Giro d’Italia - Stage 15 as it happened: Victor Campenaerts wins in rain as Giro heads to Slovenia
After a gruelling ascent of the Zoncolan, it is a more sedate affair on Sunday, as the Giro continues on with a foray into Slovenia with a short 147km Stage 15 that features a rolling closing circuit tackled three times ahead of the finish in Gorizia. You can watch the Giro d'Italia live and ad-free on the Eurosport app and Eurosport.co.uk.
Egan Bernal brings home the maglia rosa at the front of the peloton, some 17 minutes after Campenaerts. It's as we were in GC heading into the big Dolomites stage tomorrow, with nearly 6,000m of climbing in store for the main contenders (and everyone else) tomorrow.
Main group coasting home
No silly antics back down the road as the peloton, still headlined by Ineos, dawdle towards the finish. Egan Bernal will be in pink tomorrow, barring a late disaster.
Campenaerts wins Stage 15!
Mauro Schmid, Giacomo Nizzolo and now Victor Campenaerts! It's a hat-trick for Qhubeka-Assos, three wins in five days!
Riesebeek went quite early in the sprint and opened up a gap, but Campenaerts hauled himself into the slipstream and beyond his rival. "Fantastic, fantastic!" says the exhausted Belgian at the finish. Glorious stuff.
1km to go: Campenaerts or Riesebeek?
Campenaerts leading, Riesebeek on his wheel, the chasers surely too far back. Into the final 1000 metres...
2km to go: Breathless stuff!
Campenaerts, a master of deception, goes again and steals a march on Riesebeek. Behind, Mollema realises it's now or never and sets off in pursuit of the front two. "Anything can still happen here, what a race this is," says Hatch on Eurosport commentary. It's hard to disagree. The gap is at 16 seconds.
3km to go: Riesebeek goes again
Riesebeek pounces on a tiny lump in the road to open up a small gap. Can he hold off Campenaerts and get a gap? He can't, but suddenly the Belgian is looking a little leggy. The gap is at 19 seconds. The six-man group needs to make a move asap.
4km to go: Now Riesebeek attacks
Riesebeek makes his move but Campenaerts is quick to react. These two need to work together or their dreams are going to vanish. Gap is down to 14 seconds.
5km to go: Chase group still in the hunt
Torres was swept up by a five-man chase group - Mollema, Hermans, Arndt, Cataldo and Consonni - and has managed to cling on. Will the six catch the two? Filthy weather as we enter the final five kilometres. The gap is up to 17 seconds.
7km to go: But the gap is dropping...
Campenaerts and Riesebeek are starting to look each other, the latter more reluctant to do his 50% share of the load. The gap is down to 15 seconds. They're playing a dangerous game.
10km to go: Campenaerts pushing on
It's veeeeery risky, but Victor Campenaerts (Qhubeka Assos) has chosen a rain-soaked and slippery descent as the perfect platform to make a solo bid for freedom.
Oscar Riesebeek (Alpecin–Fenix) lets him have a bit of room, but soon closes the gap. It's looking like our winner will be Belgian or Dutch. Into the final 10 kilometres.
12km to go: Leading duo's gap sneaks over 30"
Campenaerts and Riesebeek are working well at the front as their advantage climbs to 32 seconds, but how long before these new allies becomes foes?
14km to go: 'They might be swimming to the finish'
OK, "lashing it down" doesn't do it justice. This is Noah and the Ark stuff.
Rob Hatch wonders if the riders might be better off ditching their bikes and backing their swimming abilities...
16km to go: Torres cracks as Slovenians put on a show
Campenaerts and Riesebeek, fully aware of Torres' finishing speed, drive on the pace as the heavens open. Not that the Slovenians are deterred, lining the road to create a gauntlet for our leading trio.
"What a scene this is, we haven't seen this for a long time in cycling," beams Rob Hatch. Campenaerts flirts with the 500-watt mark as they crest the summit and... Torres is broken! We're down to two at the front. And it's absolutely lashing it down on the Slovenia-Italy border. Strap yourselves in, this will be a big finale.
17km to go: Campenaerts group has 30"
Now then. The chase group is yet to properly react and the new breakaway has 30 seconds as we go up the Cat 4. climb to Gornje Cerovo for the final time.
20km to go: Coats on...
