Climbers: Stelvio - Stelvio
Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) claimed victory in the second Challenge of Stars event, beating Jakob Fuglsang (Astana), Simon Geschke (CCC Team), and Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) on the virtual slopes of the Stelvio climb.
Whereas the opening round of the online race series pitted the sprinters against each other, Sunday’s action saw eight climbers compete head-to-head on a 2.9km section of the Stelvio climb, with an average gradient of 8.69 per cent and ramps of 12.75 per cent.
Ciccone confidently dispatched Fuglsang in his opening heat, before easing away from Geschke – who’d knocked out his teammate Vincenzo Nibali – in the last couple of hundred metres of their semi-final.
In the final, the 25-year-old came up against De Gendt, who had wiped the floor with Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe) before beating Warren Barguil (Arkea-Samsic) with only a little less ease. In both of his early rounds, De Gendt had started all guns blazing, and in the final he once again took the initiative. However, despite leading for much of the race, Ciccone remained calm and worked his way back in the final kilometre. After a few metres in the slipstream, the Italian had enough in the tank to sprint for the line, and puled clear to seal victory.
“He started very hard, full gas. I was 20-30 metres behind so it wasn’t possible to be in his slipstream right away. But I was calculating how I could manage my effort over that distance,” Ciccone said.
“With one kilometre to go I saw he was still pushing hard and I tried to hold my pace, hoping he would slow down sooner or later, and he did. I kept my patience and managed a final sprint."
Earlier in the race, Chris Froome was eliminated in the first round, having appeared to have been penalised for pedalling in the 10 seconds preceding the start of the race. He found himself stuck on the start line for 10 seconds as Barguil rode away and, despite the Frenchman sportingly choosing to wait, was unable to keep pace. Having clawed his way back with 300 metres to go, Barguil had an extra gear and sprinted into the next round.
“Warren got a bit of a jump on me at the start. I managed to catch him in the last kilometre but I was dead and he came flying past me,” Froome said.
"All in all, it was a fantastic experience, especially at the moment when we can’t really ride with any other riders. It’s nice to be able to challenge someone personally like this and have a race. It was good fun and for me the form is getting better and better as I’m training more.”
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