Fortunato takes stunning victory on Monte Zoncolan
Bernal extends overall lead after late attack
Briton Yates climbs up to second overall
Vlasov, Carthy and Evenepoel lose time
Britain’s Simon Yates produced a superb performance on the mythical Monte Zoncolan on Saturday to climb into second place at the Giro d’Italia. But the 28-year-old admitted afterwards that he had his work cut out trying to catch runaway race leader Egan Bernal, who tightened his grip on the maglia rosa.
Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) has looked in imperious form in the first two weeks of the race, the back injury that plagued his Tour de France defence last year seemingly behind him. The Colombian was again a class apart on stage 14 on Saturday, blowing away his general classification rivals on the final vertiginous slopes of the Zoncolan, where the gradients are well in excess of 20 per cent.
After initially going with Yates when the Briton attacked the GC group with a few kilometres of the stage remaining, Bernal let Yates drag him up the gradient before dropping him in emphatic fashion towards the top, overtaking the remnants of the breakaway to finish fourth on the stage.
Italian Lorenzo Fortunato (Eolo-Kometa) won a crowd-pleasing victory from the breakaway, the first of his professional career.
Yates was sixth on the stage, 11 seconds behind Bernal, his effort enough to move him up to second place overall, 1min 33sec behind Bernal as Astana’s Aleksandr Vlasov fell away on the Zoncolan. Fellow Briton Hugh Carthy (EF Education-Nippo) dropped from fourth to fifth overall but remains well in contention at 2-11.
Yates said he was pleased with his legs after a mysterious issue in the first week. “I won’t go into details but it wasn’t the best of first weeks,” was all he said on the matter. “But I’m feeling much better now. I’m slowly getting there and I’m happy with where I’m at.
“Obviously, Bernal once again showed he’s the man to beat. It’s going to be hard to beat him but we’ll keep trying. I just hope to have the same legs as today for the rest of the race and we can try to do something to take the jersey.”
Sir Bradley Wiggins, speaking to Eurosport, agreed it was difficult to look past Bernal for the overall. “Yates is only a minute and a half down but Bernal is looking invincible now,” he said. “The distance he put into Simon in such a short period of time [at the top of the Zoncolan], he’s looking every bit the Giro winner.
“But his [Yates’s] legs are looking better. If there are chinks in Bernal’s armour over the next few days, Yates is looking good [to capitalise].”
Wiggins added that Yates could take comfort from the fact that three years ago the Briton looked similarly in control, taking time out of his rivals in the first fortnight, only to implode spectacularly in the final few days. Yates, who went on to win the Vuelta a Espana that season, says he prefers to bide his time and conserve his energy in grand tours these days.
“Yates was about this far ahead [in 2018],” Wiggins noted. “BikeExchange can sit back now, let Ineos control the race and look for an opportunity – and [BikeExchange sporting director] Matt White is the best at that.”
The race heads into neighbouring Slovenia on Sunday for a stage that looks as if it could be one for the sprinters or puncheurs. There is then a monster of a day on Monday. Stage 16, the race’s queen stage, finishes in the ski station of Cortina d’Ampezzo in the Italian Dolomites.
Bernal drops Yates to tighten grip on pink
And the maglia rosa is going to extend his overall lead here today having finished in fourth place, Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) takes fifth while Simon Yates (BikeExchange) is sixth. There will be some big losses on general classification today, but a hugely important day for Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) who looks to be the strongest rider with the strongest team at this year’s Giro d’Italia, while Yates has, finally, showed the form that made the British rider some people’s favourite coming into the first grand tour of the year.
Speaking afterwards, Bernal said: “I tried to remain calm when we tackled the Zoncolan because I knew I was in a good position in the GC [general classification] and did not need to attack first. I followed Simon Yates when he attacked and then I did an acceleration in the finale. I think I did a good race. Now I have a good lead but I need to remain calm and focused, anything can happen in the Giro.”
It is not such a great day for Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana-Premier Tech) who loses 1min 12sec to Bernal as the Russian drops two places to fourth overall, while Hugh Carthy (EF Education-Nippo) drops from fourth to fifth having completed the stage 44sec slower than the maglia rosa. The other big loser of the day is Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck-Quick Step) who drops to eighth 3min 52sec off top spot, while Romain Bardet (DSM) breaks into the top 10.
Fortunato wins atop Monte Zoncolan!
Nobody, and I mean nobody, will have predicted that. Lorenzo Fortunato (Eolo-Kometa) wins the first race of his career on what is possibly one of the hardest climbs in world cycling. Jan Tratnik (Bahrain Victorious) rolls over 26sec later in second spot, while Alessandro Covi (UAE Team Emirates) is third another 33sec down.
Delighted beyond words, Fortunato says: “I haven’t fully realised yet what I just did. I knew I was in good shape and this morning I really wanted to go in the breakaway. My team-mate Vincenzo Albanese worked hard for me in the break, I have to thank him.
“I knew that the last 3km were the hardest,” second division rider Fortunato added. “For this reason, I waited for the final part of the Zoncolan to attack and then I gave it everything until the finish line.”
400 metres to go
Jan Tratnik is in a world of pain, his bike zag-zagging across the road on this impossibly steep road as it pitches up to around 25 per cent.
500 metres to go
That attack from Simon Yates has blown up the group of general classification contenders. He could be riding into the top three, possibly second, in the standings today. Jan Tratnik is in pursuit of Lorenzo Fortunato. This is turning, as expected, into what looks like a slow-motion 14-round slugfest between punch drunk boxers.
Simon Yates, who finished second here on Monte Zoncolan back in 2018, has attacked off the front and Egan Bernal is the only one able to hold his wheel. Having had a quiet race thus far, is Yates showing his true colours here today? If the Briton keeps this up he could be climbing up the general classifications standings.
1km to go
I think Lorenzo Fortunato may just do this.
1.2km to go
Lorenzo Fortunato grimaces, fighting with his inner demons as this cruel climb bites, and Alessandro Covi is trailing him while a few bike lengths further back is George Bennett.
1.4km to go
Remco Evenepoel is sat at the rear of the general classification group.
1.5km to go
Mikel Nieve, a mountain domestique for Simon Yates, is dropped. Remco Evenepoel is also struggling, but Lorenzo Fortunato is not slowing up. What a massive surprise this would be if the second division rider were to win on this famous climb.
2km to go
Alessandro Covi (UAE Team Emirates) rolls off and appears to have dropped Bauke Mollema and George Bennett, while up the road Lorenzo Fortunato is the lone leader having shaken off Jan Tratnik.
2.5km to go
Jonathan Castroviejo is on the front of the maglia rosa‘s group, and Bora-Hansgrohe move towards the front alongside Ineos Grenadiers.
3km to go
The pair inch their way up a narrow, one-track road, with the gradient pitching up ever steeper. Their advantage, however, has increased on the breakaway riders . . . but the maglia rosa‘s group is closing in – 3min 36sec down.
3.5km to go
Jan Tratnik and Lorenzo Fortunato are sharing the work between themselves. Not far from the steepest part of the day, will they be able to keep hold of that 45-second advantage?
4km to go
Vincenzo Nibali has been dropped by the maglia rosa‘s group, and here’s a reminder of what is coming up …
5km to go
Jhonatan Narváez peels off the front of the Ineos Grenadiers’ group, his day done. Into the clouds now and it is looking chilly, Jan Tratnik and Lorenzo Fortunato are holding on to a lead of around 40sec but they are yet to reach the toughest part of this climb.
5.5km to go
Simon Yates, Irishman Dan Martin who has always likes the very steep stuff, Damiano Caruso, Hugh Carthy, Emanuel Buchmann,Romain Bardet, Remco Evenepoel are all in the group of general classification favourites, but it’s Egan Bernal and Aleksandr Vlasov who are up near the head of proceedings and they are two kilometres behind stage leaders Jan Tratnik and Lorenzo Fortunato.
