The mountainous stage 19 of the 2022 Giro d’Italia ended with a second win for King of the Mountains leader Koen Bouwman (Jumbo-Visma) on the summit finish of Santuario di Castelmonte but also with controversy after fellow breakaway Andrea Vendrame (AG2R Citröen) skidded off course just as the five day’s leaders were winding things up for a sprint.
Stage winner Bouwman, who also wrapped up a mathematical victory in the King of the Mountains classification, did not refer to the incident in initial post-stage comments, saying simply “I knew there was a corner to the left but I didn’t know it was this sharp. I had to brake quite hard and I knew I had to take the inside.”
“The goal of today was to have the blue jersey at the end of the day. Coming with a stage victory - I can’t believe it.”
While Vendrame was unable to dispute the stage, Mauro Schmid (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl) was also annoyed. Schmid gesticulated after finishing second ahead of Bardiani CSF Faizané’s Alessandro Tonelli and said later that it was “not a fair sprint,” and that “when you watch the last 100-200 metres [you’ll see] I can do nothing.”
Meanwhile, with two days remaining, the main GC battle saw some brief, intense skirmishing on the final climb between race leader Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) and the two other riders still in with a chance of taking the pink jersey, second-placed Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Basque veteran Mikel Landa (Bahrain Victorious).
However, Carapaz's one full-blown attack failed to dislodge either Hindley or Landa. The biggest GC development of the day was that his teammate and key mountains support rider Richie Porte had to abandon with gastroenteritis.
The race now will be decided on Saturday’s mammoth Dolomites stage, ending on the summit finish of the Passo Fedaia and Sunday’s final time trial.
How it unfolded
Shortly after the start in the coastal town of Marano Lagunare and well before the two main climbs of the day a 12-rider breakaway went clear, including two of the riders from the previous stage’s day-long move, Magnus Cort (EF Education-EasyPost) and Edoardo Affini (Jumbo-Visma). Also in on the action were Davide Ballerini (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl), Vendrame, Tobias Bayer (Alpecin-Fenix), Clement Davy and Attila Valter (both Groupama-FDJ), Bouwman, Schmid, Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo) Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) and, the only non- WorldTour racer in the group, Tonelli.
The duodecet gained an advantage of well over 12 minutes before the stage entered its most critical phase, which began with a 35-kilometre incursion into neighbouring country Slovenia and over the toughest climb of the day, the first category Kovrolat.
As soon as they hit the early slopes, Bouwman moved ahead with Valter, Schmid and Tonelli, and although the Italian was briefly dropped, finally all four all passed through the dense lines of Slovenian fans on the upper part of the climb without making any major challenges. Bouwman gained mathematical control of the mountains jersey by sprinting ahead at the summit, but the main moment of excitement in the breakaway came on the technical but notably well-surfaced descent off the Kovrolat when Vendrame seared past the quartet and back into the game.
An unspoken truce allowed the five to make it back into Italy and onto the second category summit finish climb of Santuario di Castelmonte with no further movement. But what was far more surprising was how almost the whole climb itself was tackled with a real dearth of serious attacks.
What finally broke the five apart was a badly placed left-hand corner with less than 100 metres to go, which Bouwman, passing through first, negotiated without any problems to take his win. Behind the Dutchman, however, it was another story altogether as the jockeying for position saw Vendrame, nominally the fastest, out of the picture altogether and Schmid waving his arms in anger as he reached the line.
The GC battle provided little real excitement, with Porte’s abandon the main news of the day and neither Bora-Hansgrohe nor Ineos Grenadiers able to rattle their respective rivals. The German squad, whose leader Hindley crashed with no reported serious consequences, kept a lid on the break’s ballooning lead for most of the day before Ben Tulett and Pavel Sivakov laid down a ferocious pace for Carapaz on the Castelmonte.
It had little effect, though, on the GC battle, as Hindley and Landa both comfortably parried Carapaz’s main attack halfway up and Landa briefly tried to branch out on his own. The three reached the line together in a small group of chasers and the agonisingly narrow three-second GC gap between Hindley and Carapaz remains in place, therefore, with just two days remaining.
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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 Independent, The Guardian, ProCycling, The Express and Reuters.
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