Giro d’Italia stage 15: Brandon McNulty dazzles in Il Lombardia territory with first grand tour victory
Arizonan star wins three-up breakaway sprint, Armirail loses time in flurry of GC attacks but retains pink jersey ahead of rest day.
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Brandon McNulty (UAE Emirates) outkicked breakaway rivals Ben Healy (EF Education-EasyPost) and Marco Frigo (Israel Premier Tech) to score a sizzling first grand tour victory Sunday in stage 15 of the Giro d’Italia.
There was a flurry of GC action through the final kilometers of Sunday’s Il Lombardia-style stage after João Almeida (UAE Emirates) and Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) surged up the steep cobblestone climb into the Bergamo final.
Pink jersey Bruno Armirail (Groupama-FDJ) lost 35 seconds in the accelerations but did enough to retain his pink jersey heading into Monday’s rest day.
The rest of the top-six in the classification finished in each others’ wheels, while a few GC fringe players lost two seconds in the late town-center skirmish.
The stage win makes for victory well-earned for McNulty. The 25-year-old has been let off the leash by UAE Emirates several times already in this Giro but couldn’t make his aggression pay off.
“This is indescribable. It was my goal coming here [to win a stage], but I got sick in the TT and I didn’t really know what was going to happen,” McNulty said at the finish. “Today it came together. I am so happy.”
McNulty played it cool for his big win Sunday.
He marked the moves on the final categorized climb of the stage and held his nerve when he was gapped by one of Healy’s haymaker attacks.
“On the last climb, Ben [Healy] attacked and I thought my race was done, Ben was so strong,” McNulty said. ” But I clawed back and rested. In the end, it came down to that last kick and this sprint.”
McNulty, Healy, and Frigo came together for the final kick to the line, and the U.S racer made his move right on time to deliver one of the biggest results of his career to date.
“I knew Frigo was coming, I caught the draft, and at 150m, I just went for it,” he said.
McNulty adds his stage 15 victory to wins at Paris-Nice and the Faun Ardèche Classic. He’s currently not slated to race alongside Tadej Pogačar at the Tour de France, but he showed Sunday he’s sure got the legs to do it.
Another day for the break while the GC contenders wait
Sunday’s 15th stage took the weary bunch through the jagged hills and technical descents of Il Lombardia country. The stage stacked four categorized climbs into a threatening parcours loaded with nearly 4,000m ascent.
All eyes were on the breakaway to have their day, and that’s how it happened.
A stage with a Classic soul.
Will @BrunoArmirail manage to retain the Maglia Rosa?
Una tappa con un’anima da Classica.
Riuscirà @BrunoArmirail a difendere la Maglia Rosa?
🟠 @NamedSport #Giro #GirodItalia pic.twitter.com/dVArdH70YT
— Giro d’Italia (@giroditalia) May 21, 2023
Healy, McNulty, Frigo, and attacker aces Einer Rubio (Movistar) and Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) were among the 17 riders that went away in the first 10km.
Back in the bunch, Ineos Grenadiers and Jumbo-Visma were happy to let Groupama-FDJ do almost all the pulling while it took care of the maglia, and Armirail’s team gave the escape group plenty of room to move.
Healy, McNulty, Frigo and the remnants of the day’s break dropped into the valley ahead of the kingmaker final climb of the Roncola Alto with more than five minutes over the peloton and 75km of racing remaining.
The mix of rouleurs, sprinters, and climbers in the breakaway saw riders try to go away ahead of the 17-percent ramps at the base of the final Roncola Alta.
Mollema had a go but was countered, and Niccolò Bonifazio (Intermarché) was next to try to get a gap.
Healy throws a haymaker, McNulty and Frigo come back swinging
Like expected, it was the uneven ramps of the Roncola that made the winning selection.
Frigo attacked early, and Healy and McNulty bridged across in the gnarly mid-section of the climb.
Healy launched a watt-bomb around 4km from the summit, and it looked like the Irishman was set to repeat his solo feats of last weekend’s seventh stage.
But McNulty stayed cool and descended back to Healy’s wheel on the sinuous descent and the two dropped into the most-flat 15km run toward Bergamo with 20 seconds over the hard-chasing Frigo.
Frigo made the TT of his life and latched back to McNulty and Healy with just 10km to go.
Each of the three attacked on the run toward the cobbled Bergamo ramp but couldn’t shake their rivals. Healy launched a huge attack over the Italian berg but McNulty was like a limpet on the wheel.
Frigo looked like he was dropped, but made the catch in the final 800m.
The Italian launched his sprint from the back of the group, but faded with the line in sight. McNulty marked Healy’s counter-acceleration and came out of the Irishman’s wheel 50m out to score his first grand tour victory.
Skirmish in the GC group
Almeida and Roglič kicked to the front of the GC group on the short cobblestone climb into Bergamo, and Lennard Kamna (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) went backward.
Thomas piled on in the twisting run toward the line and Hugh Carthy (EF Education EasyPost) also lost the wheels.
However, Pinot and Kämna dug deep in a small group of GC chasers and came to the line just meters behind the rest of the favorites to reduce their loss to only two seconds.
Armirail was also dropped but did enough to retain pink through the rest day Monday.
Whether the Frenchmn keeps the maglia rosa through the highest Alps of week three will be another matter.
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