Strong Jungels still first in Giro d’Italia U25 standings
Saturday's stage (Alpago – Corvara, 170 kilometers) led to a big shake up of the race.
The second of the third mountain days scheduled this week-end was dubbed by the organizers as being the queen-stage of this edition, and rightly so, as it included six categorized ascents and an uphill finish, making up for a total of 5400 climbing meters, on a course almost identical to the one of the famous Maradona dles Dolomites. Starting the day in the white jersey, Bob Jungels had a simple plan for stage 14: to find his own pace and limit the damages once the GC teams would began putting the hammer down and go after the huge breakaway that at one point included also two Etixx – Quick-Step riders, David De La Cruz and Matteo Trentin.
On the 9.8-km long Passo Giau (average gradient of 9.8%) – the most visited climb in the history of the race – Astana brought four riders to the front of the pack and their fierce rhythm led to many riders lose contact with the group. Among those was also 23-year-old Bob, who didn't panic and rode a steady pace on the penultimate climb, before cruising on the descent and starting the final test of the day, Passo Valparola, which took the peloton to an altitude of 2200 meters.
In Corvara, where the Corsa Rosa returned after 14 years, the Luxembourg champion, a former leader of the race, finished around 6 minutes down on winner Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEdge) and Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo), the new pink jersey, and now sits in 12th place overall, with a good chance of returning to the top 10 on Sunday afternoon, when the riders will face the last individual time trial of this edition, on Alpe di Siusi, a tough ascent with constant slopes of 8%.
On the plus side, following his spirited ride in the Dolomites, not only that Bob kept the white jersey he is wearing since the opening week of the Giro d'Italia, but also increased his gap over the next rider to more than 11 minutes: "I didn't feel too bad until they really went full gas on Giau, which was really hard. I remembered that climb since going over it in the U23 ranks and since then I noticed how harsh it is. I am content with giving it all today, on a day for the real climbers."
Riding a Grand Tour for just the third time in his career, Jungels views today's "tappone" as having a positive impact on his future development: "I've never done more than 5000 altitude meters in a race, maybe in training, but that was all. At the end of the day, it was a good experience, which helped me find out how far I can push my body in a Grand Tour when things become really tough. I saw today that I can push it really far and I learned a lot about the way a race goes and how prepared you have to be from a mental point of view to take on such a stage. Now we'll just see how we will continue in the next days."
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele