Giro d’Italia stage 19: Buitrago denies Gee, Roglič claws back a few seconds in grinding ‘queen stage’
The five-climb 'queen stage' across the heart of the Dolomites saved the best for last.
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Santiago Buitrago (Bahrain Victorious) won Friday’s “queen stage” across the heart of the Dolomites in the long, hard slog at the Giro d’Italia.
The Colombian reeled in the attacking Derek Gee (Israel-Premier Tech) with 1.5km to go to win a stage at the Giro for the second year in a row, with the Canadian kicking to his fourth second place of this Giro.
“Soloing to win on that epic mountain was emotional. ” Buitrago said. “I worked a lot to achieve it and the team as well. It was important to get it, especially because up to now, my Giro was a bit grey. Today I had good legs, and I think I played my cards well.
“We knew that the last three kilometers were very tough, and it was fundamental to manage energy. Then it was just about giving it all. And I did it.”
Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) countered a late-stage attack from Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) to surge clear with 400m to go, but Roglič countered in the closing meters to claw back three seconds and just missed third place bonus seconds.
Roglič remains in second, now a little closer at 26 seconds back, with João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) retaining third at 59 seconds back, but after giving another fistful of seconds. Eddie Dunbar (Jayco-AlUla) popped with about 2km to go to drop down to fifth.
“It was OK. When I went with 400m to go, I realized after 1oo meters that 400 meters was a long way at this altitude. Roglič came past me in the last meters, and I lost a couple of seconds at the line,” Thomas said. “It will be super-close tomorrow. I think it’s going to be exciting to watch, but horrible to do.”
With Saturday’s climbing time trial up next, the podium is still up for grabs, but Thomas will ride in the pole position for pink in what’s been a steady and controlled race across Italy.
Just as Giro organizers were hoping for, the pink jersey is still in play going into the final time trial.
Two races within one
As expected, the stage delivered two battles, one for the stage spoils at the front, and the major GC tussle among the favorites. For everyone else, it was a day to survive.
Larry Warbasse (Ag2r-Citroën) rode into the day’s main breakaway, and held on to challenge for the victory heading up the brutal steeps of Tre Cime.
Gee continued to deliver surprises, and jumped first out of the breakaway group. Buitrago patiently picked away in his wake as the two battled for the spoils.
The Colombian danced past the Canadian with 1.5km to go, and rode alone to win his second career Giro to with his 2022 victory.
At the front of the GC group, Ineos Grenadiers controlled the bunch despite its reduced numbers, with Ben Swift and Laurens De Plus taking huge pulls to bring the favorites within 10km of the finish over the day’s penultimate climb at Passo Tre Croce.
The GC group was reduced under the punishing gradients, with the likes of Jay Vine (UAE Team Emirates) getting gapped to leave Brandon McNulty as his last teammate. Rohan Dennis rode out of his skin for Jumbo-Visma as the GC favorites hit the steepest ramps.
Changement de vélo pour Primoz Roglic mais c’est prévu : le Slovène n’a pas les mêmes braquets sur cette deuxième monture, en prévision des forts pourcentages de la montée finale. #Giro pic.twitter.com/lswfh2vn79
— Le Gruppetto (@LeGruppetto) May 26, 2023
Roglič swapped bikes during the stage to ride with a single chain-ring mountain bike setup for the steepest ramps at the end of the stage.
Sepp Kuss led out Roglič, and sat on Thomas’ wheel as the pace continued to shrink the GC group. Almeida moved to the front when Roglič pounced with under 2km to go, and Thomas had to legs to respond.
Almeida was gapped when Thomas came over the top with about 400m to go. Roglič struggled to match the pace, and even ceded a few more seconds.
Ben Healy opens up cheeky attack, Ag2r car kicked out
The daunting five-climb profile of the “queen stage” across the heart of the Dolomites was perfect hunting ground for a breakaway.
Larry Warbasse (Ag2r-Citroën) and Derek Gee (Israel-Premier Tech) snuck into day’s main breakaway of a baker’s dozen. The presence of Santiago Buitrago (Bahrain Victorious), who started 17th overall at 12:02 back was an important factor in keeping the leash fairly tight on the breakaway.
Once the gap neared 10 minutes, Jayco-AlUla was forced to start to work to defend Eddie Dunbar fourth place overall. Otherwise, it was a GC detente all the way to the final climb as the breakaway riders would race for the spoils.
There were two incidents across the middle of the start.
Ag2r-Citroën saw one of its team cars ejected by the race after evidently provoking a fall involving Carlos Verona (Movistar) who was in the breakaway. The jury removed the car during the stage, meaning the French squad would have only one car during the second half of the stage that saw three of its riders in the break.
One Ag2r Citroën team car excluded from the stage of the Giro following the collision with Carlos Verona reports RAI. Dilemma for the team as three riders in the breakaway but the rest of the team behind
— the Inner Ring (@inrng) May 26, 2023
There was also some humor in the bunch when Ben Healy (EF Education-EasyPost) decided to attack early in the day’s first climb in an attempt to bridge out to the breakaway when it was already several minutes up the road.
That immediately drew out Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ), who was riding to protect his lead in the best climber’s category. Healy was caught, settled back into the bunch, and accelerated again, much to Pinot’s chagrin. He finally settled into the bunch for the long day in the saddle, with Rohan Dennis (Jumbo-Visma) enjoying the show.
Dennis is one of us, laughing his ass off after Healy’s attacks. #Giro pic.twitter.com/VUFQkJM9x0
— Mihai Simion (@faustocoppi60) May 26, 2023
The 2023 Giro continues Saturday with the 18.6km climbing individual time trial from Tarvisio to Monte Lussari. With the top of the leaderboard still knotted up, there’s still a lot on the line in the Giro’s penultimate stage.
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