Jan Hirt again showcased strength in the mountains, taking 5th place on one of the hardest stages of 100th Giro d’Italia. That’s the best result of CCC Sprandi Polkowice in 2017 edition of the race.
Info: Stage 18, May 25th, Moena – Ortisei/St.Ulrich, 137km
Course: mountain stage (Passo Pordoi – 11,8km, avg. 6,7%, cat.1, Passo Valparola – 12,9km, 6,5%, cat. 2, Passo Gardena – 9,3km, 7%, cat.2, Passo di Pinei Panidersattel – 4,2km, 8,4%, cat. 3, Pontives – 9,3km, 6,9%, cat. 1)
How it unfolded?
With Passo Pordoi just after the start, the opening kilometers were very hectic and fast. Multiple riders wanted to break clear and Natnael Berhane, Joey Rosskopf and Diego Rosa managed to crest the top in the front. Jan Hirt attacked on the climb, making the chasing group, which after descents bridged to the leaders.
17 riders – Jan Hirt alongside Diego Rosa (Team Sky), Philip Deignan (Team Sky), Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing Team), Joey Rosskopf (BMC Racing Team), Natnael Berhane (Dimension Data), Joe Dombrowski (Cannondale-Drapac), Ruben Plaza Molina (Orica-Scott), Davide Villella (Cannondale-Drapac), Omar Fraile Matarranza (Dimension Data), Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo), Dario Cataldo (Astana Pro Team), Andrey Amador Bikkazakova (Movistar Team), Mikel Landa Meana (Team Sky), Kanstantsin Siutsou (Bahrain-Merida), Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) and Alexander Foliforov (Gazprom – Rusvelo) – were all part of the breakaway and together extended their lead to 2:45.
Peloton was quickly reduced to around 30 riders, halfway through the stage. Also the leading group got shattered, but Hirt was not showing any signs of weakness and was one of the 6 riders, who entered the decisive part of the race in the front.
Breakaway’s advantage was brought down to under one minute on Passo Gardena. This is where Nairo Quintana (Movistar) tested his legs and motivated others to increase the speed.
The race eased up in the descent and next climb to Passo di Pinei was tackled quite calmly. In the downhill stretch Landa and Van Garderen broke clear from the escape, creating a gap. They kicked off final ascent together and managed to hold off the chasers.
Hirt showed his strength, dropping Villella, Dombrowski and Berhane on the climb. Czech continued his solo pursuit behind leading duo and with 1,5km was caught by Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) and Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2R), who counter attacked from the pink jersey group. They outsprinted Czech in the finale, but CCC Sprandi Polkowice rider could celebrate 5th place, the highest of CCC Sprandi Polkowice in 100th edition of Giro d’Italia. It was another top 10 performance for the “orange squad”, after yesterday’s 7th place claimed by Felix Grossschartner.
Van Garderen took the stage, ahead of Landa and Pinot. Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunbweb) retained his pink jersey and Hirt his 16th place overall.
We were not given too much of advantage today, but we didn’t look behind. We were just riding our own race. Breakaway was quite strong, so we believed that we can go all the way – Jan Hirt said afterwards. It’s a pity that I didn’t follow Landa and Van Garderen in the descent from Passo di Pinei. They were going very fast and Cannondale rider left a gap behind them. It was impossible to bridge it later and the duo went clear. Had I stayed with them then maybe I could have fought for something more than 5th place.
In the final climb I still had pretty good legs, but the gradients were not so steep and we had headwind, so it was difficult to chase alone. At the end of the day I’m happy with the result and the way I raced today.