Nikolay Mihaylov was part of the day’s main breakaway, on arguably the hardest stage of this year’s Giro d’Italia. Grega Bole was the team’s top finisher in Aprica and four other CCC Sprandi Polkowice finished in the top 40.
The 177-kilometer stage featured five, very demanding climbs. Among them, there was famous Mortirolo (11,8km long, avg. 10,9% and max. 18%) which was the penultimate ascent of the day. The race kicked off with a 13-kilometer slope to Campo Carlo Magno. The initial pace was very high due to many breakaway attempts. Nikolay Mihaylov was one of the first riders to try to create a gap. At the top of the hill, the main bunch was still all together though. During the descent, Marek Rutkiewicz made an attempt to pull away, but was brought back in. In the next move, Franco Pellizotti (Androni), Brent Bookwalter (BMC), Edoardo Zardini (Bardiani), Fabio Felline (Trek), Przemyslaw Niemiec (Lampre-Merida), Ruben Fernandez (Movistar) and David de la Cruz (Etixx-QuickStep) were involved. Nikolay Mihaylov decided to follow them together with Ryder Hesjedal (Cannondale). The duo with CCC Sprandi Polkowice rider managed to bridge the gap, and later Sandre Armee (Lotto Soudal) also joined the leading group, forming a 10-man escape.
The shattered peloton didn’t give the breakaway too much space and was holding it on a 2-minute “leash”. With 77 kilometers to go Hesjedal took off solo and gained over one minute lead over the chasers. His solo journey in the front didn’t last long though.
Alberto Contador punctured in the descent from Aprica (which was tackled twice on that day) and the peloton broke in pieces. GC leader fell behind and Astana wanted to take advantage of that. They set very high pace and reeled in Mihaylov’s group and Hesjedal.
On the legendary Mortirolo Contador began the individual chase. He not only caught Fabio Aru, but also pulled away 6 kilometers from the summit. He hit the top alongside Steven Kruijswijk (Team LottoNL-Jumbo) and Mikel Landa (Astana).
The trio covered most of the final climb together and in the end Landa jumped away for the stage win. Kruijswijk took second and Contador third.
Grega Bole came in in 19th place, 10:31 back and was the top “orange” finisher. Among best 40 riders of the stage there was also Sylwester Szmyd (29.), Nikolay Mihaylov (33.) and Maciej Paterski (39.).
I am aware of my climbing skills, but today I really surprised myself. I felt good on the ascents and I think it was very solid stage for me. I don’t want to talk about the plans for the upcoming stages. This year’s Giro is very unpredictable and you never now how things will unfold – Grega Bole said afterwards.