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After Landa had been asked to wait for his captain, Aru dropped his rivals on the final climb to win the penultimate stage of the Giro; Contador cracked on the Finestre but managed to defend his overall lead

Photo: Sirotti

ALBERTO CONTADOR

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ASTANA QAZAQSTAN TEAM

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GIRO D'ITALIA

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RIGOBERTO URAN

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RYDER HESJEDAL

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30.05.2015 @ 18:10 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Fabio Aru (Astana) confirmed his excellent comeback in the Giro d’Italia when he made it two in a row by winning the prestigious penultimate stage that included the famous Colle delle Finestre. After his teammate Mikel Landa had dropped everybody on the main climb and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), the Basque was asked to wait for his team leader before slotting into a domestique role to set Aru up for a late solo attack that gave him the win. Contador limited his losses sufficiently to defend his overall lead and now just needs to avoid bad luck tomorrow to win the race overall.

 

A few days ago Fabio Aru looked like a rider who was on the verge on a complete breakdown and found himself in a position where he was very likely to lose his spot on the Giro d’Italia podium. If anyone had suggested that he would go on to win the final two mountain stages of the race, no one would probably have believed them.

 

However, the Italian has made a remarkable comeback. Already yesterday he showed that he had managed to turn the situation completely around when he made a great solo attack on the final climb to Cervinia to win his second stage ever in his home grand tour. Today he did what most had thought impossible when he also added the prestigious penultimate stage that included the Colle delle Finestre, to his growing palmares.

 

However, the win came under controversial circumstances after his teammate Mikel Landa was clearly asked to wait for his team leader despite being in a position where he could potentially win the race overall. A big attack by the Basque on the Finestre had made Alberto Contador crack and the race leader suddenly found himself alone on the steep gravel roads.

 

Nonetheless, the team management decided to go for the stage win with Aru and so the Basque waited for his leader before starting to ride tempo in the small group that had formed. In the end, Aru launched an attack and after he had dropped Ryder Hesjedal (Cannondale) and Rigoberto Uran (Etixx-QuickStep), he rode away to another solo victory.

 

The drama started 5km from the top of the Finestre. At this point, Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha) was the lone survivor of an early 9-rider breakaway and he had an advantage of 1.20 ahead of a small group of favourites with Contador, Aru, Landa, Uran, Hesjedal, Tanel Kangert (Astana) and Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo). Kruijswijk and Hesjedal had been setting the pace when Landa suddenly launched his attack.

 

Contador tried to respond but he was unable to keep up with the Basque. Quickly Hesjedal and Kruijswijk made it back to him and later Uran , Kangert and Aru also got back to the fading race leader.

 

Contador was forced to do the work for a little while before Hesjedal made another move. This time the race leader was unable to respond and it was Kruijswijk who brought the group back together while Kangert was dropped.

 

Landa was already 50 seconds ahead of the Contador group as Kruijswijk started to ride tempo with Hesjedal. Kangert rejoined them before Hesjedal made another attack and this time Contador cracked completely.

 

Kruijswijk and Uran were quick to respond and later Aru also bridged the gap. Contador was even passed by Kangert and looked like being on the verge of a complete breakdown.

 

As they approached the summit, Hesjedal and Uran dropped Aru and Kruijswijk whle Contador was losing ground. Meanwhile, Landa caught Zakarin and they were now 1.10 ahead of Contador while Hesjedal and Uran were at 35 seconds.

 

Landa beat Zakarin in the KOM sprint before Hesjedal led Uran over the top 30 seconds later. Aru managed to latch onto the back just as they crested the top while Contador followed 1.27 behind the leaders.

 

Landa was frustrated that he didn’t get any help from Zakarin but he maintained the speed on the descent. Meanwhile, Kruijswijk rejoined the Aru group and those four riders worked well together but still lost time to Landa and Zakarin.

 

As they finished the descent, Landa again asked Zakarin to help and as the Russian refused, he decided to wait for the chasers. With 8km to go, the junction was made and Landa’s advantage over Contador had now dropped from 1.45 to just  45 seconds. Contador had caught Kangert who was just hanging on.

 

Landa slotted into a domestique role and started to ride tempo as they climbed the lower slopes of the final ascent. Contadir did well to limit his losses and with 5km to go, he had just been distanced by 1.10.

 

Zakarin was dropped from the front group and decided to wait for his team leader Yury Trofimov who was on a very bad day. Meanwhile, Aru and Landa briefly shared the pace-setting and this meant that Contador was 1.40 behind when they passed the 3km to go sign.

 

That was the signal for Aru to make his attack. Landa and Kruijswijk were dropped immediately and Hesjedal also cracked after a short while. However, Aru tried again and this time Uran also had to surrender.

 

From there, it was a solo ride all the way to the finish and he had plenty of time to celebrate his victory. Hesjedal passed Uran and finished the stage in second while Uran made the top 3 completely identical to the one we had yesterday. Landa took fourth while Kruijswijk had to settle for fifth.

 

Contador crossed the line with a time loss of 2.25 and so he defended his overall lead. However, he saw his advantage over Aru go down to just 2.02 but unless disaster happens in the final stage, he will win the race overall. As usual the final ride is completely flat and the stage ends with 7 laps of a flat and technical circuit in Milan where the sprinters are expected to battle for the victory.