6km to go
Jan Tratnik and Lorenzo Fortunato have a lead of 38sec on the remnants of the breakaway and five minutes on the peloton,
6.5km to go
Jhonatan Narváez, another former stage winner from last year’s Giro d’Italia, takes over on the front of the peloton for Egan Bernal after team-mate Gianni Moscon pulls the pin on his day.
7km to go
Jan Tratnik is a grinder of a climber, but he’s gained 42sec on Bauke Mollema and George Bennett. Wow, taht’s impressive. The Slovenian has Lorenzo Fortunato for company.
7.5km to go
Egan Bernal takes a gel, staring into the eyes of the television cameras looking calm and assured. The Colombian, by the way, has clear sunglasses on today so there’s no hiding place for the maglia rosa.
8km to go
Gianni Moscon shifts towards the front of the peloton, Ineos Grenadiers clearly keen on reining in stage leader Jan Tratnik and the rest of the breakaway, or are they just turning the screw on Egan Bernal’s rivals? This could be a good time to test their mettle, see how the land lies ahead of the real battle in a short while.
9km to go
Sunglasses off, tucked into his the front of his helmet, Jan Tratnik takes a gulp of air before bouncing out of his saddle. He takes a slight look over his left shoulder peering in the direction of Lorenzo Fortunato. The peloton is another 5min 30se down the road, but no time gaps on George Bennett and Bauke Mollema just yet.
10km to go
Lorenzo Fortunato (Eolo-Kometa) clips off the front of the breakaway, the 25-year-old Italian in pursuit of Slovenian rider Jan Tratnik. George Bennett and Bauke Mollema, for now, appear happy enough to play the waiting game and are leaving the pair out to dry.
11km to go
Jan Tratnik (Bahrain Victorious), a stage winner at last year’s Giro d’Italia, rolls off the front of the breakaway. The road surface is absolutely perfect, large sections of it having been recently relaid. The peloton, meanwhile, is now onto the climb and Aleksandr Vlasov has dropped back a few wheels to sit on Egan Bernal.
13.5km to go
Edoardo Affini has ridden himself to a standstill, leaving his Jumbo-Visma team-mate George Bennett to see if he can land a big stage win high above the clouds on Monte Zoncolan. Jacopo Mosca is the next to ease up having helped deliver his Trek-Segafredo team-mate Bauke Mollema to the lower slopes of Monte Zoncolan.
Remember, the opening two thirds of this climb is not too brutal. Unlike the tougher side that barely goes below 10%, it is the final three kilometres that will really bite here today.
There be hills . . .
The breakaway is under one kilometre from the start of the final climb of the day, that’s right folks they will soon be onto the Zoncolan.
19.5km to go
Vincenzo Albanese (Eolo-Kometa) falls out the back of the breakaway whose lead has increased slightly to 6min 15sec. Both Jumbo-Visma and Trek-Segafredo has two riders in the break and so out of that group you would have to say George Bennett or Bauke Mollema are, on paper, are most suited to today’s finale.
20km to go
A slight lull in proceedings in the peloton. Luis León Sánchez, who has put in some huge turns on the front today, drifts towards the rear of the group containing all of the main general classification contenders, but his Astana-Premier Tech team-mates remain sat on the front for Aleksandr Vlasov who started the day second overall, 45sec behind Egan Bernal. On climbs like today if a rider does not have the legs once the gradients go above 20 per cent in gradient, ages of time can be lost and so the young Russian may even be thinking of taking that maglia rosa off the shoulders of Bernal.
26.5km to go
Six Astana-Premier Tech riders are positioned at the head of the peloton, just ahead of Ineos Grenadiers who have managed to regroup and are protecting the maglia rosa on the shoulders of Egan Bernal. Hugh Carthy and his EF Education-Nippo team-mates are also up near the front of the group of favourites, as is Simon Yates.
