taking up the Ineos pacing. Ciccone and Nibali also edge up alongside Caruso and Vlasov. Do we have a Shark attack coming up?
8km to go: Ineos take it up
And here we go: Ineos Grenadiers send their army to the front of the pack: Moscon, Narvaez and Castroviejo setting pace for the pink jersey, with Dani Martinez tucked in behind. It will be interesting to see if the time gaps come down fast now. Behind Martinez it's Vlasov and Caruso, then we have Guerreiro pacing for Hugh Carthy ahead of his fellow Brit Simon Yates and the German Emanuel Buchmann: these are the riders competing for the top five.
10km to go: Breakaway breaking up
Andrii Ponomar, the youngest rider in the race, put in a dig from the break but then found himself off the back - his inexperience perhaps shining through. With Lorenzo Fortunato riding clear in pursuit of Tratnik, there's a quartet of Bennett, Oliveira, Mollema and Covi who stick to their guns and keep collaborating as a unit. The gap back to the main pack is 5'30".
11km to go: Tratnik goes clear
It's not so much of an acceleration from the Slovenian as a retention of a steady increasing juggernaut pace. He's a big unit and is trying his luck from distance. For now, no one takes the bait. It's worth adding that the road surface is pretty pristine after being laid specially for the race. Behind, it's still Astana who ride on the front with three men - although Vlasov isn't among them, but sitting on the wheel of the maglia rosa a bit further back.
'Easier' eastern approach to the summit
This, the seventh finish on Monte Zoncolan in Giro history, is the first since the race’s inaugural visit in 2003 with the mountain being tackled from the alternative eastern approach from Sutrio. This is supposedly ‘easier’ than the usual approach from Ovaro but an average gradient of 8.5% over 14km is no picnic – and that rises to 13% over the final three kilometres with a pitch that hits a savage 27% at one point.
Italy’s Gilberto Simoni won in 2003 having attacked immediately after the steepest final 3km had begun. Generally, it’s a climb where the main protagonists play a waiting game for the first half hour before the gradient forces them to fight or fall.
That inaugural ascent in 2003 was also the last time that the late, great Marco Pantani was seen fighting for victory in a Giro stage, the Pirate eventually taking fifth, forty-two seconds behind Simoni. Simoni won again when the west side of the Zoncolan was used in 2007. This was followed by victories from Ivan Basso (2010), Igor Anton (2011), Michael Rogers (2014) and Chris Froome (2018).
When Froome won three years ago, many viewed it as a consolation triumph for the Team Sky rider. It put him up into the top five after a troubled opening fortnight – but he still trailed the pink jersey of Simon Yates by 3’10” going into Stage 15. We all know what happened next.
As such, it’s fair to say that today's showdown on the Zoncolan, while it won’t decide the final outcome of this race, it will certainly give us a proper idea of who Bernal’s main contenders are – and if, indeed, the Colombian is the real deal himself this year.
Average man v Zoncolan: How will our journalist fare on the legendary climb
14km to go: Cat.1 Monte Zoncolan
It's show time for the nine riders who pass through Sutrio and hit the start of this final climb, which is 14.1km long at an average of 8.5%. Affini and then Mosca both come to an almost standstill after they put in huge stints pulling for their respective teammates Bennett and Mollema - one of whom, surely, will win today? The gap for the break is 6'25" at the foot of the Zoncolan and so it should be enough even if things kick off big time behind.
20km to go: Break down to nine men
Albanese is the first to be tailed off, followed shortly after by Rochas. So it's down to nine men as they approach the final ascent. The peloton go through Arte Terme - where Eduardo Affini 'won' the second intermediate sprint - 6'20" down on the leaders.
25km to go: Six minutes again
The gap grows back to six minutes for the 11 leaders after that coming together of all the disparate groups following the long descent. The peloton has grown in size again, too, as they continue their collective ride to the foot of Monte Zoncolan, around 12km away.
