Giro Stage 11 – Epic Race for stage & GC

As expected, the 11th stage of the Giro d’Italia was as epic as the fans were hoping it would be with Schmid winning the stage from the breakaway whilst Bernal took time out of all the GC hopefuls

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Giro Stage 11 – Epic Race for stage & GC

As expected, the 11th stage of the Giro d’Italia was as epic as the fans were hoping it would be. With 35km of gravel roads that climbed a lot as well, the stage was never going to be an easy one and so it proved with many a GC contender losing time.

The stage nicknamed the ‘Strade Bianche’ stage because of the amount of gravel roads used, saw two races in one – the first for the stage after an 11 man group escaped (Lawrence Naesen, Dries De Bondt, Enrico Battaglin, Francesco Gavazzi, Simon Guglielmi, Taco Van der Hoorn, Roger Kluge, Harm Vanhoucke, Bert-Jan Lindeman, Mauro Schmid, Alessandro Covi) and had over 14 minutes on the Pink jersey group at one time. The breakaway split many a time on the very lumpy roads and with just under 20km to go, the breakaway split with six gapping the remaining four and from those six, three riders went clear; De Bondt, Schmid, and Covi.

The climbing saw the three become two as De Bondt was dropped and Mauro Schmid and Alessandro Covi swapped turns to stay clear of the rest of the break with six riders all within seconds of each other. As the leading duo came into the finish area on the narrow climb through the rustic Italian architecture, Mauro Schmid launched and Alessandro Covi had no answer to the sprinting Schmid who scored his biggest professional cycling win.

Mauro Schmid (stage winner ) “I can’t believe it! I only came into the Giro team about two weeks before it started so whilst my preparation was quite good, I was never thinking about doing a Grand Tour. To be honest, in the last ten days I suffered so much, I nearly couldn’t follow sometimes. But today I knew I wanted to go into the break because I love Strade Bianche, I love the gravel roads, and I tried to get in the breakaway. When I was in the break, I felt I had great legs today. I recovered very well yesterday on the rest day, and I went for it. I knew [Covi] was really strong. He nearly dropped me on the climb, but I knew I just had to stay on his wheel. And I didn’t think about the guys behind. I had no idea if they were close, if they were far. I knew I had to try so I didnt really pull any more and I wait for the sprint and I try my best. When I saw the finish line, I didn’t feel my legs any more, I just went for the line.”

Alessandro Covi (2nd): “ Today, when I made it into the breakaway I knew immediately that I felt good. I had a rather unfortunate start to the season with various injuries and the thing I am most happy about is that I am back to feeling good again. In cycling you win and lose, today I lost but I have no regrets: I did my best. It’s a long Giro ahead still, I’ll try again!“

Whilst the battle for the stage was a good one, it was nothing as brutal as the one for the GC which came to life as they approached the first of the gravel sectors with 70km to go and the favourites came to the front of the peloton. Leading the way for his teammate Giulio Ciccone was Vincenzo Nibali and then Filippo Ganna did this thing and reduced the numbers of the Pink jersey group as he put the hammer down before parking up and leaving the rest of team take care of Bernal.

One of the victims of the push by Ganna and his Ineos team was Dan Martin. His team kept Martin out of trouble however the gravel was not Dan’s favourite surface and when Team Ineos starting pulling on the first gravel section, ISN had to pull out all the stops to reduce the damage for Dan. After the stage Martin said that the team did not quite expect such aggressive racing on the first sector.

Dan Martin: “Personally, I was a bit too relaxed. Everyone was battling for positions; I got a few pushes and lost my head for a while. My teammates did amazing by bringing me back to the second peloton,” Martin said. “From there we nearly bridged the gap to the front.” In the end, Dan Martin lost six minutes on the pink jersey and around four minutes on many other GC-competitors.

Martin was not the only rider struggling whether it was the gravel or the long climbs. One of them was Peter Sagan, the previous-stage winner and wearing the maglia ciclamino as the leader of the Points competition and as the peloton got ever smaller, Sagan was soon drifting backwards. He wasn’t alone.

Whilst the Pink jersey Bernal was at the front along with the likes Hugh Carthy surrounded by his teammates, Quickstep’s Remco Evenpoel was having a ‘mare’ of a ride. The young Belgium rider, in his first race back after a long time out since his heavy crash last year, who was just 14 seconds back of Egan Bernal on the general classification at the start of the stage, starting drifting back. As the race pace at the front went full gas, Evenepoel was losing a lot of time and at one point looked like he had had enough. João Almeida came back and paced him in a chase to get on but Evenepoels leg’s were not playing ball and even his teammate dropped him at one point.

Eventually, Evenepoel arrived in Montalcino at the finish around two minutes down on the maglia rosa, but he wasn’t deterred by what happened in this unique and harsh day of racing, opting to look at the whole picture in a different and much positive way, especially as he arrived at this point of the Giro after a difficult injury and nine long months without a single day of racing in his legs.

Evenepoel: “Unfortunately, I lost two minutes. It wasn’t the best day for me. I was suffering a lot on the second sector, then on the third one, when they started sprinting, I felt the legs were pretty empty, that’s why I was in the last position and couldn’t follow. It’s the way my body reacted after eleven days of racing that came after so much time with no racing. I’m thankful to the team and João for the job they did for me today, from the start until the finish. It’s not a good result for me, but I’m still seventh in my first Grand Tour and remain confident, as there’s still a long way to go until Milano”, said Remco after Wednesday’s stage.

The GC race meanwhilst continued ahead. George Bennett and teammate Tobias Foss went clear for a spell off the front of the GC group before being caught. Nibali meanwhile was popped from the Pink jersey group and was joined by teammate Giulio Ciccone and Marc Soler (Movistar Team), neither of which could handle Bernals’s chasing pace on the final few kilometers of unpaved road. Emmanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) attacked the pink jersey on the final climb, on the tarmac and opened a gap. Hugh Carthy was feeling good and had a dig but that move was snuffed out quickly and whilst former pink-jersey Attila Valter was another dropped from the back of GC group, it was the Pink jersey himself who after a little hesistency, jumped after Buchmann.

The Bora hansgrohe rider saw him coming and the two swapped turns to open a gap on the other GC rivals still in the mix. Whilst the stage win had already been decided, Bernal jumped Buchmann on the up hill finish and crossed the line in 11th place, 3.09 behind Schmid. Buchmann lost 4 seconds in the short sprint to the line whilst many of Bernals rivals lost a whole lot more.

13. Aleksandr Vlasov @ 03:32
14. Damiano Caruso @ 03:35
15. Simon Yates
16. Tobias Foss
18. Hugh Carthy @ 03:41
19. Giulio Ciccone @ 04:56
22. Marc Soler @ 05:07
24. Vincenzo Nibali
26. Remco Evenepoel @ 05:17
27. Romain Bardet @ 05:17
40. Daniel Martin @ 09:23

Egan Bernal: “Today was a really hard day and you know, with the sterrato (gravel), we expected some gaps, some big gaps, and actually there were a lot of decent riders that lost some time so I’m happy to arrive in the front and we need to stay calm in the next days. The pace was actually really hard when Buchmann went, so I asked on the radio how was he in GC. They tell me that he was at more than 1’40” in the GC so I had some margin to play with this. And the EF guys they were pulling really hard, and when Carthy went, I just wait a little bit and then I went to him (Buchmann) and we worked a little bit together. I think we did well and we gained some time on the other guys and I think we are happy with this day.”

Simon Yates “It was a good day today looking at the situation with the GC. I have moved up to fifth overall now so onwards and upwards. It is was not one of the days I was looking forward to but I think I did a good ride there and had good legs, so I am looking forward to the days to come. It is not my favourite terrain, I don’t have any experience of riding off road other than in Strade Bianche earlier in the year, which I think was very valuable in doing just for the experience and it helped me a lot today as well as doing the recon before the race. I am just happy to get through it really.“

Emanuel Buchmann “I felt pretty good from the start today and the team positioned me well in the first sector. It was a very tough race and on the gravel sections we went full throttle and I was always in front. On the last climb, I looked at the other riders and thought I’d give it a go. In the end, Egan joined me and we crossed the finish line together. I think that was a really good race and we can hope to continue like this.”

Harm Vanhoucke: (Breakaway rider) “I am unbelievably disappointed”, says Harm Vanhoucke. “I really felt I was the strongest rider in the breakaway today, but unfortunately a crash and a bike change at ten kilometres from the finish prevented me from going for the win. I still managed to catch a lot of riders as I launched a furious chase. In the end, I finished just under half a minute behind the winner, but unfortunately I lost a little too much time because of the bike change to go for the stage win.”

“Actually, I was a bit surprised that the peloton gave us such a big lead because I thought this was going to be a stage for the general classification riders. Fortunately for us, it turned out differently. Roger Kluge did a great job and attacked several times so I could save my forces. I really didn’t plan to be in today’s breakaway. Actually, this was the stage I feared the most. In addition to that, I had never ridden on such long gravel sections, not even in training. So I was happy to be part of the front group because I would not have liked to be in the peloton today. Along the way, I also collected some KOM points, maybe they will come in handy later in the race, who knows…

Giulio Ciccone entered the first rest day in 4th but on the eleventh stage on the unpaved roads of Tuscany, the Italian rider had to give up ground to the opposition. He is now eighth, almost two and a half minutes from the pink.

“It was a bad day and unfortunately that can happen in a Grand Tour, especially if you start such a challenging stage again after the rest day,” said Ciccone after the stage to Montalcino, in which he crossed the finish line in nineteenth. “Unfortunately, my feeling was the opposite of the feelings I had until now.”

