Giro d’Italia stage 14: Breakaway rider Bruno Armirail handed pink jersey, Nico Denz doubles up
Geraint Thomas, Ineos Grenadiers passes off maglia rosa ahead of mountainous final phase of racing, Denz outsprints Gee for stage victory.
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Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) passed his pink jersey across to breakaway rider Bruno Armirail (Groupama FDJ) on stage 14 of the Giro d’Italia.
Armirail now takes a token 1:41 lead on the classification Saturday night, lifting the pressure off Ineos Grenadiers and taking media duties away from Thomas ahead of a tricky medium mountain stage Sunday and the Giro’s brutal third week in the high peaks.
Behind Armirail, the GC is unchanged, meaning Thomas, Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) and João Almeida (UAE Emirates) are separated by only 22 seconds in second to fourth places and front runners for final victory in Roma.
“I went in the break to try to win the stage, but for me it wasn’t really a great day. I didn’t expect the advantage over the group to rise so much,” Armirail said after what was the biggest day in his career so far.
Armirail started the day 23rd on GC and nearly 19 minutes back. He ended it as the first French maglia rosa since Laurent Jalabert in 1999.
“As the kilometers went by I started to think about it,” he continued. “It was only five kilometers from the finish that I realized that it could take the jersey. This really is a dream.”
Some 20 minutes ahead of Thomas and the GC group, Nico Denz (Bora-Hansgrohe) doubled up with a thrilling stage win out of the day’s escape.
The 29-year-old German led a committed chase of five across to three breakaway attackers before he nipped Canadian revelation Derek Gee (Israel-Premier Tech) and Alberto Bettiol (EF Education EasyPost) in the extra tight reduced sprint in Cassano Magnago.
“I felt super good today and I got the opportunity to go for the break, which I used,” Denz said after the stage.
“In the end, we almost closed it [the gap to the lead three] but when we stopped pushing, I thought it was all for nothing. I didn’t want fourth because I already won a stage, so I closed it. Bettiol launched and I jumped on his wheel then went full to the line and, again, it’s crazy.”
Denz doubles down for second win in 72 hours
The unusually shaped 14th stage out of Switzerland and back into Italy saw the peloton face a 20km slog to the top of the 2,000m Simplonpass in the first third of the course before a frantic 120km fully flat pursuit race to the final.
The shape of the parcours put courage into the breakaway chancers and a massive move went away over the rain-sodden Simplon.
Tweny-nine riders came together on the hulking Swiss Alp. Armirail, Denz, Gee, and Bettiol made a move that included a who’s who of attacking talent that included the likes of Warren Barguil (Arkéa Samsic), Alessandro De Marchi (Jayco-AlUla), Bauke Mollema (Trek Segafredo) and Simon Clarke (Israel-Premier Tech).
The GC teams of race-leaders Thomas, Primož Roglič and João Almeida stayed together in the bunch and gave the group almost seven minutes of a gap over the Simplon summit.
Once it got way, the breakaway rolled through well and worked out a huge dozen-minute gap.
The truce broke down some 65km from the line and Tom Skujins (Trek-Segafredo), Stefano Oldani (Alpecin Deceuninck), Laurenz Rex (Intermarché Circus Wanty), and Davide Ballerini (Soudal Quick Step) emerged out of a flurry of attacks.
Rex dropped early and the final three dug deep to make the finish ahead of the shattered breakaway groups.
Denz and Gee piled on at the front of a chasing five that dangled just 10-15 seconds back on the leaders through the technical final through the streets of Cassano Magnago.
The group bridged across to the leaders within the final kilometer, and Bettiol kicked first on the false-flat finish straight.
The Italian’s sprint ran out of steam before Denz made a piledriving surge and edged out Gee’s late charge to back up his stage 12 win.
Thomas plays pass the pink jersey
Way back down the road, Ineos Grenadiers kept the peloton on lockdown and let the attackers move 20 minutes clear as it eyed the opportunity to pass Thomas’ maglia over to Armirail.
Thomas came across the line sufficiently far back on the French attacker to put an end on his five days in pink.
Racing resumes Sunday with a tricky medium mountain stage through Il Lombardia territory. Armirail and Groupama-FDJ will be in the driving seat.
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