30km to go
Working together in the valley between the base of the Forcella Monte Rest and the beginning of the final ascent of the day, the slow and steep drag up the Zoncolan, the breakaway has managed to increase its advantage to 5min 43sec.
Hell is round the corner . . .
Cycling fanatics are waiting for the race to arrive on the summit of Monte Zoncolan where they will face tricky test this afternoon.
37km to go
Following that phoney war, all of the general classification riders are back together and that gap on the breakaway has now reduced to just five minutes. Egan Bernal is in there, as is Hugh Carthy, Simon Yates, Remco Evenepoel, Damiano Caruso, Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) but a nervous few minutes there and, perhaps, a sign of what may follow in the final to today’s stage. Given the vertiginous nature of the last three kilometres of the climb I’m not too sure how many domestiques will be able to help their team leaders, but it should be a fascinating watch.
38.5km to go
A group containing Hugh Carthy and Simon Yates bridges over to the Astana-Premier Tech group after Alberto Bettiol does a great job at pulling. The Italian will have done that effort for EF Education-Nippo team-mate Hugh Carthy who may fancy his chances today.
Astana-Premier Tech‘s main general classification rider Aleksandr Vlasov has three team-mates – Gorka Izagirre, Luis León Sánchez, Harold Tejada – for company, while Egan Bernal has just Jonathan Castroviejo to help him out. Pello Bilbao is the Bahrain Victorious rider and the septet of riders have gained around 15sec on the peloton. Remco Evenepoel, meanwhile, missed that move and is another 10 second or so down the road. The chasers have around 30km before the start of the ascent up the hellish Zoncolan.
48.5km to go
Edoardo Affini is out of his saddle on the front of the breakaway, his Jumbo-Visma team-mate sat a few wheels down the line. Back in the peloton a gap forms at the front after Astana-Premier Tech, as is their wont, take the descent at some speed. There are four Astana-Premier Tech riders in this small group, as is the maglia rosa who has one team-mate for company, while there’s also a Bahrain Victorious man.
Opportunities Knox for Evenepoel?
It will be fascinating to see how Remco Evenepoel copes on the Zoncolan today. The Belgian lost an age of time on the white roads of Tuscany earlier this week and has never raced on a road like this.
53km to go
Over the top go Astana-Premier Tech and all of that work done by the boys in sky blue has led to the breakaway’s advantage dropping to below six minutes. They must, surely be targeting the stage today – they just cannot be doing all this work just to protect Aleksandr Vlasov’s second spot on general classification.
55km to go
Bauke Mollema adds another 18 points to his tally in the mountains classification as the Dutchman is the first rider to crest the category two Forcella Monte Rest, but Geoffrey Bouchard‘s (Ag2r-Citroën) lead in that competition is safe. For now at least. The breakway is descending off that climb on a very narrow road, but thankfully the road surface looks absolutely perfect and it is dry. Once the peloton is over the top there may be a big fight for position near the summit as nobody wants to be caught out behind any crashes, and there doesn’t look to be too many opportunities to overtake.
58.5km to go
The breakaway loses another 30sec to the Astana-Premier Tech-powered peloton.
60km to go
Astana-Premier Tech have big numbers on the front of the peloton now. In fact, their entire team is now riding on the front on behalf of Aleksandr Vlasov who is clearly feeling strong today.
The peloton, which has splintered with the sprinters now riding in the grupetto, is around 5km from the summit of the Forcella Monte Rest and that injection in pace from Alexandre Vinokourov’s squad has seen the breakaway’s lead drop ever so slightly to 7min 30sec.
Looking cold up the road . . .
There is snow atop Monte Zoncolan, while Eurosport earlier showed a cloudy summit. Think it is dry up there at the moment, but if that rain does turn up that could make the final three kilometres of the stage very difficult, or should I say more difficult?
Bernal feeling the chill?