“I was able to defend myself well up to the last five kilometers, partly thanks to the work of my teammates who kept me in the front all the time. But my legs weren’t as brilliant as the past few days. I know the form is there and it is good. I have to turn this page and keep my confidence for the next stages. ”

Simon Guglielmi (breakaway, fifth) “I really wanted to be in front,” said the former Conti rider. “I really liked doing the Strade Bianche this year and finished fifth on a Baby Giro stage on this type of course. These are great races, which I love, so I gave it a go right from the start. It was great to be in front on such a stage. It came down to the legs in the last 10 kilometres,” said Simon. “We tried to come back, I tried to bridge across, I was just thirty metres away, but I was cooked and I couldn’t join them. It was close. I lacked a bit of strength to win the stage but I have no regrets. I’m really happy to get a result on this stage which was particularly close to my heart,” he added. “It’s nice, I was chasing a result since the start of the season. It was a great day up front but I don’t forget that the goal is to win.”

Attila Valter (former pink jersey) suffered in the last half hour of racing and finished about three minutes behind the best GC riders on the day. “It was a bit of a roller coaster for me today,” said Attila. “I managed to start the first gravel section in a good position and I felt really good. I felt I was coming from mountain biking. In the second one, I was pulling a bit because it was quite technical and I wanted to try to take advantage of it. On the other hand, the third one felt a bit harder and I exploded on the fourth … I tried to focus on eating though, but in the end it seemed that it was not enough. I was really lacking some power for the last part and it was really good that Rudy was there to try to limit the damage. Without him, the loss would be much bigger. In the end, I didn’t lose lot of time, but when we were in the first sector, I really thought I could finish with the first group, so I’m a little bit disappointed.“

Romain Bardet: “It was not my best day today, but I kept fighting until the end to limit the losses on an incredibly hard stage,” explained Bardet at the finish. “Now it’s time to move on and focus on the next mountainous stages and the opportunities to come.”

Aleksandr Vlasov: “It was a great experience for me on this kind of final. It was a very tough summit especially because of the gravel section. I tried to attack in the final and I think it was a good move, but it was a bit difficult for me to hold the bike stable on this surface. My legs worked really well and I felt good, but the gravel was a hard challenge anyway. I am happy with my performance and I did all I could on this type of finish. So, I am happy so far and let’s see how it will be tomorrow and after the first rest day,” said Vlasov.

Taco van der Hoorn: “I had already competed in the Strade Bianche in 2019, so I already knew what to expect on the sterrati. I wanted to go in the breakaway today, and once again the plan worked. Unfortunately, I had a difficult time about fifty kilometers from the end, and I lost contact. I came back strongly afterwards, but it was no longer possible to go for the win. I am disappointed because it was a great stage and the group I was in was interesting. I didn’t have the best legs after the rest day. But I have to put things into perspective, as this is only my first Grand Tour, and everything is new for me. Now, I have already moved on. There are still great stages to come, which attract me a lot.”

Tobias Foss: “I like these kind of stages. The technical and the twists and turns suit me”, Foss said afterwards. “My legs felt really good. That’s why I was able to follow the strongest riders for a long time. This is a day I won’t forget soon. I can’t expect much from myself, because I have never ridden for a classification in a big tour. It’s a good learning curve every day.” The Norwegian, who recently extended his contract for two years, also complimented his teammates. “We rode a really strong race as a team. The opening stage was pretty easy to do. After that it was about getting in a good position for the first gravel strip and we did that well. Due to crashes and the high pace, I ended up in group two, but fortunately we were able to rejoin quickly. George and I tried to get away (above), but unfortunately that attack could not last long. We have to keep up the way we rode today in the coming stages.”

Rein Taaramäe: “Yesterday, for the rest day, I went on a three hour ride. I had experimented this method in the past to prepare my body after the rest day, and it was positive. And today again, I felt good. Unfortunately, from the start I experienced mishaps. A rider hit my bike as I was signing for the pre-race. The handlebars broke at the start of the stage and so I had to change my bike well before the gravel sectors. I had good feelings, the team had protected me well all day. But in the third sector, I hit a big stone and my rear wheel punctured. I finished the stage on a 20-kilometer time trial, against the favorites, and I limited the losses well. The Giro is not over, we continue to fight.”

Damiano Caruso shared his thoughts after the considerable effort: “I’m super happy because today was a key stage of this Giro. It was a tough and complicated one. In the end, I felt good, although when Maglia Rosa went, I couldn’t follow him. But I think I did a good race anyway. I want to say a big thank you to the whole team, both staff members and riders. Now it’s time to recover from the stage. Then we will see day by day. We need to keep calm, and at this moment, I want to think only about recovering well.”

Pello Bilbao was protecting and helping the team captain throughout the race: “I discovered the white roads only this season when I rode “Strade Bianche” for the first time in my life. I must admit that it became my favorite race, and today I got the confirmation that I really enjoy riding on the gravel roads. Although it was a hard day and we had difficult situations, we tried to solve them together with Damiano, who did a great job. We did our race, and we controlled the situation in the best way possible.”

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