Jungels passes important Giro d’Italia test
On a day with three brutal climbs and 5300 meters of vertical gain, the 24-year-old showed great fighting spirit, retaining his white jersey and top 10 overall.
Six decades after Fausto Coppi made famous the Passo dello Stelvio with a legendary attack which netted him the stage win and a fifth overall victory, the Giro d'Italia was again in for a great stage, one which comprised three brutal climbs – Mortirolo (12.6 km, 7.6%), Stelvio (21.7 km, 7.1%) and Umbrailpass (13.4 km, 8.4%) – before a fast descent to Bormio, which was making its return to the race after 13 years.
The stage was on from kilometer zero, when a big battle emerged between those wanting to make it into the breakaway. It took 50 kilometers for an escape to form, and it only happened when the road started to gradually rise just before the Mortirolo, which this year was being climbed from the Edolo side, just like in 1990, when the ruthless ascent debuted in the Corsa Rosa.
No less than 25 riders booked a place in the breakaway, including Quick-Step Floors' Laurens De Plus, and established a 45-second lead on the first slopes of the Alpine climb. Mortirolo, which this year was named Cima Scarponi in honor of the late Michele Scarponi, saw Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) crest the summit first and take the KOM points from the break, which in the meantime managed to increase the lead to three minutes.
On Stelvio (2758 meters), the race's Cima Coppi, Eros Capecchi moved to the front of the bunch and did a marvelous job for maglia bianca Bob Jungels, whose place in the overall standings was put under threat by Andrey Amador (Movistar) and Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo), both part of the escape. Capecchi, himself a stage winner at the Giro d'Italia, in 2011, rode a steady pace and clawed back time, bringing the gap down to two minutes by the top of Stelvio. Eros didn't stop there and continued at the head of proceedings on the descent, which had the riders take on 48 switchbacks, before other teams eventually decided to step in.
The race witnessed an unexpected U-turn on the roads to Umbrailpass, where race leader Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) found himself 1:30 behind the favourites group following a comfort break. Attacks came six kilometers away from the top, when Vinceno Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) surged clear only to be joined by Domenico Pozzovivo (AG2R), Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin).
Bob Jungels lost contact, but didn't panic and admirably paced himself to the first chasing group, which included white jersey rivals Davide Formolo (Cannondale-Drapac) and Adam Yates (Orica-Scott), and even took the front, doing some long pulls and thus limiting the losses. Jungels, a stage winner last Sunday in Bergamo, where he scored Luxembourg's 12th victory at the Giro d'Italia, mastered the descent to perfection and finished the queen-stage in eighth place, 1:35 behind Vincenzo Nibali, who beat Mikel Landa (Team Sky) in a two-up sprint.
After producing yet another solid and notable performance, at the end of which he made a visit to the podium to don his 12th white jersey, Bob was visibly satisfied, as Tuesday's result was one from which he could take further confidence ahead of the next mountain battles between here and Milan, where the Giro d'Italia will bring down the curtain over the 100th edition.
"You could feel right from the start the stage was going to be a tough one, as al the riders were nervous, but we did a great job and controlled things, first by sending Laurens in the break and then with Eros, who stayed with me and helped me throughout the day. Mortirolo and Stelvio it's a hard combo and many suffered on the last climb. I didn't have any bad moments, and when the attacks came I decided to just stay calm and ride my own tempo. I'm happy, because things went as we planned and the result at the end of the day is a good one", said Bob in Bormio after the 222km-long leg.
Even though stage 17 is easier on paper, the Luxembourger expects another tough day at the office: "It will be difficult and we could be in for some important moves on the first two climbs. Many could suffer after today, so I wouldn't be surprised to have another aggressive start, with some riders jumping early from the peloton in an attempt to put their rivals under pressure. If this happens, I will do my best to be there and hopefully get another good result."
Fernando Gaviria, who holds a comfortable lead in the points classification after racking up four stage victories, concluded the stage well inside the control time and will wear the maglia ciclamino again, on Wednesday, between Tirano and Canazei (219 kilometers).
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele