Giro d'Italia: Ben O'Connor wins stage 17 atop Madonna di Campiglio

One day after being denied in San Daniele del Friuli, NTT's Ben O'Connor finally claimed his first Grand Tour victory on stage 17 of the Giro d'Italia as the bright sun began to set atop the Madonna di Campiglio.

The Australian, part of a large day-long breakaway, attacked the remains of the move with eight kilometres to climb to the summit and held off a furtive chase by Hermann Pernsteiner (Bahrain McLaren), who tried but failed to close down what started as a 22-second gap but expanded to 31 at the line.

"Yesterday was so close and to pull it off today in the mountains that I dream of, it maybe hasn't sunk in yet but when I crossed the line I was full gas crying so it means a lot," O'Connor said.

Ilnur Zakarin (CCC Team) and Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal), unable to respond to O'Connor's attack on the steepest section, battled for the final stage podium spot, with De Gendt coming out on top as the maglia rosa group was still on the lower slopes of the 12.5km climb.

When he attacked, O'Connor said, "I could see everyone was really struggling at the time, there was no real pace between the guys, everyone was looking at each other. I felt good and thought, why not, if someone joins me then we would swap and I would try again. The aim was just to win today and I can't believe I've done it."

Even having spent two long days off the front of the Giro d'Italia, O'Connor still had enough left in the tank to seal the deal and win NTT's first Giro stage. It might have ended quite differently had the breakaway been brought back as O'Connor and teammates Louis Meintjes and Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier went into the move both as foils for team leader Domenico Pozzovivo and to take a chance for the stage win.

"Yesterday it wasn't the plan to be in the breakaway, but when there's 30 guys you have to be there," O'Connor said. "Today the plan was to be in the break and if a team decides to come and chase us, we're up front for Domenico and we can play our cards. It's always a win-win situation. For the three of us to be up there it really helped. We could share the load a little bit. In the end it was a perfect day."

With snow and COVID-19 restrictions likely rewriting the upcoming mountain stages, those hoping to unseat João Almeida (Deceuninck-Quickstep) missed their chance on the day, with the Portuguese rider marking the few moves that went on the climb and coming across in the group of GC favourites, 5:11 behind O'Connor.

Almeida remains in the lead with a 17-second advantage on Wilco Kelderman (Sunweb) with Kelderman's teammate Jai Hindley third at 2:58, a single second ahead of Tao Geoghegan Hart (Ineos Grenadiers).

“Today was a hard day, there were long, hard long climbs. Yet again the team was perfect, they did a good job," a relieved Almeida said. "I’ve still got the maglia rosa and its thanks to them.

"I was expecting Kelderman to attack and he tried but I felt good and tomorrow is another day. I feel that everyone is getting stronger even if we've still got the Stelvio to climb. I hope not to struggle and ride well. I want to win the Giro. We’ll see. Tomorrow will be hard, harder than today."

Thanks to his lead in the breakaway, Pernsteiner moved up to 11th overall 5:07 behind Almeida.

How it unfolded

The Giro d'Italia headed into its first foray into the high mountains in the final week and the riders were lucky to find clear skies and pleasant temperatures in the valleys between the massive climbs of the Forcella Valbona, Monte Bondone and the final ascent to the cooler but still clear conditions on the Madonna di Campiglio.

With three category 1 climbs the first thought in the mind of the peloton on the roll-out from Bassano del Grappa was the blue mountains jersey, which had been on the shoulders of Giovanni Visconti (Vini Zabu-KTM) with a 30 points lead over Ruben Guerreiro (EF Pro Cycling) at the start of the stage.

There were a couple of attacks in the flat first 40km but with the roads tilting up the Valbona the front of the race came back together while the sprinters joined forces for survival in the gruppetto behind.

After his big day out on stage 16, Visconti missed the move, with Guerrerio going clear with the race's most attacking rider Mattia Bais (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec) and a large group also containing Geoffrey Bouchard (AG2R La Mondiale), Óscar Rodríguez (Astana), Hermann Pernsteiner (Bahrain McLaren), Victor de la Parte and Ilnur Zakarin (CCC Team), Jesper Hansen (Cofidis), Kilian Frankiny (Groupama-FDJ), Thomas De Gendt, Harm Vanhoucke (Lotto Soudal), Héctor Carretero, Dario Cataldo, Eduardo Sepúlveda (Movistar), Louis Meintjes, Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier, Ben O'Connor (NTT Pro Cycling), Rohan Dennis (Ineos Grenadiers) and Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates).

The group was strategic for the general classification contenders, with O'Connor, Meintjes and Ghebreigzabhier hoping to remain out front to help Domenico Pozzovivo, Pernsteiner for Bilbao, Dennis for Geoghegan Hart and Rodriguez for Fuglsang. Deceuninck-Quickstep declined, as did Nibali's reduced Trek-Segafredo team and Kelderman's Sunweb teammates.

The group slowly carved out a gap of almost five minutes over the maglia rosa group, with Guerreiro taking the lead of the mountains classification with maximum points on the Forcella Vabona. As Iljo Keisse, Davide Ballerini, James Knox and Fausto Masnada patrolled the lead of the peloton, the breakaway enjoyed a lead of seven minutes heading up the Bondone where, at the top, Guerreiro once again claimed top honours to build a solid lead of 50 points in the mountains classification.

On the descent, the breakaway came apart with Cataldo forcing the pace and - surprisingly considering his reputation for descending, the Italian was joined by Zakarin, with Carretero, O'Connor, Vanhoucke and Ghebreigzabhier scrambling across. Soon Pernsteiner and De Gendt rejoined and then Villela, leaving Rodriguez, Bouchard, De la Parte and Frankiny chasing up the penultimate climb, the Passo Durone, where De Gendt claimed the points at the top. Meintjes, Guerreiro and Sepúlveda, were the third group on the road and the EF Pro Cycling rider missed taking any points on the climb.

With the gap to the leaders up to eight minutes with 40km to go, Pernsteiner climbed onto a virtual podium spot as the best-placed rider in the move. But by the time the race reached 24km to go the Deceuninck-Quickstep-led bunch began lining out the peloton and steadily chipping away at the gap, which went under the seven-minute mark and kept falling.

It didn't help that the front two groups came back together and there was a brief hesitation while they decided who would do the work. CCC Team and Pernsteiner were the most motivated to keep the attack on the rails, while Movistar and took a back seat. De la Parte, motivated to give Zakarin a chance at a stage win, held the maglia rosa group to six minutes on the false flat leading to the base of the Madonna di Campiglio.

The leaders had 5:45 as they hit the base of the final climb with 12.5km to go - a long climb but not especially steep, averaging around six per cent with an easing of the gradient at the top. De la Parte forced the pace going into the ascent then dropped off with De Gendt then taking over to jettison Carretero first then Villela, Bouchard, Hansen and Cataldo. The remaining riders stayed together for several kilometres until De Gendt attacked with 9km to go, briefly shattering the group before it came back together.

Rohan Dennis put in a counter-attack, drawing out Zakarin and Pernsteiner but the move proved a perfect set-up for O'Connor who hit out with 8km to go on the steepest section. De Gendt, Pernsteiner and Zakarin forged an alliance as Dennis faded back. With six kilometres to go, Pernsteiner hit out from the chasing group in a solo effort to shut down the 25 second gap to O'Connor but never could quite claw back time on the Australian, who after being shut out on stage 16 at the hands of Jan Tratnik would not be making the same mistake twice.

Ineos Grenadiers and Deceuninck-Quickstep went head-to-head leading out into the climb in the peloton behind but it was Sunweb that really forced the pace, with Chris Hamilton lining out the maglia rosa group on the lower slopes of the Madonna di Campiglio, bringing down the advantage of the leaders to 5:15 as the pink jersey went under 10km to go. Almeida kept a close eye on Kelderman, at one moment physically reminding Castroviejo of the pecking order when the Ineos rider got in between.

The fight for the overall heated up in the steep section as Jai Hindley attacked and then was strangely closed down by a surge from Kelderman. Regardless of team tactics, Almeida marked the move and then with much neck-craning the maglia rosa group ground to a more controlled pace.

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Full Results
Pos.Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Ben O'Connor (Aus) NTT Pro Cycling 5:50:59
2Hermann Pernsteiner (Aut) Bahrain McLaren 0:00:31
3Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Lotto Soudal 0:01:10
4Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) CCC Team 0:01:13
5Kilian Frankiny (Swi) Groupama-FDJ 0:01:55
6Harm Vanhoucke (Bel) Lotto Soudal 0:02:49
7Davide Villella (Ita) Movistar Team 0:03:29
8Oscar Rodriguez Garaicoechea (Spa) Astana Pro Team
9Amanuel Gebreigzabhier (Eri) NTT Pro Cycling 0:03:30
10Jesper Hansen (Den) Cofidis 0:04:32
11Tao Geoghegan Hart (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers 0:05:11
12Jai Hindley (Aus) Team Sunweb
13Rafal Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe
14Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Team Sunweb
15Joao Almeida (Por) Deceuninck-Quickstep
16Pello Bilbao (Spa) Bahrain McLaren
17Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe
18Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
19Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team
20Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) NTT Pro Cycling
21Fausto Masnada (Ita) Deceuninck-Quickstep 0:05:13
22Rohan Dennis (Aus) Ineos Grenadiers 0:05:58
23Victor De la Parte (Spa) CCC Team 0:06:04
24James Knox (GBr) Deceuninck-Quickstep 0:06:30
25Sergio Samitier Samitier (Spa) Movistar Team 0:06:48
26Ben Swift (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers
27Brandon McNulty (USA) UAE Team Emirates 0:06:50
28Aurélien Paret Peintre (Fra) AG2R la Mondiale
29Lawrence Warbasse (USA) AG2R la Mondiale 0:07:47
30Sam Oomen (Ned) Team Sunweb 0:08:29
31Martijn Tusveld (Ned) Team Sunweb
32Louis Meintjes (RSA) NTT Pro Cycling 0:10:11
33Jonas Gregaard Wilsly (Den) Astana Pro Team
34Pieter Serry (Bel) Deceuninck-Quickstep 0:11:02
35Christopher Hamilton (Aus) Team Sunweb
36Matteo Fabbro (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe
37Geoffrey Bouchard (Fra) AG2R la Mondiale 0:11:25
38Attila Valter (Hun) CCC Team
39Antonio Nibali (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
40Antonio Pedrero (Spa) Movistar Team 0:11:41
41Carl Fredrik Hagen (Nor) Lotto Soudal 0:12:02
42Joe Dombrowski (USA) UAE Team Emirates
43François Bidard (Fra) AG2R la Mondiale
44Jacopo Mosca (Ita) Trek-Segafredo 0:12:34
45Jonathan Castroviejo Nicolas (Spa) Ineos Grenadiers 0:14:24
46Alessandro Tonelli (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane' 0:14:47
47Enrico Battaglin (Ita) Bahrain McLaren
48Julien Bernard (Fra) Trek-Segafredo
49Sander Armee (Bel) Lotto Soudal
50Alessandro Bisolti (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec
51Dario Cataldo (Ita) Movistar Team 0:15:55
52Domen Novak (Slo) Bahrain McLaren 0:16:06
53Marco Frapporti (Ita) Vini Zabu' KTM 0:16:21
54Mikkel Frølich Honoré (Den) Deceuninck-Quickstep
55Etienne Van Empel (Ned) Vini Zabu' KTM 0:17:20
56Hector Carretero (Spa) Movistar Team 0:18:34
57Nico Denz (Ger) Team Sunweb 0:18:44
58Chad Haga (USA) Team Sunweb
59Simon Pellaud (Swi) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec
60Mathias Le Turnier (Fra) Cofidis
61Daniel Navarro Garcia (Spa) Israel Start-Up Nation
62Cesare Benedetti (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe
63Nicola Conci (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
64Tanel Kangert (Est) EF Pro Cycling
65Simon Clarke (Aus) EF Pro Cycling 0:20:10
66Ruben Guerreiro (Por) EF Pro Cycling
67Eduardo Sepulveda (Arg) Movistar Team
68Jonathan Caicedo (Ecu) EF Pro Cycling
69Salvatore Puccio (Ita) Ineos Grenadiers 0:21:38
70Eros Capecchi (Ita) Bahrain McLaren
71Diego Ulissi (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
72Fabio Felline (Ita) Astana Pro Team
73Jaakko Hanninen (Fin) AG2R la Mondiale
74Filippo Ganna (Ita) Ineos Grenadiers
75Danilo Wyss (Swi) NTT Pro Cycling 0:22:48
76Josef Cerny (Cze) CCC Team 0:23:15
77Mattia Bais (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec 0:25:47
78Andrea Vendrame (Ita) AG2R la Mondiale
79Simone Ravanelli (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec
80Mark Padun (Ukr) Bahrain McLaren 0:26:11
81Yukiya Arashiro (Jpn) Bahrain McLaren
82Davide Ballerini (Ita) Deceuninck-Quickstep 0:26:39
83Lachlan Morton (Aus) EF Pro Cycling 0:31:48
84Kamil Gradek (Pol) CCC Team 0:32:34
85Kamil Malecki (Pol) CCC Team
86Dylan Sunderland (Aus) NTT Pro Cycling
87Rodrigo Contreras Pinzon (Col) Astana Pro Team
88Francesco Romano (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'
89Edoardo Zardini (Ita) Vini Zabu' KTM
90Albert Torres Barcelo (Spa) Movistar Team 0:35:09
91Iljo Keisse (Bel) Deceuninck-Quickstep 0:37:15
92Filippo Zana (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'
93Stefano Oldani (Ita) Lotto Soudal 0:39:21
94Manuele Boaro (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:41:59
95Giovanni Carboni (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane' 0:42:06
96Marco Mathis (Ger) Cofidis 0:46:13
97James Whelan (Aus) EF Pro Cycling
98Alex Dowsett (GBr) Israel Start-Up Nation
99Nathan Haas (Aus) Cofidis
100Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe
101Elia Viviani (Ita) Cofidis
102Matthew Holmes (GBr) Lotto Soudal
103Valerio Conti (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
104Josip Rumac (Cro) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec
105Guy Sagiv (Isr) Israel Start-Up Nation
106Matthias Brändle (Aut) Israel Start-Up Nation
107Filippo Fiorelli (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'
108Pawel Poljanski (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe
109Luca Chirico (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec
110Jan Tratnik (Slo) Bahrain McLaren
111Matteo Spreafico (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec
112Maciej Bodnar (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe
113Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Vini Zabu' KTM
114Simone Bevilacqua (Ita) Vini Zabu' KTM
115Matteo Sobrero (Ita) NTT Pro Cycling
116Jhonatan Restrepo Valencia (Col) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec
117Rick Zabel (Ger) Israel Start-Up Nation
118Victor Campenaerts (Bel) NTT Pro Cycling
119Adam Hansen (Aus) Lotto Soudal
120Joseph Rosskopf (USA) CCC Team
121Giovanni Lonardi (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'
122Einer Augusto Rubio Reyes (Col) Movistar Team
123Jefferson Alexander Cepeda (Ecu) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec
124Lorenzo Rota (Ita) Vini Zabu' KTM
125Miles Scotson (Aus) Groupama-FDJ
126Davide Cimolai (Ita) Israel Start-Up Nation
127Arnaud Demare (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
128Jacopo Guarnieri (Ita) Groupama-FDJ
129Fabio Mazzucco (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'
130Ignatas Konovalovas (Ltu) Groupama-FDJ
131Simon Guglielmi (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
132Alvaro Jose Hodeg Chagui (Col) Deceuninck-Quickstep
133Jonathan Dibben (GBr) Lotto Soudal
134Mikkel Bjerg (Den) UAE Team Emirates
135Stéphane Rossetto (Fra) Cofidis
136Simone Consonni (Ita) Cofidis
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Intermediate Sprint - Ponte Arche, km. 154
Pos.Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Hector Carretero (Spa) Movistar Team 12
2Amanuel Gebreigzabhier (Eri) NTT Pro Cycling 8
3Ben O'Connor (Aus) NTT Pro Cycling 6
4Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) CCC Team 5
5Harm Vanhoucke (Bel) Lotto Soudal 4
6Rohan Dennis (Aus) Ineos Grenadiers 3
7Dario Cataldo (Ita) Movistar Team 2
8Ruben Guerreiro (Por) EF Pro Cycling 1
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Points - Madonna Di Campiglio, km. 203
Pos.Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Ben O'Connor (Aus) NTT Pro Cycling 15
2Hermann Pernsteiner (Aut) Bahrain McLaren 12
3Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Lotto Soudal 9
4Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) CCC Team 7
5Kilian Frankiny (Swi) Groupama-FDJ 6
6Harm Vanhoucke (Bel) Lotto Soudal 5
7Davide Villella (Ita) Movistar Team 4