Race leader Egan Bernal was just spotted donning a rain jacket. Rain is expected later today on the final climb of the day, but it’s not actually raining right now. Earlier in the stage Bernal was, briefly, stuck towards the rear of the peloton while the breakaway was forming. Sure I am reading way too much into this, but it did make me wonder if the Colombian is feeling ok today?
You talking to me?
A few words are shared between Ruben Guerreiro (EF Education-Nippo) and Andrea Pasqualon (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux). The Portuguese appeared to take offence at something the Italian sprinter did, but not entirely sure what. Either way, that would suggest the tension is rising – much like the road – as the pleoton edges its way towards the next climb of the day, the category two Forcella Monte Rest. Guerreir’s team-mate, remember, is working today for team-mate Hugh Carthy.
70km to go
Filippo Ganna, incidentally, is sat on the front of the row of Ineos Grenadiers rider tucked in behind Astana-Premier Tech’s a pair on the front of the peloton.
73.5km to go
Quick bike change for Bauke Mollema a few minutes ago. Although not on the category two Forcella Monte Rest just yet, the road is gently rising as it will continually do for sometime yet. Mollema appears to have switched from an aero bike, for one better suited to climbing. The Dutchmna didn’t waste too much time and is back in the breakaway group whose advantage has grown slightly to 8min 30sec.
Do you see yourself with the maglia rosa tonight?
80km to go
Hugh Carthy (second right) appears fairly relaxed as he rides towards the hellish climb that is Monte Zoncolan. The Preston lad often excels on the steep stuff, but can he land another huge win today?
The breakaway, which has some big names in it, including George Bennett and Bauke Mollema, leads by a shade over eight minutes, with two categorised climbs to follow, so that may well evaporate prior to the pointy end – very pointy – conclusion to the stage.
85km to go
Interesting to note Astana-Premier Tech have a pair of riders on the front of the peloton, as opposed to them allowing Ineos Grenadiers to set the pace. They will be riding on behalf of Alsekandr Vlasov who started the day second on general classification and may be thinking of having a crack today – either in an effort to close the gap on maglia rosa Egan Bernal, or to widen the gap on third-placed Damiano Caruso (Bahrain Victorious) and the British pairing of Hugh Carthy and Simon Yates (BikeExchange).
Those with good memories will recall the young Russian finished second to Carthy on the Angliru stage at last year’s Vuelta a España and so is no slouch on steep slopes such as the Zoncolan.
Another man down
As mentioned David Dekker, Dylan Groenewegen and last year’s runner-up Jai Hindley were non-starters today, but forgot to say that Nicolas Edet abandoned a short while ago after the Cofidis rider crashed.
The Frenchman fell heavily and was spotted holding his collarbone, but as yet his team has not announced the severity of his injuries.
As it stands . . .
The reduced peloton of 161 riders passed through KM0 at 10.43am (BST) and following a bit of a fight, an 11-man group comprising Edoardo Affini (Jumbo-Visma), Vincenzo Albanese (Eolo-Kometa), George Bennett (Jumbo-Visma), Alessandro Covi (UAE Team Emirates), Lorenzo Fortunato (Eolo-Kometa), Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo), Jacopo Mosca (Trek-Segafredo), Nelson Oliveira (Movistar), Andrii Ponomar (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec), Rémy Rochas (Cofidis) and Jan Tratnik (Bahrain Victorious) went off up the road. With 105 kilometres of today’s stage remaining they have a 7min 55sec lead over the peloton.
The non-starters today, by the way, were David Dekker (Jumbo-Visma), Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma) and Jai Hindley (DSM).
Mollema took a maximum of three points atop the category four Castello di Caneva to add three points to his account in the mountains classification, a result that moves the Dutchman ahead of Belgian national champion Dries De Bondt (Alpecin-Fenix) into third overall. But with two big climbs to follow there could be plenty more movement in that particular competition.
Today’s menu . . .