Uh oh. The rain starts to drench the peloton, just as they go over some untimely paving stones. Ganna leads the main bunch round a corner at walking pace, all too aware of the damage a crash could do.
22km to go: Attack!
Campenaerts, fully dressed again thankfully, drifts off the back of the breakaway, then builds up some speed and charges through. He's quickly joined by Riesebeek and Torres. It looks like they might get away...
25km to go: Breakaway starts to fragment
Ineos pick up the tempo, perhaps aware that a bunched peloton will not be an ideal if the weather turns. Up the road, the cohesion has vanished as 15 minds all grapple with the same question: 'how on earth do I win from here?'.
30km to go: No rain yet
The gap creeps beyond 12 minutes. If it wasn't already obvious, our winner will come from this early break. Also good news everyone: the missing 15th man has resurfaced. Not sure where he vanished too.
Just seen a shot of the finish, where dark clouds and cobbles await.
35km to go: Life lesson #1... Don't undress when the cameras are close
A pre-watershed moment that nobody wanted courtesy of Victor Campenaerts (Qhubeka Assos). "We saw a bit too much of Victor there," says Rob Hatch. Swiftly moving on...
40km to go: The rain nears...
*rubs hands together with excitement*
46km to go: KOM points grabbed
De Bondt (Alpecin–Fenix), Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) and Riesebeek (Alpecin-Fenix) take three, two and one points respectively on the second climb up to Gornje Cerovo.
48km to go: Such a shame Mohoric can't experience this
Oh yes! Revved-up Slovenians spill onto the road as the break tackles the Cat 4. climb to Gornje Cerovo. Just imagine if Primoz Roglic or Tadej Pogacar were here. Fellow Slovenian Matej Mohoric (Bahrain Victorious), who abandoned the race after a nasty crash, will be sore to miss this reaction.
‘Awful crash’ – Mohoric taken to hospital after bike snaps in two
55km to go: Ominous cloud in the distance
Tbf, this stage does need spicing up a bit and fortunately there's a big black cloud up ahead. We seem to have used up our drama allowance in the first 60 seconds. Ineos are still on the front of the peloton, rotating Ganna and Puccio on the front. Gap stable at 11:05.
60km to go: Onto the second circuit
So for those just joining, we have a 14/15-man breakaway (someone has gone missing, we think...) with a 11-minute advantage.
Stage 15 is taking in three laps of a 31.4km circuit. We've had one climb through Gornje Cerovo, a delightful village on the Slovenian border, with two more on the menu.
70km to go: Who's missing?
I've paused this shot multiple times and can only count 14 riders in the breakaway. Our race stats have 15 men at the front, so who's missing?!
75km to go: Wiggins on Ineos tactics
Over 11 minutes for the break as Ineos continue to plug the pace, with Yates and Team BikeExchange situated behind.
"If you notice here on the front we've got Filippo Ganna, Salvatore Puccio in second," says Bradley Wiggins on Eurosport commentary.
"They'll be the only two who are riding all day. The other three guys that are sat in front of Egan Bernal won't be taking a turn all day. They'll use Ganna up as long as possible, he'll probably get to the finish today, but not all six guys will be turning today.
"They'll be using two guys and reserving those three other strong climbers who are Bernal's right-hand men tomorrow and saving their legs as well."
80km to go: Into Slovenia!
The white, blue and red colours are fluttering as we move into Slovenia, with De Bondt and Vanhoucke provoking the ire of Mollema by stealing KOM points off the Trek rider. Mollema looked a bit miffed...
Tomorrow will be tougher...
As Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) and Simon Yates (Team BikeExchange) enjoy an easier day after the Zoncolan, here's a reminder of what's on tomorrow's menu for the GC contenders. No Buchmann though, after his earlier crash.
Giro d'Italia 2021 Stage 16 Profile
90km to go: Gap over 10 minutes
Surely this is break is here to stay. De Bondt, Consonni, Oldani, Torres, Arndt, Walscheid and Molano are probably the quickest men in this front group in a straight-up sprint. De Bondt won the first intermediate sprint, although it was far from an all-out war, ahead of Consonni and Vanhoucke.
Down the road, it's still Ineos plugging away on the front.
Update on Guerreiro
100km to go: Will anyone chase this?