8Oscar Rodriguez Garaicoechea (Spa) Astana Pro Team 3
9Amanuel Gebreigzabhier (Eri) NTT Pro Cycling 2
10Jesper Hansen (Den) Cofidis 1
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Mountain 1 (Cat. 1) Forcella Valbona, km. 61.2
Pos.Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Ruben Guerreiro (Por) EF Pro Cycling 40
2Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Lotto Soudal 18
3Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) CCC Team 12
4Rohan Dennis (Aus) Ineos Grenadiers 9
5Hermann Pernsteiner (Aut) Bahrain McLaren 6
6Ben O'Connor (Aus) NTT Pro Cycling 4
7Eduardo Sepulveda (Arg) Movistar Team 2
8Dario Cataldo (Ita) Movistar Team 1
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Mountain 2 (Cat. 1) Monte Bondone, km. 117.5
Pos.Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Ruben Guerreiro (Por) EF Pro Cycling 40
2Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Lotto Soudal 18
3Rohan Dennis (Aus) Ineos Grenadiers 12
4Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) CCC Team 9
5Victor De la Parte (Spa) CCC Team 6
6Harm Vanhoucke (Bel) Lotto Soudal 4
7Louis Meintjes (RSA) NTT Pro Cycling 2
8Geoffrey Bouchard (Fra) AG2R la Mondiale 1
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Mountain 3 (Cat. 3) Passo Durone, km. 164.9
Pos.Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Lotto Soudal 9
2Rohan Dennis (Aus) Ineos Grenadiers 4
3Harm Vanhoucke (Bel) Lotto Soudal 2
4Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) CCC Team 1
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Mountain 4 (Cat. 1) Madonna di Campiglio, km. 203
Pos.Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Ben O'Connor (Aus) NTT Pro Cycling 40
2Hermann Pernsteiner (Aut) Bahrain McLaren 18
3Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Lotto Soudal 12
4Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) CCC Team 9
5Kilian Frankiny (Swi) Groupama-FDJ 6
6Harm Vanhoucke (Bel) Lotto Soudal 4
7Davide Villella (Ita) Movistar Team 2
8Oscar Rodriguez Garaicoechea (Spa) Astana Pro Team 1
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Bonus sprint - Caderzone Terme, km. 185.8
Pos.Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Lotto Soudal 0:00:03
2Hector Carretero (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:02
3Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) CCC Team 0:00:01
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Young Riders
Pos.Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Ben O'Connor (Aus) NTT Pro Cycling 5:50:59
2Harm Vanhoucke (Bel) Lotto Soudal 0:02:49
3Oscar Rodriguez Garaicoechea (Spa) Astana Pro Team 0:03:29
4Tao Geoghegan Hart (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers 0:05:11
5Jai Hindley (Aus) Team Sunweb
6Joao Almeida (Por) Deceuninck-Quickstep
7James Knox (GBr) Deceuninck-Quickstep 0:06:30
8Sergio Samitier Samitier (Spa) Movistar Team 0:06:48
9Brandon McNulty (USA) UAE Team Emirates 0:06:50
10Aurélien Paret Peintre (Fra) AG2R la Mondiale
11Sam Oomen (Ned) Team Sunweb 0:08:29
12Jonas Gregaard Wilsly (Den) Astana Pro Team 0:10:11
13Christopher Hamilton (Aus) Team Sunweb 0:11:02
14Matteo Fabbro (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe
15Attila Valter (Hun) CCC Team 0:11:25
16Domen Novak (Slo) Bahrain McLaren 0:16:06
17Mikkel Frølich Honoré (Den) Deceuninck-Quickstep 0:16:21
18Hector Carretero (Spa) Movistar Team 0:18:34
19Mathias Le Turnier (Fra) Cofidis 0:18:44
20Nicola Conci (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
21Jaakko Hanninen (Fin) AG2R la Mondiale 0:21:38
22Filippo Ganna (Ita) Ineos Grenadiers
23Mattia Bais (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec 0:25:47
24Simone Ravanelli (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec
25Mark Padun (Ukr) Bahrain McLaren 0:26:11
26Kamil Malecki (Pol) CCC Team 0:32:34
27Dylan Sunderland (Aus) NTT Pro Cycling
28Francesco Romano (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'
29Filippo Zana (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane' 0:37:15
30Stefano Oldani (Ita) Lotto Soudal 0:39:21