As is often the case at the Giro d’Italia, today’s stage is very much one of two halves as it winds its way towards the best that is Monte Zoncolan. That beast, however, may be a little less scary than normal today as the riders will go up the easier side. That easy side tops out at a gradient of 27% so I’m almost certain it will not feel easy later on this afternoon when the riders are crawling up this wall-like climb.
Anyway, as usual there are two intermediate sprints where points are up for grabs in the race for the maglia ciclamino in Meduno, while the second one just under 20km from the line in Arta Terme bonus seconds are up for grabs. There are three climbs of note, the category four Castello di Caneva which is just 3.4km long with an average gradient of 4.4% that summits 77.9 kilometres into the stage, while just under 70km later a tougher test awaits. The category two Forcella Monte Rest is 10.5km at 6.1% which will soften the riders up ahead of the final climb of the day, Monte Zoncolan. Although not that high (1,728 metres above sea level), and on paper does not especially look too tricky – I am basing this wildly inaccurate assumption purely on its numbers – this 14.1km long climb with an average gradient of 8.5% will, one suspects, provide the canvas on which today’s general classification battle will be sketched out.
Here’s what the roadbook says: “This mountain stage is divided into two parts: it starts flat and continues on a slight incline for 130km, all the way to Monte Rest. The route then weaves through a brace of hairpins, on narrowed roadway, both on the way up and on the way down. After going back on broader roads in Priuso, the route passes Tolmezzo and Arta Terme, reaching the foot of the closing climb.
“The first 11km ascend in hairpins, on wide roads, with gradients around 7-8%, whereas the last 3km are very demanding.”
And in conclusion, here’s the finale: “The last 3km rise sharply on narrow road with only a few bends, and gradients often exceeding 20% (averaging 13%). The pitch over the final kilometre largely hovers around the 18% mark, with gradients exceeding 25% and topping out at 27% both along the hairpins and in the final stretch. The last 50 metres are on tarmac road and on a slight incline.”
It will surprise few to discover that race leader Egan Bernal is the favourite o win today’s stage, though I have a sneaking suspicion it could be a day for Hugh Carthy (EF Education-Nippo) who tends to favour these types of climbs that go high into double digits. Having won a stage on the Angliru at last year’s Vuelta a España, adding a Monte Zoncolan stage to his palmarès really would propel the Briton into climbing royalty. Indeed, Gilberto Simoni, the two-time winner of the Giro d’Italia, remains the only riders to have won stages that both finish on the Angliru and atop Monte Zoncolan.
Catch up: Highlights from yesterday’s stage
Hello and welcome to our live rolling blog from stage 14 at the Giro d’Italia, the 205-kilometre run from Cittadella to Monte Zoncolan.
The day after Giacomo Nizzolo (Qhubeka-Assos) must have as if he had finally entered some sort of heavenly oasis having won the first Giro d’Italia stage of his career on his eighth outing at his national race, the Italian and his fellow sprinters will, today, edge their way gingerly towards what will feel like purgatory for them. That’s right folks, today the race returns to the mountains and one of the most feared climbs in world cycling, Monte Zoncolan, but before we look at what on on today’s menu let’s remind ourselves about the standings in the top spots in the four jersey classifications.
Given the nature of yesterday’s stage – a panflat course from Ravenna to Verona – there was very little movement in the general classification. Indeed, no rider within 30 minutes moved up or down the general classification and so Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers), the 24-year-old Colombian, retained his lead and will for the fifth day today wear the maglia rosa, or the pink jersey.
Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) finished third on Friday, a results that ensured he kept hold of the maglia ciclamino, the cyclamen jersey, as leader in the points classification, although Nizzolo closed the gap on him and now trails the three-time world champion by nine points.
What with there being no points available in the mountains classification yesterday, Geoffrey Bouchard (Ag2r-Citroën), who took control of the maglia azzurra almost a week ago now, will again wear the blue jersey as overall leader in the mountains.
The top three in the youth classification mirrors that of the overall and so Alexandr Vlasov (Astana-Premier Tech) will wear the maglia bianca, or the white jersey, on behalf of the maglia rosa Bernal.