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Giro d’Italia: Hirt shines on “queen stage”

Jan Hirt made the highlights of “queen stage” of Giro d’Italia, which featured some legendary climbs, such as Mortirolo, Stelvio and Umbrailpass. After long day in the breakaway he finished just outside top 10.

Info: Stage 16, May 23rd, Rovett – Bormio, 222km

Course: mountain stage –  Mortirolo (12,6km long, avg.7,6%, max. 16%), Stelvio (21,7km, avg. 7,1%, max. 12%), Umbrailpass (13,4km, avg. 8,4%, max. 12%)

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How it unfolded?

“Riders in orange” were very aggressive right from the start. First Branislau Samoilau went away early, but his 3-man attempt was neutralized. That didn’t dispirit Belarusian, who pulled away again, this time with Felix Grossschartner and over 20 other riders.

When the road to Mortirolo started to rise, new attacks were being launched and new leading group was formed. Jan Hirt was one of the uphill attackers and joined Grossschartner in the front. Samoilau was caught by the bunch, but it was still very promising race situation for CCC Sprandi Polkowice.

The „orange duo” was riding alongside Andrey Amador (Movistar), Jesus Herrada (Movistar), Gorka Izaguirre (Movistar), Laurens ten Dam (Sunweb), Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo), Mikel Landa (Team Sky), Vasil Kiryienka (Team Sky), Philip Deignan (Team Sky), Sebastian Henao (Team Sky), Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana), Pello Bilbao (Astana), Omar Fraile (Dimension Data), Natnael Berhane (Dimension Data), Igor Anton (Dimension Data), Pierre Rolland (Cannondale-Drapac), Joe Dombrowski (Cannondale-Drapac), Michael Woods (Cannondale-Drapac), Rui Costa (UAE Team Emirates), Edward Ravasi (UAE Team Emirates), Laurens De Plus (Quick-Step Floors), Jose Mendes (Bora-Hansgrohe), Manuel Senni (BMC), Alexander Foliforov (Gazprom-Rusvelo). They established nearly 3-minute gap (with 100km to go) which was controlled by Team Sunweb-led peloton.

21 kilometers long Stelvio climb took its toll on the riders, as both the escape and peloton was reduced significantly. Jan Hirt crested the top in the main, 9-man group with Landa, Deignan, Sanchez, Amador, Anacona, Anton, Kruijsvijk, Gorka Izaguirre. Grossschartner, who was helping Czech throughout the stage, got dropped midway through the climb, while just 21-year old Michal Schlegel managed to stay with the pink jersey group.

On the final ascent of the day, Umbrailpass, Landa rolled the dice and pulled away from the break. Hirt tried to follow him, but Spaniard was impressively strong. CCC Sprandi Polkowice kept going at his own pace and got caught by attacking favorites, Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrein-Merida), Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2R La Mondiale) and Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha) just one kilometer before the summit.

In the downhill Nibali took advantage of his descending skills and joined Landa. The duo arrived at the line together and Italian won the sprint, taking first victory for Italy in this year’s race.

Jan Hirt just missed out on top 10, finishing in 11th place. It was fifth top 15 spot in 100th edition of Giro d’Italia for the „orange” squad. After his superb performance he climbed to 16th overall. His fellow countryman, Schlegel also finised high in the standings, in 28th.

Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) managed to defend his GC lead, despite losing 2 minutes on the stage, which was caused by gastric problems.

I felt really good throughout the entire stage. I jumped over to the breakaway on Mortirolo, when big group of riders decided to give it a go. It was important to be in that leading group, because the chances of breakaway succeeding were pretty big. I hadn’t planned that move, but we had to react to the way the race was playing out  – Jan Hirt explained. – It was good to have Felix by my side. He would bring me water bottles and ask if I need anything, so I could safe as much energy for the finale.

On the final climb, when Landa attacked I didn’t want to go full gas to follow him, because I didn’t know if I don’t get cramps after nearly 200km of racing. I think I did my best and at the end of the day I’m not disappointed. It’s cycling, this is what happens. Sometimes the break survives, sometimes it doesn’t. I think I put on good performance and I’m happy with that.

We will see what next days will bring. There are no stages which I marked for myself, because you may have a bad day on that day. We will take each stage at a time and see how the race is unfolding. If the situation is right, then I will try to attack again.

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