Giro stage 14: Fortunato conquers Zoncolan

The Giro starts here was the opinion of many and on stage 14, Lorenzo Fortunato won the stage from the breakaway and Simon Yates lit up the GC race only to be countered by Bernal who took more time

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Giro stage 14: Fortunato conquers Zoncolan – Bernal Gains Yet More Time

The Giro starts here was the opinion of many and on stage 14, Lorenzo Fortunato won the stage from the breakaway and Simon Yates lit up the GC race only to be countered by Bernal who took more time on his rivals.

After the sprint stage yesterday, it was time to put in the hard yards and those began from the start today as a fierce battle was fought to get in the early break before a strong group of 11 went away, which included Jan Tratnik, Remy Rochas, Vincenzo Albanese, Lorenzo Fortunato, George Bennett, Edoardo Affini, Nélson Oliveira, Bauke Mollema, Jacopo Mosca, and Alessandro Covi. The breakaway was given some leeway from the Astana led peloton with the break’s lead going out to eight minutes before the Astana team started to up the ante and bring the gap back.

Whilst Bernal’s team were able to sit in the wheels of Astana, the whole of the Astana team piled on the pressure splitting the bunch into three groups on the descent of the second category climb with Evenepoel among those in the third group and Yates/Carthy in the second one. A short desperate chase followed from the teams who missed the move and soon the race came back together, with Astana-Premier Tech continuing to tow the peloton toward the mighty Monte Zoncolan.

And that was the story of the GC race for most of the final climb, Astana pulling hard until their numbers started to run out and Ineos took over. Out front though, a group of six soon formed and from that Tratnik slipped off the front and the expected challenge from Bennett and Mollema did not come. Instead, a rider who hasn’t won a race since he was a junior, Lorenzo Fortunato, went clear of the chasers and bridged across to Tratnik. As the slopes got real steep, 20% and more, the young Italian dropped Tratnik who at one point was zig zagging up the climb but still in sight of the leader who was almost brought down at one point by a muppet of a spectator running alongside him.

Behind, the effort from the Astana team went unrewarded as Vlasov was unable to follow Simon Yates when he accelerated in the final few kilometres and the only rider to go with him was Egan Bernal. The pink jersey stuck to Yates back wheel and then counter attacked Yates and took valuable seconds out of the British rider. Lorenzo Fortunato meanwhile won the stage, his first Grand Tour win and his team’s as well.

The next big test for the GC riders on Monday, the “Queen Stage” of the race, a 212km haul through the Dolomites that repeatedly climbs over 2,000 metres before a descent to the line in Cortina d’Ampezzo.

Bernal now has a 1:33 lead on GC, with Yates next in the classification. Aleksandr Vlasov had started the day second overall but was dropped when the action heated up in the final, leaving Astana-Premier Tech unrewarded after the squad had controlled the entire stage.

Lorenzo Fortunato’s win was the first for him and his Eolo Kometa team: “I’m very happy today. The team is the best! In the first attack, my teammate Albanese stay with me and we go in the breakaway. In the breakaway, we go easy for all day, but when we start Zoncolan, I attack, stay behind Tratnik and find the legs are very good and I’m very, very happy! I want to thank all of Eolo and Luca Spada who is here with me, because without them, I would never have achieved this wonderful result. I came here thinking of getting into breakaways, but I never imagined of winning on the Zoncolan. But in the car with Stefano Zanatta, Sean Yates, Ivan Basso, and Jesús Hernández, and Alberto, who is in the team, I think it is the minimum I can do to win this stage and now we’ll look for others. I’m climbing well, I’m strong, and for sure we will try again in other stages.”

Egan Bernal (pink jersey): I just tried to be calm, because I think I am in a really good position now in the GC. I don’t need to attack in every mountain stage, I need to be calm, I need to be patient, and finally I just followed Yates and then, you know, I tried to do the acceleration in the final, and I think I did a good race. Astana were pulling actually really hard during the stage, so I was thinking Vlasov would be good. Normally it’s a good climb for him. So, yeah, I mean, I was surprised that they were pulling really hard during the stage, but then in the final I think we had the control of the race. I think it’s a good gap but I need to be focused, you know, because, you know?, anything can happen in the Giro, so it looks like the advantage is enough time, but you never know, so you have to be calm with the gap.”