With the gap at 9:33, and 15 riders down the road, is this stage already over for the bunch? Ineos will be happy to keep it ticking along on the front of the main bunch, leaving the likes of Bora and Co with a tricky decision: accept today isn't happening, or move to the front and ramp things up.
105km to go: It's calmed down
It was expected to be a pedestrian stage, but with the early crash, two race starts and a bulging breakaway we've barely had a moment to catch our breath. Now though? With Ineos on the front of the peloton, and the breakaway's lead stretching beyond nine minutes, we can relax for a bit.
110km to go: Ineos on the front
Filippo Ganna moves to the front of the peloton as Ineos Grenadiers resume Project Protect Pink. The gap stands at 7:53 to the breakaway. Meanwhile, the four-man chase group have given up their bid to make it up the road.
What a teammate
Let's all be a bit more like George Bennett going forward...
115km to go: Breakaway build lead
The breakaway are absolutely flying and their lead is up to 6:00 on the peloton. It looks a real struggle for the chasers, who are 2:40 adrift.
120km to go: Guerreiro abandons
Ruben Guerreiro (EF Education–Nippo) is the fourth rider to withdraw following that nasty early crash. The Portuguese had dropped back from the peloton and looked in some discomfort. Bit of a wild start in Italy.
Back in the action, and the break already has three minutes on the peloton.
125km to go: A 15-strong breakaway
Here are your leaders: Dries De Bondt (Alpecin–Fenix), Oscar Riesebeek (Alpecin–Fenix), Simone Consonni (Cofidis), Lars Van Den Berg (Groupama-FDJ), Quinten Hermans (Intermarché–Wanty–Gobert Matériaux), Stefano Oldani (Lotto–Soudal), Harm Vanhoucke (Lotto–Soudal), Dario Cataldo (Movistar), Albert Torres (Movistar), Nikias Arndt (Team DSM), Victor Campenaerts (Qhubeka Assos), Max Walscheid (Qhubeka Assos) and Łukasz Wiśniowski (Qhubeka Assos), Bauke Mollema (Trek–Segafredo), Sebastián Molano (UAE-Team Emirates).
Four more still trying to get in amongst it. Meanwhile, the peloton has eased up. This gap is going to grow.
'This is chaos' - Heavy crash opens Stage 15
“Not a popular decision when it was taken [to neutralise the stage], especially with the riders trying to get up the road,” said Rob Hatch on commentary.
“I think it’s one later on, a few months down the line, they would certainly thank them for – looking after their safety at all times.”
‘This is chaos’ – Race neutralised after big crash at the Giro on Stage 15
135km to go: Big group get away
A number of riders burst clear after the restart including Victor Campenaerts (Qhubeka Assos) and Bauke Mollema (Trek–Segafredo).
Not an ideal start, especially for Buchmann and Bora, but we're finally racing again. The race rolls out at a cautious tempo, but the attacks soon begin...
News reaching our commentary box is that organisers paused the race so medical treatment could be given to riders, without having to sacrifice it at other points down the road.
Three riders abandon
News just in: Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe), Jos van Emden (Team Jumbo-Visma) and Natnael Berhane (Cofidis) have all abandoned as a result of the crash. Buchmann was 6th in the General Classification.
Ambulances on the scene
Still no firm details as to what happened, but at least three riders looked in some distress. Ambulances are on the scene. Still no racing.
Everyone is back together, waiting for the race to resume, save for a few riders receiving medical attention. There was a fair amount of anger from the breakaway, who questioned why they were stopped.
144km to go: Crash!
Looks like a nasty crash, although it appears it was missed by the cameras. Jos van Emden (Team Jumbo-Visma) is among those down, as is Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe), while a lot of riders were forced to take evasive action, including a couple from Ineos Grenadiers. More details when they come in.
The race is neutralised, just seconds after launch, a move which is questioned by Sean Kelly on commentary. "Normally the racing goes on."
146km to go: Here we go
Victor Campenaerts (Qhubeka Assos) makes the early move as we cross a lagoon in Grado. Soon, the Belgium is joined by a gaggle of other keen bees. But HANG ON...
The journey begins
The peloton rolls out from Grado, a tiny island town in the north-east of Italy. No swimming required, a couple of roads connect it with the mainland. No racing at present, the town is pretty but not fit for racing, so we're in the neutralized zone. Official start coming up...
Or should we say Dobrodošli. The Giro d'Italia pops into Slovenia to say a quick hello on Stage 15, with three laps of a 31.4km circuit awaiting the peloton. So three quick hellos, actually.