38km to go: Regrouping on the valley road
Those disparate groups have come together on the flat drag to the second intermediate sprint ahead of the final climb. That was perhaps inevitable but it doesn't change the fact that Astana played a blinder there to isolate many of the big name GC riders, who would have wasted energy returning to the fold. The pink jersey pack is around 80-strong so it's definitely been whittled down. Their deficit to the break is 5'10".
44km to go: Chaos, confusion, panic...
The maglia rosa group still have around 20 seconds on a chasing group containing Yates, Carthy, Buchmann and some other GC favourites, but Remco Evenepoel is in a third group another 20 seconds back - so Deceuninck Quick-Step have a fight on their hands before we even get to the Zoncolan.
Well played, Astana! And it just goes to show what a canny rider Bernal is to anticipate that and get on the right side of the split. The breakaway, meanwhile, sees its lead to the maglia rosa group slashed to 4'45".
48km to go: Big gaps on the descent
Astana have piled on the pressure on the descent and they have split the pack to smithereens. Vlasov has three teammates with him, including Luis Leon Sanchez, while Pello Bilbao is there and two Ineos riders - Bernal and another, Castroviejo. They have around 20 seconds on the next group. An interesting development.
53km to go: Time to descend
Astana lead the pack over the summit a Charlotte Gainsbourgian 5'55" down on the 11-man break. It will be interesting to see how these technical downhill kilometres go because the surface is damp and there are lots of twists and turns on this narrow road.
Meanwhile, on the chairlift up to the finish on Monte Zoncolan, Bernie Eisel must have got his mitts on one of the thousand 10-euro tickets issued by the race organisers... and it's misty and snowy up top.
58km to go: Mollema takes KOM points
The Dutchman cruises over the summit ahead of his teammate Mosca to pocket the maximum 18pts. That puts him 52 points behind Geoffrey Bouchard in the KOM standings with 40pts still up for grabs.
60km to go: Mosca and Affini working hard
This is a lovely hairpinned climb weaving up through woodland on a smooth and at times narrow tarmac surface, which has clearly been relaid fairly recently. It's Jacopo Mosca and Eduardo Affini setting the tempo on the front of the break - working for their respective teammates, Bauke Mollema and George Bennett.
Affini is no slouch: he almost pulled off a surprise win yesterday after anticipating the final sprint, only to be caught by Giacomo Nizzolo just ahead of the line in Verona. He also came second in the opening TT behind Ganna. Mosca also has a top 10 in this year's Giro, while Alessandro Covi finished second in Montalcino, Bennett third in Bagno di Romagna, and both Nelson Oliveira and Jan Tratnik have top fives this month as well.
62km to go: Gruppetto forms
Numerous riders off the back - including Peter Sagan, the maglia ciclamino; Thomas De Gendt, who tried his luck earlier today before the break stuck; and Geoffrey Bouchard, the blue jersey who tried to join the break at first but now realises that he'll be better served resting up for future stages - his KOM lead cannot be overturned today whatever happens.
67km to go: Cat.2 Forcella Monte Rest
The break is onto the 10.5km ascent which has an average tilt of 6.1%. On the front of the pack, the entire Astana team have now camped out alongside Hugh Carthy's EF Education-Nippo team. Ineos content to take a back seat, it seems. The gap is eight minutes.
69km to go: Handbags in the peloton
The helicopter has picked up a dispute between two riders in the pack: Andrea Pasqualon (Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert) and Ruben Guerreiro (EF Education-Nippo). It was all over the Portuguese trying to ride up in team formation and needing to nip ahead of the Italian, who took issue with it. They both took their hands off their handlebars and there was a fair bit of remonstration but it fizzles out soon enough.
'It has got even worse' - heated, remarkable argument sees Guerreiro lose his bearings
70km to go: Almost nine minutes now
It's still that Itlalian duo on the front but we can see another Italian duo lurking: Filippo Ganna and Salvatore Puccio are about to come to the fore for Ineos Grenadiers.
75km to go: Bike change for Mollema
The Dutchman means business! Bauke Mollema swings to the side of the road and swaps bikes - switching to a light-weight climbing steed for these climbs. It's been a gradual uphill grind for a while now as the race continues to the foot of the second climb past the scenic Lago di Ravedis.
