Victor Campenaerts conquers wet Stage 15 as Egan Bernal holds pink at Giro d'Italia
Campenaerts was instrumental in forming the day’s break, and then again as it was ripped again in the final 25 kilometres. It is the Belgian’s first stage win at a Grand Tour as the breakaway won for the eighth time at this year’s Giro. Egan Bernal holds a 1:33 advantage over Simon Yates heading into Monday’s spicy trip to the Dolomites.
Highlights: Big crash mars Stage 15 as Campenaerts wins in rain
Victor Campenaerts (Qhubeka Assos) finally conquered a Grand Tour stage as he saw off Oscar Riesebeek (Alpecin–Fenix) in a rain-soaked finale on Stage 15 at the Giro d’Italia.
The Belgian made it three wins in five days for Qhubeka following the exploits of Mauro Schmid and previously-omnipresent bridesmaid Giacomo Nizzolo on Stages 11 and 13 respectively.
Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) avoided any spills on slippery surfaces to hold the maglia rosa ahead of Monday’s trip to the Dolomites, where he will expect to come under fire from Simon Yates (Team BikeExchange). Bernal leads Yates by 1:33 in the overall, with Damiano Caruso (Bahrain Victorious) in third at 1:51.
The day began in splendid sunshine but also with a nasty crash inside the first two kilometres as GC hopeful Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) was one of four riders to abandon.
‘This is chaos’ – Race neutralised after big crash at the Giro on Stage 15
The race was neutralised, prompting a few angry mutterings in the early breakaway, as riders received medical attention on the road out of Grado in north-east Italy.
After a stoppage of more than 15 minutes and news that Buchmann, Jos van Emden (Team Jumbo-Visma) and Natnael Berhane (Cofidis) had withdrawn hurt, racing resumed. Ruben Guerreiro (EF Education–Nippo) joined the restart but soon pulled out after failing to shrug off his wounds.
And so for a second time, a breakaway attempted to get away with 15 riders charging down the road – and four more belatedly springing into action, only to give up soon after – before the peloton locked down. The group soon arrived at the start of a 31km circuit, with three laps awaiting them including a dip into Slovenia for three trips up the Cat 4. climb to Gornje Cerovo.
The lead pack – consisting of Campenaerts, Riesebeek, Dries De Bondt (Alpecin–Fenix), Simone Consonni (Cofidis), Lars Van Den Berg (Groupama-FDJ), Quinten Hermans (Intermarche–Wanty–Gobert Materiaux), Stefano Oldani (Lotto–Soudal), Harm Vanhoucke (Lotto–Soudal), Dario Cataldo (Movistar), Albert Torres (Movistar), Nikias Arndt (Team DSM), Max Walscheid (Qhubeka ASSOS) and Lukasz Wisniowski (Qhubeka ASSOS), Bauke Mollema (Trek–Segafredo), Sebastian Molano (UAE-Team Emirates) – quickly amassed a lead over 10 minutes as the peloton relaxed behind.
The race soon entered Slovenia, with revved-up spectators crowding the road and wafting a sea of white, blue and red as the Giro served a timely reminder of what sport has been missing these past 14 months.
Ominous clouds were gathering on the horizon as the main bunch sat behind Ineos Grenadiers, with Filippo Ganna and Salvatore Puccio rotating on the front as other teams showed little interest to drive on the pace.
And that was how it remained – 15 riders sharing the load on the front, the peloton calm behind – until the final circuit. Then the heavens opened and the attacks began.
Campenaerts, fully aware of the dangermen all around, dropped off the back before launching past his rivals with 22 kilometres remaining. Only Riesebeek and Torres could respond.
With Torres likely possessing the fastest finish, Campenaerts and Riesebeek racked up the pace again as their lead stretched to 30 seconds. On the final climb to Gornje Cerovo, as the Slovenians created an incredible gauntlet on the road in biblical rain, the Spaniard cracked.
‘What a scene this is!’ – Revved-up Slovenians create gauntlet for leaders at Giro
Two remained. Campenaerts and Riesebeek made a series of moves to break the other – Rob Hatch wondering on Eurosport commentary whether they might be better off ditching their bikes and “swimming to the line” – but neither could get away.
Behind, a six-strong chase group containing Torres plus Mollema, Hermans, Arndt, Cataldo and Consonni were beginning to close the gap and with four kilometres remaining there was just 14 seconds at play, but the front duo worked together to keep their advantage, somehow marrying solo attacks with harmony.
It soon became clear the chase was forlorn, allowing the front two to slow and embark on a track-style finish in the final few hundred metres, watching each other intently. Riesebeek was the first to blink, pulling out of Campenaerts’ wheel and making a dart for the line, but the wily Belgian duly repeated the trick and had too much in the finale to take a memorable win in Gorizia.
Bernal and the peloton trundled home some 17 minutes later, the main group having safely navigated a greasy finale. Almost 6,000m of climbing awaits them on Stage 16 as the Giro heads into the Dolomites, with fireworks expected in the battle for pink.
'Almost takes them all down' – Mollema has huge sideways wobble on wet descent
Stage 15 results
1. Victor Campenaerts (Bel) Team Qhubeka Assos 3:25:25
8. Daniel Martinez Poveda (Col) Ineos Grenadiers +3:54
9. Tobias Foss (Nor) Jumbo-Visma +5:37
10. Attila Valter (Hun) Groupama-FDJ +7:49
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