Alpecin-Fenix get tactics spot on as Mathieu Van der Poel turns provider in Stage 12 of Giro d'Italia
Three men in the day’s break – including Mathieu van der Poel – gave Alpecin-Fenix a strong numerical advantage on the longest stage of the Giro d’Italia. Felix Lowe on how Van der Poel's team played their cards right as Stefano Oldani took his first pro win – the latest in a series of stellar team performances on this year’s race following Jumbo-Visma, Lotto Soudal and Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert.
Stage 12 highlights: Oldani wins from breakaway trio as Alpecin-Fenix take second win
Winner turned provider on Thursday as the man we usually associate with standing atop the podium rolled home eight minutes down but all smiles after his team-mate Stefano Oldani took his first ever professional win in the streets of Genova.
The same Lorenzo Rota who, two days earlier, was a key figure in paving the way for Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert team-mate Biniam Girmay’s historic win in Jesi – the Italian having snuffed out all the fires (including a dangerous dig from Van der Poel) while Girmay fought back after making a hash of a late corner.
And the same Gijs Leemreize whose Jumbo-Visma team put on that astonishing display through Tom Dumoulin and Keon Bouwman in Stage 7 to Potenza when the former’s indefatigable exploits helped set up a maiden pro win for the latter, who swooped to the blue jersey in the process.
One day later after Bouwman’s win, the Lotto Soudal team of Thomas De Gendt combined to devastating effect in the Naples circuit race as Harm Vanhoucke buried himself for his compatriot’s stirring win a whole decade after his solo scalp on the Stelvio.
Great teamwork has become something of a theme in this Giro. Only yesterday did we see Romain Bardet, third place on GC, pilot Team DSM’s rookie sprinter Alberto Dainese to victory in Stage 11 – just 24 hours after eighth-place Domenico Pozzovivo performed unlikely leadout duties for Girmay in the Eritrean’s victory over Van der Poel, a victory so good that the Dutchman could but sit back and give his conqueror the thumbs up.
We’re so used to seeing Van der Poel spearhead Alpecin-Fenix’s charge that it was almost just as exciting to see the Dutchman turn provider on the longest stage of the race.
On a day where the peloton covered 45km in the opening hour and where the battle to make the break was fiercer than ever before on this race, Alpecin-Fenix were at the forefront of most of the early moves. And it was they who initiated the decisive move right after the intermediate sprint when Dries De Bondt and Van der Poel pooled their resources and stretched out the pack.
When a split happened and 22 riders went clear, Alpecin-Fenix found themselves with more men in the move than any other team – and it may have been more had De Bondt managed to bridge over with Italy’s Alessandro De Marchi.
‘We did it’ - Oldani on delivering for Alpecin-Fenix
“Fair play to Alpecin-Fenix on several fronts today,” Dan Lloyd said during The Breakaway on Eurosport and GCN. “Firstly, they’ve got seven riders left in the race and managed to get three of them in the breakaway that went after 70 or 80 kilometres – that is not easy to do.”
The presence of Van der Poel was key. In fact, Oldani later described it during his post-race interview as “crucial”.
“We knew already that if we had more than one rider in the break a lot of the others would be watching Mathieu and so it would be a good chance for the other guys [from the team]. Today we managed it really well. We were the only team with three riders in the break, so we did it.”
When Oldani jumped onto the wheel of Rota when the Intermarche rider made the first move on the penultimate climb with 55km remaining it looked like he was paving the way for Van der Poel or Reisebeek. In fact, many of the big names in the break – the likes of Bauke Mollema, Wilco Kelderman, Andrea Vendrame and Magnus Cort – may well have been guilty in playing the man not the ball, that is to say, sticking with Van der Poel when Oldani was in fact the true threat.
Stefano Oldani of Italy and Team Alpecin - Fenix, Gijs Leemreize of Netherlands and Team Jumbo - Visma and Lorenzo Rota of Italy and Team Intermarché - Wanty - Gobert Matériaux compete in the breakaway during the 105th Giro d'Italia 2022, Stage 12
Image credit: Getty Images
With Leemreize joining, the leading trio went over the summit with 25 seconds to play with. But there was still a lot to do. Van der Poel chased down a counter-attack by Davide Ballerini of Quick-Step before Reisebeek enjoyed a brief foray off the front. It must have been quite confusing for the other escapees – not knowing which Alpecin rider they should follow.
Oldani, meanwhile, continued collaborating with his two companions as his teammates set off the grenades behind – grenades which disrupted the chase and resulted in the breakaway breaking down on the final climb. And by the time Van der Poel popped, the damage had been done: Alpecin’s 12% statistical chance of winning had risen to 33% and Oldani duly delivered.
“A couple of years ago we thought it was just the Van der Poel show,” Lloyd continued on The Breakaway. “They didn’t have big names surrounding him, but enough to help and support him when he wants to try and win a race. But they’ve really performed incredibly well, just as a whole team. Lots of them have been picking up wins – and now Oldani can add his name to that list.”
Oldani’s win ensures that Alpecin-Fenix have won two stages on each of the last three Grand Tours, with Tim Merlier adding to Van der Poel’s win in last year’s Tour and Jasper Philipsen bagging a brace in the Vuelta. They are far from a one-man team, even if that one man helps set them above so many other teams in the WorldTour.
‘It’s last-chance saloon for a lot of riders’ - Wiggins on Stage 13
- - -
Stream the Giro d'Italia live and on-demand on discovery+. You can also watch all the action live on eurosport.co.uk.