After the drama on Monte Zoncolan, expect a slightly less frenetic affair as the riders try to recover. This is one for the sprinters or, perhaps, a punchy lone-ranger, with a technical finish featuring plenty of roundabouts *shudders* and corners. Our message to Egan Bernal and Simon Yates? Just get home safely.
'Ineos could win all three Grand Tours' - Wiggins after Zoncolan dominance
Bradley Wiggins says Ineos Grenadiers could win all three Grand Tours.
The 2012 Tour de France winner made the claim – while chatting to Orla Chennaoui and Adam Blythe - on the latest episode of The Breakaway after Egan Bernal pounced on the Zoncolan to tighten his grip on the pink jersey.
Lorenzo Fortunato claimed a maiden pro win on the fearsome Zoncolan as Bernal showed his mettle to ride clear of Simon Yates and his GC rivals on the steepest segment of the legendary climb.
'Ineos could win all three Tours' - Wiggins after Zoncolan dominance
The move left Wiggins so impressed that he backed the team to potentially claim an unprecedented clean sweep of the Grand Tours.
“They [Ineos] were ever-present on that last climb, and the way they set the tempo with their strength in depth [shows] what a strong unit they are,” began Wiggins.
They struggled at the Tour [de France] last year but rectified that with Tao [Geoghegan Hart] at the Giro [in October], and this year, they could potentially win all three Tours.
Adam Blythe suggested that Bernal’s performance could see him force Ineos to change their Tour plans. The Colombian is not currently set to race in France. However, Wiggins thinks that Dave Brailsford will proceed with a Bernal-less Ineos for the second Grand Tour of the year.
I don’t think Dave [Brailsford] will change the plan. I think Geraint Thomas is looking every bit a Tour winner again.
"Dave’s goal has always been to win all three Grand Tours and it set up nicely now for Egan to go away and have a bit of a break, and let Geraint do his thing and try to win a second Tour. And then Bernal can come in at the end of the year and win the Vuelta. That would be a first ever in cycling.”
STAGE 14 RECAP
What a way to pick up your first professional win. Lorenzo Fortunato, a little-known 25-year-old Italian riding for the wildcard Eolo-Kometa team, proved the strongest from an 11-man breakaway to win on one of the toughest mountains in the sport – and in doing so, defied a rampaging Egan Bernal in his wake.
Eleven years after his boss Ivan Basso won on Monte Zoncolan to set up his second triumph in the 2010 Giro d’Italia, Fortunato came of age as he emerged through the mist to win Stage 14 ahead of the experienced Slovenian, Jak Tratnik of Bahrain-Victorious, after what Eurosport commentator Rob Hatch described as “the ride of his life”.
Tratnik, a stage winner in last year’s Giro, was reduced to weaving up the steepest 27% ramps in the final kilometre, crossing the line 26 seconds down on Fortunato, whose face was a picture of pain as he grimaced with the gradient before breaking into a beaming smile as the road levelled out and he secured the win.
Runner-up on the gravel roads to Montalcino, Italy’s Alessandro Covi (UAE Team Emirates) took an impressive third place before Bernal, the pink jersey from Ineos Grenadiers, made light work of the challenge by blasting past the remnants of a chasing quartet of escapees to finish fourth.
Bernal had ridden clear of the main group of GC favourites following an attack by Britain’s Simon Yates (Team BikeExchange) inside the final two kilometres. The pair combined before Bernal stamped his authority down on this race, a huge, unseated surge seeing him drop Yates and reel in Nelson Oliveira (Movistar), George Bennett (Jumbo-Visma) and Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) before the line.
The 2019 Tour de France winner came home 11 seconds clear of Yates before teammate Dani Martinez led home the rest of the GC riders in dribs and drabs. Russia’s Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana-Premier Tech) and Belgium’s Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck Quick-Step) were the big losers of the day, both riders conceding over one minute to Bernal.
Despite some impressive preparation from his Astana team ahead of the final climb, Vlasov dropped from second place to fourth on the general classification while Evenepoel now finds himself almost four minutes down in eighth place after a baptism to fire on the first major mountain-top finish his nascent Grand Tour career.
Highlights: Bernal emerges from Zoncolan showdown strengthened as Fortunato takes gruelling win