Simon Yates (second overall, 6th on stage): BikeExchange leader Simon Yates showed his cards today on the first real mountain test at the Giro d’Italia, attacking inside the final two kilometres on the steep Monte Zoncolan, to catapult himself up the overall standings to second position. The 2018 Vuelta a España winner successfully distanced himself from his other GC rivals overall due to the bold move, and now sits one minute 33 seconds down on the Maglia Rosa, with seven tough stages still to come.

“It was good today, I had better legs than the first week and I am slowly getting there so I am happy with where I am at. Obviously, Bernal is the man to beat, he obviously showed he had great legs again today, it is going to be tough to beat him, but we will try. I hope to have the same legs as I had today for the rest of the race now and hopefully, we can try something and try to take the jersey.“

Aleksandr Vlasov (16th on stage, 4th overall) dug deep on the steep slopes of Monte Zoncolan to limit his time loss as much as possible. He finished 1’12” down on Bernal and moves into fourth overall ahead of the final week of racing. “I was fighting on until the finish trying to minimise my loses. Well, it was how it was today, I missed something to do better, but I am still up there in the General Classification and I will keep on fighting! On the final climb I gave all I had. The team worked perfectly today and I felt good enough, but when Bernal and Yates attacked, I tried to follow them and maybe went a bit too deep at the final kilometre.”

Dan Martin (12th on stage, 13th on GC): The Irishman is now thirteenth in GC (up 4 places) after he climbed up the super-steep Monte Zoncolan among the best climbers in the race. “I was surprised the gaps between the GC-guys weren’t bigger,” Martin said after the finish. A top-10 in GC is a goal for Martin in this Giro. “I am happy with my performance today and I am happy with how I am feeling. Our small team rode really well. The guys really looked after me. In the end, I felt pretty good. I am in a good place mentally and physically and I will keep fighting. Fighting is my nature.”

Emanuel Buchmann (13th on stage, 6th on GC): “It was a hard stage, that got off to a really fast start. Astana controlled the pace and in the final climb, Matteo and Felix put me into a good position. With 3km to go before the steep part, I was in third spot in the GC group, on Bernal’s wheel. I wasn’t able to follow Bernal and Yates in the finale but I think it was a good day for me. There are still a few hard stages ahead of us.”

Romain Bardet (10th overall, 15th on stage): “It was a really fast and hard stage today,” explained Bardet at the finish. “The guys did a really great job to look after me all day long and onto the Zoncolan. Then on the steepest part I just tried to find my own pace as the GC group completely exploded, and gave it everything to the line.”

Remco Evenepoel (19th on the stage, 8th overall): “It was a hard stage, also with the low temperatures, and I felt that my legs were running out of energy when we hit the steepest parts of the ascent. I lost time again, but I continue to be in the top 10, which is a good thing, and will continue to fight every day. I felt my long break today. When the power isn’t there, it’s just the way things go, and today I knew I would suffer in those last three kilometers, where the most explosive gradients were. Considering everything, losing 1:30 is not that bad”, explained Remco, who is eighth in the general classification.

Giulio Ciccone (7th overall, 11th on the stage): “The balance of the day is good. Beyond the result, I’m happy I had good feelings again, after a couple of days in which I did not feel super. Today I felt good and I tried to manage myself and avoid overdoing it on the hardest part of the climb. When Bernal and Yates attacked, I didn’t think to follow them, but to climb in progression, holding onto the pace. It was the right tactic, considering the gap at the finish line. I am satisfied. We need to keep in mind that we’re on stage 14, and the legs are starting to get heavy. It’s comforting to finish among the best.”

Alessandro Covi (3rd on stage, in breakaway): “This morning we decided to try and fight for the breakaway, I managed to get in it and then I gave it my all on the last climb which was really tough. I am happy with my condition which keeps getting better and we hope to have more opportunities and give it another go in the remaining stages.”

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