80km to go: Sobrero and Felline continue to pull
It's been the Italian duo of Matteo Sobrero and Fabio Felline riding on the front for Astana for the past hour or so, doing all the tempo-setting in the pack. The gap is still 8'20" over the 11-man break. Those escapees are: Andrii Ponomar (Androni Giacattoli), Jan Tratnik (Bahrain-Victorious), Remy Rochas (Cofidis), Vincenzo Albanese and Lorenzo Fortunato (Eolo-Kometa), George Bennett and Eduardo Affini (Jumbo-Visma), Nelson Oliveira (Movistar), Bauke Mollema and Jacopo Mosca (Trek-Segafredo), and Alessandro Covi (UAE Team Emirates).
85km to go: Tratnik 'wins' intermediate sprint
The Slovenian unit, a stage winner from last year's Giro, rides through the intermediate sprint at Meduno on the front of the break to take the spoils. When the pack passes through in eight minutes there won't be any action either because all the maglia ciclamino points will have been mopped up. Peter Sagan still leads that competition but Giacomo Nizzolo came to within 9pts of the Slovakian with his victory yesterday. Meanwhile, it's the feed zone for the peloton, who pick up musettes.
100km to go: Status quo continues
We're just over halfway into today's stage and the gap is still 7'45" and Astana still have two men on the front ahead of the Ineos train. Don't be disheartened: not much may be happening yet, but it will surely all kick off on the next climb and then the final ascent of Monte Zoncolan.
Meanwhile, at the finish...
It's not a very clear day at the top of Monte Zoncolan! Already, the sunshine which accompanied the riders as they rolled out of Cittadella has been replaced by cloud and haze.
110km to go: Youngest rider in the break
Andrii Ponomar, a late addition to the Androni Giacattoli roster, is in this break having featured in the stage 3 move which resulted in that surprise win for Taco van der Hoorn on the first Monday of the race. Ukrainian Ponomar is only 18 years old and is, unsurprisingly, riding his first Grand Tour. He came 83rd in Milan-Sanremo earlier this season. The second youngest rider in the move is four years older - 22-year-old Alessandro Covi. The gap, meanwhile, is still around the 7'50" mark for the 11 escapees.
120km to go: Mollema takes the KOM points
It was the Dutch veteran who picked up the maximum 3pts over the top of that climb ahead of teammate Mosca and Frenchman Rochas. That puts him on 26pts in the KOM standings - a whopping 70pts behind the current blue jersey, Geoffrey Bouchard. There are a maximum 58pts remaining today - 18 on the next climb and then 40 at the finish - so Mollema won't be leading the standings if all goes 100% but he'll certainly be in the mix.
125km to go: Cimolai stops to kiss his partner
Poor Astana - they're trying to set a tempo on the climb, then Billy Fresh Legs Davide Cimolai, a sprinter by trade, zips up and rides alongside you while milking the applause before stopping on the side of the road to kiss his girlfriend or wife... His personal show continues as the pack holds the break at 7'20".
130km to go: Cat.4 Castello di Caneva
Our leaders are onto the first climb, which is just 3.4km at 3.8% so a mere blip in comparison with the final slog. The two dangermen from the break are clearly Bennett and Mollema, the two most accomplished climbers in this 11-man move. Great to see Alessandro Covi there, too, after his heartbrake in the Montalcino stage where he was pipped to the line by Mauro Schmid.
Meanwhile, back with the pack, Davide Cimolai is allowed to ride clear of the peloton to wave to his friends and family in his home town of Cordignano.
145km to go: Ineos join Astana
With the gap still above seven minutes, Ineos Grenadiers have sent their train to the front where it's pulling behind the last two remaining Astana riders.
155km to go: Trophy in sight
The famous trofeo senza fine is on display in a train which is running alongside the peloton...
160km to go: Astana take it up
Ineos Grenadiers are not interested in this and so it's the Astana-Premier Tech team of second place Aleksandr Vlasov who come to the front to lead the chase now the gap is up to six minutes. They have EF Education-Nippo tucked in behind supporting their man Hugh Carthy. He's won on the Angliru - can he now add the Zoncolan to his A to Z of climbing conquests?
