Rein Taaramae (Katusha) was so moved by seeing his teammate Ilnur Zakarin's horrific crash during yesterday's stage 19 at the Giro d'Italia that he felt motivated to go in the breakaway and try to win stage 20. It's not often that a pre-race plan comes to such exact fruition but it did for Taaramae, who soloed to the stage win in Sant'Anna di Vinadio.
"Yesterday was really a hard and sad day for us," Taaramae said in a team press release. "The team worked for three weeks for the GC and I know how motivated Ilnur was. Everything ended in one sudden second. That’s why I was so motivated today to go in the break. The second reason was that I wanted to prove myself I can do a good race. I worked so hard in the beginning of the season and I hoped this work would pay off one day."
Zakarin crashed on stage 19 from Pinerolo to Risoul, going down in a turn on the long descent off the Cima Coppi climb, the Coll dell'Agnello. He was launched several metres from his bike and landed in a ditch off the road. It was later confirmed that he had fractured collarbone and shoulder blade. At the time of the crash Zakarin was sitting in fifth overall, 4:50 behind then race leader Steven Kruijswijk.
Kruijswijk also crashed in the same stage but hit a snow bank at the start of the descent. He fought to keep the pink jersey but ended up losing it to Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEdge). It was later confirmed that he fractured his rib.
During stage 20, Taaramae bridged across to an early breakaway on the Col de Vars. The breakaway broke apart on the Colle della Lombarda, the penultimate climb of the day, and although Taaramae was not in front initially, he bridge across with Tanel Kangert to front runners Joe Dombrowksi, Darwin Atapuma and Giovanni Visconti.
Taaramae attacked on his own and distanced himself from the others, building his lead on the descent and up the final climb to Sant'Anna di Vinadio to take the stage win. The GC also shook up with Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) ultimately securing the maglia rosa.
"I don't know if it's my best win, I also won a stage in the Vuelta, but a dream comes true when you win a stage in the Giro. It was my personal target. When Zakarin crashed yesterday, I was really scared for him. It happened at 70-80kph. I was really scared he'd lose his life. I turned around to see, and when I saw that he sat up I realized he survived. It was really hard morale-wise to continue the race," Taaramae said at the finish line.
"This morning I didn't feel very good, I caught the breakaway very late at the top of the climb, and it was really difficult. Once we crossed 2,000 metres, it suited me - yesterday was the same. I've stayed here for training camp three times, and I knew if I survived in the front when we got to 2,000 metres nobody could beat me. I know the reason - I stayed six weeks in altitude training camp - I could get a Colombian passport, maybe."
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