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Van der Poel misses out in second Giro d'Italia mountain breakaway

Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix)
Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) (Image credit: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

Mathieu van der Poel showed no sign of letting up in his battle to claim a second Giro d’Italia stage win but on Wednesday, the Alpecin-Fenix racer’s gutsy ride through the Dolomites ended with no reward yet again.

Part of a huge day long breakaway on a mountainous stage from Ponti del Legno to Lavarone, Van der Poel first went for it alone with 65 kilometres to go, then shot away coming off the second last climb, the Valico del Vitriolo, in the company of fellow Dutchman, Gijs Leemreize (Jumbo-Visma).

It all looked so promising for the Alpecin-Fenix rider on the fearsome 10% slopes of the Monterovere, when he stormed away from Leemreize. And as his lead briefly reached reached double digits it seemed as if the talented all-rounder could be en route to a hard-sought success in the Giro d'Italia.

Instead, first Leemreize regained ground on the 27-year-old mid-way on the climb and then dropped him, and a few minutes later, the eventual stage winner Colombian Santiago Buitrago (Bahrain-Victorious) followed suit.

Van der Poel finally was swept up by the pink jersey group as they came round the final right hand bend. Even in the brief few last metres of the stage, Dutchman could not or would not stay with them and shed a few seconds to finish 12th.

After winning the opening uphill finish in Hungary and leading the race as far as Mount Etna on stage 4, Van der Poel's repeated attempts to take a second stage in the Giro's second half have developed their own narrative.

Part of a day-long break on the arduous Naples circuit on stage 7 but isolated and unable to outgun Thomas de Gendt and the Lotto-Soudal team, Van der Poel then subsequently was outpowered by Biniam Girmay (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Materiaux) in a ferociously drawn-out sprint at Jesi on stage 10. Then, on stage 15 to Cogne in the Alps, Van der Poel was part of the 28-man group that decided the stage, forming part of a three-rider group coming off the initial Pila-les Fleurs climb which was only soaked up a further 25 kilometres further on.

His latest chance came on stage 17, the race's second day in the eastern Alps, when Van der Poel was in a second counter-attack that made it across to the break of the day, finally totaling 24 riders.

His first major move with some 65 kilometres to go came on a relentlessly undulating mid-stage segment prior to the Passo del Vertiolo, the first of the final two classified climbs of the day. Three other riders, Guillaume Martin (Cofidis), Alessandro Covi (UAE Team Emirates) and Felix Gall (AG2R-Citroen) ultimately bridged across, but despite Van der Poel's lengthy turns on the front, the quartet's lead was never sufficient to guarantee them a crack at the win.

Van der Poel has four stages remaining in the Giro d'Italia to try and claim another stage win, starting with Thursday's largely flat run from Borgo Valsugana to Treviso.

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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 bar one, as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. As well as working for Cyclingnews, he has also written for The IndependentThe GuardianProCycling, The Express and Reuters.