170km to go: Peloton sit up
After one final last-ditch effort from Movistar to get some men up to the break to join Oliveira - thwarted by Filippo Ganna - the peloton has a collective shrug of the shoulders and easing up of pace. It looks like they have decided to knock it off and let this break go now. The gap was around 1'45" when they slowed up - and that will no doubt grow now. But given the amount of teams who have missed out on the move - you can probably expect the gap not to get too big. Many will hope to still have a chance from a counter move later in the day - perhaps after one of those two earlier climbs before the Zoncolan.
175km to go: CRASH! Two down...
It looks like Laurence Naesen (Ag2R-Citroen) and Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) have clipped the curb and come down as the peloton passed through Montebelluna with a series of tight turns through the centre. The Belgian is back on his bike but the Frenchman is sitting up and holding his shoulder - it looks like he's snaffed his collarbone. Big shame for Edet.
Just a reminder that Jumbo-Visma's Dutch duo - Dylan Groenewegen and David Dekker - did not take to the start today. They failed to pick up a sprint stage between them and with the mountains on the horizon, there's no real need or incentive for them to continue. Also, last year's runner-up Jai Hindley has thrown in the towel. The Australian has been suffering with saddlesores - and that's a blow for Team DSM's leader Romain Bardet.
180km to go: Fiorelli dances clear
Italy's Filippo Fiorelli uses a widening of the road to ride around the men on the front of the pack and then dart clear in pursuit of the break - a move which was clearly motivated by his directeur sportif shouting down the radio given Bardiani-CSF's lack of presence in the break. He'll have a minute's gap to close... And as a result of Fiorelli's dig, a few others from the pack are suddenly tempted to give chase and try their luck - including Larry Warbasse of Ag2R-Citroen.
185km to go: Movistar roll the dice
The Spanish team have sent Dario Cataldo and one other clear of the pack in pursuit of the leaders in a bid to bridge over to their Portuguese teammate Oliveira. It comes to nothing, though, and the peloton is still riding as one. But the break has yet to assert its authority. The gap is 40 seconds but I couldn't discount it either coming back together - or, more likely, other riders managing to get across.
Egan Bernal's first real test coming up...
The Giro d'Italia starts properly on Saturday. After Monte Zoncolan and Stage 14 we will have a better idea of who will be on the final podium in Milan – and whether the Colombian is the favourite for pink, or if the likes of Vlasov, Caruso, Yates and Carthy could fight their way into contention for the pink jersey.
The 11 leaders are: Andrii Ponomar (Androni Giacattoli), Jan Tratnik (Bahrain-Victorious), Remy Rochas (Cofidis), Vincenzo Albanese and Lorenzo Fortunato (Eolo-Kometa), George Bennett and Eduardo Affini (Jumbo-Visma), Nelson Oliveira (Movistar), Bauke Mollema and Jacopo Mosca (Trek-Segafredo), and Alessandro Covi (UAE Team Emirates).
The gap is 25 seconds as Ineos send Salvatore Puccio and Jhonatan Narvaez to the front with Ganna to lead the chase. This effort ends the chances of a smaller six-man chase group that included the blue jersey Geoffrey Bouchard (Ag2R-Citroen). And Ineos then take a step back and allow Movistar take things up. The Spanish team have Oliveira in this move but he's perhaps not the right one for what they want to do today - which is, clearly, go for the stage win given the withdrawal two days ago of their GC man Marc Soler.
195km to go: George Bennett in new move
That attempt from De Gendt came to nothing before New Zealand's George Bennett tried his luck with a cluster of others - around a dozen. Bennett moved up four places to 11'21" down on GC after Thursday's stage to Bagno di Romagna, clawing back 10 minutes of his deficit. If he were to be in a successful breakaway today, he could rise back in contention for a top 10 finish.
Bennett is in this move with Jumbo-Visma teammate Eduardo Affini, who was a surprise runner-up yesterday. As a result of this, perhaps, Filippo Ganna has come to the front to help lead the chase for Ineos Grenadiers, who won't want to let the Kiwi back into the GC fold.
