A three-way, 150-kilometre battle on the Giro d’Italia’s stage 2 for the right to wear the race’s King of the Mountains award finally went to Omar Fraile (Dimension Data), already the outright winner of the same classification last year in the Vuelta a España.
Fraile, Maarten Tjallingii (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Nippo Vini Fantini’s Giacomo Berlato broke away almost as soon as the riders had headed out of Arnhem, gaining nearly ten minutes advantage and with one key objective - maximum points, a total of three, on the King of the Mountains classification. Not much but that was enough, so early in the Giro d’Italia and in largely flat Holland, to earn a trip onto the winners’ podium in Nijmegen.
Right up until the closing kilometres the collaboration between the trio was good, but tellingly it only wavered when Fraile powered away to claim maximum points in the day's only King of the Mountains climb on Berg en Dal, 36 kilometres from the finish. As the peloton subsequently picked up the pace behind, Berlato, the last of the trio to throw in the towel, was finally caught after nearly 180 kilometres off the front.
“We’d been told the day before by management that it would be a good idea to get in the break because there would be a classification on offer at the end of the day,” Fraile, already last year the winner of the King of the Mountains in the Vuelta a España and in the Vuelta al País Vasco, said at the finish.
“Doing this was a good way to start the Giro d’Italia. It’s true that on Monday the ‘real’ Giro starts, but I want to hold onto it for as long as possible, even if the points you get on little climbs like this are insignificant in the long run.”
Fraile also argued that having the jersey was an advantage because as a rider, the responsibility that brought with it, helped him focus better on the race in general. “Whenever you do this, you end up being more involved in the race at an earlier stage. It helps you build your focus.”
Maarten Tjallingii (LottoNL-Jumbo) argued that he would be fighting Fraile for the honour of the King of the Mountains classification on stage 3 after he failed to outpower the Spaniard at the summit of Saturday’s climb. However, on Sunday’s stage 3 ascent of the Posbank, 53 kilometres from the finish, the Dutchman promised he would return to the fray.
“I tried to surprise Fraile but I wasn’t able to fight back to his wheel when I left open a small gap,” Tjallingii told his team website. “I won two points, though. I’m going to try it another time again tomorrow, so if I win that mountain sprint, I will have the blue jersey.”
Whilst it must have been some consolation to Tjallingii that he received the Combativity award, Giacomo Berlato (Nippo Vini Fantini) completed the breakaway emptyhanded, despite being the longest to outpace the peloton. The Italian revealed later that whilst realistic about his chances of staying away to the finish, his goal, too, had been to take the earliest possible hold on the Giro’s top climber’s jersey. “I wanted it after going for it on the same stage last year," Berlato said afterwards at the finish.
“It didn’t come off and I only got third but I’ll keep attacking. Tomorrow is another day and I’m not going stop now. We’ve got a long way to go yet in the Giro d’Italia.
“The crowds were amazing out there. I had goose-bumps for long sections of the stage and the crowd gave you the moral to really fight. I hope it's the same in Italy because this was something special.”
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