 

A tough mountain stage

After two consecutive mountain stages, there was only one mountainous ride left in the 2015 Giro d’Italia. However, the penultimate stage was a very tough affair as it brought the riders over 199km from Saint Vincent to a summit finish in Sestriere. After a 150 completely flat kilometres, the riders got to the very difficult finale. First they went up the famous Colle dell Finestre whose 9% average gradient and gravel roads made it one of the toughest climbs of the race before they made a short, technical descent to the bottom of the final, rather easy 9.2km climb to the finish.

 

As it has been the case for most of the final week, it was a beautiful sunny day when the riders gathered for their final ride in the mountains at this year’s Giro d’Italia. As expected, they got the race off to a very fast start with lots of attacks and like in the previous two stages it took some time for the early break to be formed.

 

The break is formed

The first promising move was launched at the 15km mark when Aleksejs Saramotins (IAM) and Giacomo Berlato (Nippo) took off. They fought hard to stay clear while the peloton split under the fast pace. After 25km of fast racing, they were brought back and a regrouping took place.

 

The attacking continued until the break was finally established at the 32km mark when Julien Berard (Ag2r), Marco Bandiera (Androni), Nicola Boem (Bardiani), Saramotins, Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida), Ion Izagirre (Movistar), Berlato, Matteo Busato (Southeast) and Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha) escaped. 2km later they had an advantage of 32 seconds and as the peloton slowed down it went out to 1.40 at the 38km mark.

 

Tinkoff-Saxo take control

When the gap reached 2 minutes, Cannondale-Garmin took control and kept it around that mark for a while. At the 50km mark, Tinkoff-Saxo took over and they allowed the gap to hover around the 2-minute mark for a long time. After 87km of racing, it was 1.40.

 

Boem beat Bandiera and Izagirre in the first intermediate sprint while Tinkoff-Saxo got some assistance from LottoNL-Jumbo in the peloton. For a long time, Christopher Juul, Manuele Boaro and Martijn Keizer shared the pace-setting to keep the gap stable at around 1.45 for most of the day.

 

A fight for position

The escapees worked very well together but they had no chance against Tinkoff-Saxo and LottoNL-Jumbo who kept them firmly under control. With 47km to go, Boem beat Bandiera and Zakarin in the final intermediate sprint.

 

Now they were losing time quickly as the fight for position had started. Tinkoff-Saxo, FDJ and LottoNL-Jumbo were lined out on the front with Boaro, Jussi Veikkanen and Rick Flens before Kevin Reza took control for FDJ. Later Anthony Roux took over but as soon as they hit the climb, it was Sergio Paulinho who set the pace.

 

The break splits up

The gap was now only 45 seconds and this prompted Berlato to make an immediate attack. Boem and Bandiera dropped back to the peloton immediately while the young Italian pressed on.

 

Zakarin, Izagirre, Berard and Ulissi were the nearest chasers but the latter two were quickly distanced. Meanwhile Manuel Bongiorno (Bardiani) attacked and he quickly passed most of the fading escapees.

 

Pirazzi attacks

Ivan Basso was now setting a fast pace in the peloton which had been blown to pieces. With 43km to go, Astana took over and it was Paolo Tiralongo who sent more riders out the back door.

 

Zakarin dropped Izagirre who was caught by the peloton like the rest of the attackers except Berlato. That was the signal for Stefano Pirazzi (Bardiani) to attack and he got an immediate gap.

 

Visconti is dropped

Zakarin passed Berlato who fell back to the peloton while Luis Leon Sanchez took over the pace-setting for Astana. The Russian was the fastest though and with 40km to go he has extended his advantage to 1.45 while Pirazzi was 45 seconds behind.

 

Tiralongo again took over the pace-setting while Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) was dropped from the peloton. Astana still had strength in numbers but they were unable to get any closer to Zakarin.

 

Kangert attacks

With 37km to go, Kangert launched the first attack. Kruijswijk and Contador were the first to respond and later Hesjedal, Uran, Aru, Landa and Benat Intxausti (Movistar) also made it back. Kangert started to ride tempo on the front but he could prevent Atapuma, Caruso, Amador, Rosa, Geniez, de la Cruz, Trofimov, Geniez, Pellizotti, Nieve and Monfort from rejoining them.

 

Kangert tried again but Kruijswijk was quicl to respond. Contador, Landa and Hesjedal rejoined the pair which had now caught Pirazzi. Finally, Uran, Aru and Intxausti also made it back while Atapuma, Caruso, König, Cataldo, Amador, Pellizotti, Rosa and Trofimov formed the next chase group.

 

Lots of attacks

Hesjedal attacked but Contador quickly shut it down and so Hesjedal started to ride tempo. Later Pirazzi gave it a go but the Canadian quickly brought it back.

 

Trofimov and Rosa had been distanced from the Amador group which were already 25 seconds behind the main group which was led by Kruijswijk and Hesjedal. When the latter tried again, Pirazzi was dropped.

 

Kruijswijk also gave it a go before he again started to work with Hesjedal. Meanwhile, Intxausti was dropped and he fell back to assist his team leader Amador whose group had grown as Geniez and Nieve had made it back. However, it was Atapuma doing all the work. Moments later, Landa made his attack and so started the exciting inale.

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