200km to go: Thomas De Gendt on the attack
The Belgian breakaway specialist usually picks the right days to get in the move - and he's obviously keen to add the Zoncolan to his list of conquests, which include the Stelvio (2012 Giro d'Italia - to move onto the final podium in the final TT) and Mont Ventoux (2016 Tour de France - the day Chris Froome ran up the hill when it finished by Chalet Reynard).
205km to go: Stage 14 under way!
Race director Stefano Allocchio waves the flag to get this key stage going - and we have a flurry of attacks from the outset, including a dig from the Belgian Victor Campenaerts - perhaps trying to do an Eros Poli and give Qhubeka-Assos a third win in five days following those scalps from Mauro Schmid and Giacomo Nizzolo.
Ciao regazzi! Riders roll through the neutral zone...
Good morning all, and the remaining riders in this Giro d'Italia are all set for today's summit showdown on Monte Zoncolan. Well, not quite... Valerio Conti of UAE Team Emirates has had to stop for two punctures - one for each wheel - which has somewhat delayed the start of this key mountain tussle in the fight for pink. Here's what's in store with a frantic flat opening segment followed by two climbs of ascending difficulty followed by that decisive slog up the eastern side of Monte Zoncolan, which hasn't been tackled since 2003.
‘Expect a great battle’ – Yates tipped to make a move on Zoncolan
Stage 13 – a 198km pan-flat ride from Ravenna to Verona – represented a day off for the GC contenders. However, Saturday’s jaunt up the Zoncolan will bring the GC battle front and centre once more. Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) holds a 45-second lead over Russia’s Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana-Premier Tech). Adam Blythe, speaking on the Breakaway, said he expects a fascinating day.
Blythe expects Ineos to try to control the race from the off.
“I think Ineos will try to control the race all day,” said Blythe on the latest episode of the Breakaway. .
“Bernal’s main objective will be to keep the pink jersey. A win on the Zoncolan would be incredible. But I just think he will focus on not losing time.
Gaining time is always a big objective, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they (Ineos) let a big break go to minimize the risk of a real GC battle.
Dan Lloyd agreed, adding that the profile of Stage 14 lends itself to a surprise winner.
“Looking at the profile there could be a surprise winner again, like [Mauro] Schmid on Stage 11 in Montalcino. The opening part of tomorrow's stage is pan flat which makes it really difficult for pure climbers to get up the road, the likes of George Bennett for example.”
However, Blythe expects a tense battle between the GC contenders as they jostle for the slightest of advantages, with Vlasov particularly well-placed to make a move.
“I think if Vlasov sees an opportunity, he can try to gain a few seconds on Bernal, but ultimately Bernal looks in such great form at the minute that it is going to be very difficult to do so.”
Blythe added that Simon Yates (Team BikeExchange) could use his intimate knowledge of the climb to make a GC move.
I think Simon knows this climb very well, having come second to Chris Froome in 2018. He will know it like the back of his hand and I think it suits him, so he might try to jump up a few places.
“It is a very hard climb, don’t get me wrong, but it is not that hard leading up to it, and that can make a huge difference, for the likes of Yates and Hugh Carthy (EF Education–Nippo). I don’t think we will see massive gaps but I think we will see a great battle between the GC guys to try to gain a couple of seconds here or there.”
‘We could have a shock winner’ – Lloyd tips Stage 14 surprise
Average Man vs Zoncolan
We couldn't have a Monte Zoncolan stage without revisiting when our Average Man, Tom Bennett, took on the perils of Zoncolan.
It was a remarkable insight into just how tough these climbs are, and is always worth another watch.
Average man v Zoncolan: How will our journalist fare on the legendary climb
Stage 13 Recap - Nizzolo ends the wait
Such was Giacomo Nizzolo’s unfortunate run in Giro sprints – eleven second places without ever tasting victory – some bookmakers had given the Italian cruel odds of 11/2 to end his hoodoo in Friday’s pan-flat thirteenth stage from Ravenna to Verona.