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Completing an excellent performance by the Lotto Soudal team, Greipel was in a class of his own in the bunch sprint on stage 12 of the Giro d’Italia; Ewan and Nizzolo were best of the rest while Jungels retained the lead

Photo: ANSA - PERI / DI MEO / ZENNARO

ANDRÉ GREIPEL

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BOB JUNGELS

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DECEUNINCK - QUICK-STEP

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GIACOMO NIZZOLO

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GIRO D'ITALIA

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LOTTO SOUDAL

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19.05.2016 @ 18:40 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

André Greipel (Lotto Soudal) underlined that he is clearly the fastest rider in the Giro d’Italia as he was in a class of his own in the bunch sprint on stage 12 of the Italian race. After his team had controlled the finale completely, he easily held Caleb Ewan (Orica-GreenEDGE) and Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek) off to make it three wins in the 2016 edition of the event. Bob Jungels (Etixx-QuickStep) finished safely to retain the lead on the eve of the mountain stages.

 

With two stage wins in his pocket, André Greipel was the overwhelming favourite to win stage 12 of the Giro d’Italia as the flat course meant that it was regarded as the queen stage for the sprinters. However, a very tricky and technical finishing circuit combined with potential rain meant that many were doubtful whether the German and his Lotto Soudal team would manage to battle it out with the better trains.

 

However, Lotto Soudal proved all their critics wrong as they delivered a marvelous performance on the technical 8km circuit by riding on the front from the moment they hit it with 21km to go and all the way to the finish. Everybody knew that it was important to be one of the first riders through the final turn with 300m to go and it was Jurgen Roelandts who safely guided his German teammate through the bend in second position.

 

With such a dominant display by the Belgians, the outcome was never in doubt and as soon as he had exited the corner as the first sprinter, Greipel was always going to win. Unleashing his powerful sprint, he had no rivals and easily completed the hat-trick in the final stage he will do in Italy before he heads home to focus on the Tour de France and the Worlds.

 

Lotto Soudal had led the chase all day and everything was back together when Pim Ligthart led his Lotto Soudal teammates and the rest of the peloton onto the circuit. At this point, the fear of rain had prompted the organizers to take the times at the penultimate passage of the line, meaning that the GC riders could sit up for the final lap of the 8km circuit. However, everything stayed dry.

 

Jose Joaquin Rojas took a huge turn for Movistar but Lotto Soudal were back in control with Lars Bak as they passed the 20km to go mark. The Dane traded pulls with Tim Wellens while Murilo Fischer (FDJ) suffered a very untimely puncture.

 

Bak led the peloton across the line for the first time while Filippo Pozzato (Wilier) became the next lead-out ride to suffer a puncture. That didn’t slow the Lotto train down as Wellens and Bak kept riding on the front while the other sprinters fought for the best positions.

 

Lotto remained in control during the first lap, with Bak and Wellens doing a massive job for Greipel and it was the Belgian who led the peloton across the line to start the final lap. Due to the neutralization, things became less stressful and lots of riders sat up.

 

Matej Mohoric briefly hit the front for Lampre-Merida but quickly dropped back to teammates Roberto Ferrari and Sacha Modolo who were in a great position just behind the Lotto train.

 

With 4km to go, Wellens swung off, leaving it to Bak to set the pace. IAM split the Lotto train and this forced Roelandts to make a move to bring De Bie and Greipel back to the front.

 

Hansen took a massive turn while a crash further back left just around 30 riders to battle it out for the win. While the Australian set the pace, everybody was fighting for Greipel’s wheel and it was Caleb Ewan who won the battle.

 

Matej Mohoric briefly hit the front for Lampre-Merida but as he had lost teammates Roberto Ferrari and Sacha Modolo, he quickly disappeared. Hence, Sean De Bie took over for Lotto Soudal, leading Roelandts and Greipel under the flamme rouge.

 

De Bie rode so fast that no one could come around and so Roelandts could hit out when Ferrari and Modolo tried to pass on the inside. The Belgian won the battle and so Roelandts and Greipel were first through the turn, with Ewan on their wheel.

 

Ferrari created a small gap that Modolo and Giacomo Nizzolo had to bridge and so they had no chance as Greipel launched his sprint as soon as they hit the finishing straight. He did well to box Ewan in and so the Australian could not even try to come around, rolling across the line in second. Nizzolo finished fast but had to settle for third.

 

Jungels sat up and rolled safely to the finish, retaining his 24-second advantage over Andrey Amador (Movistar). He faces a much sterner test in stage 13 which is the next big mountain stage in the race. The riders will cover two category 1 and two category 2 climbs during a hard day and they are all pretty steep. The final two climbs follow in quick succession in the second half, with the summit of the final category 2 ascent coming 13.9km from the finish. From there, it is a downhill run to a short flat section that leads to the finish.

 

A flat stage

After yesterday’s lumpy stage, the riders faced the flattest stage of the entire race as stage 12 brought them over the Po Valley from Noale to Bibione. The 182km course was completely flat and didn’t include any kind of climbing. However, the stage finished with two laps of a very tricky and technical 8km finishing circuit that had a crucial turn just 300m from the line.

 

The rain poured down as the riders showed up for the start. Unfortunately, Astana was reduced to eight riders a Valerio Agnoli broke his wrist yesterday, and thus there were only 181 riders in the bunch that started to travel towards Bibione.

 

Oss attacks

Surprisingly, it was a very fast start with many attacks, but after only four kilometers, Daniel Oss (BMC) and Matteo Trentin (Team Quick Step) got away. They got an advantage of a few hundred meters, but the latter quickly chose to wait for the peloton. However, Oss continued his effort and worked hard to increase his gap, and while the rain stopped, he managed to create an advantage of 26 seconds after 14km of racing.

 

Mirco Maestri (Bardiani) set off in pursuit of Oss, but it did not calm the peloton down. When Oss was 1.09 ahead of the bunch, Alexander Kolobnev (Gazprom) also took off. From there, the peloton slowed down.

 

Two riders make up the break

When the gap had grown to 2.42, Maestri was still 37 seconds behind Oss while Kolobnev was at 1.28. Oss decided to wait for Maestri, but they did not allow Kolobnev to join them. The Russian quickly found himself 2.25 behind the front duo while the peloton was 1.50 further adrift, and after 39km of racing the Russian decided to sit up.

 

The peloton immediately began to chase and reduced the gap from 4.15 to 2.30 after the first hour which was completed at an average speed of 43.3km/h. Gazprom-Rusvelo, Lampre-Merida and Lotto Soudal were doing the early work as Artem Ovechkin, Przemyslaw Niemiec, Pim Ligthart and another Gazprom-Rusvelo rider spent a lot of time riding on the front in the rainy conditions. They quickly brought the gap down to 2 minutes and then stabilized the situation.

 

A stable situation

The wet conditions made things harder but there was not much stress in the peloton which had no trouble controlling the front duo. Many were busy riding back and forth to get dry clothes while the hard workers kept the gap between 1.30 and 2.00.

 

Entering the final 100km, the gap was 1.45 and even though there was no danger, Lampre-Merida added more firepower to the chase as Simone Petilli also started to take turns. Nonetheless, they eased off a bit and allowed the gap to go out to 2.30 as they approached the first intermediate sprint.

 

Nizzolo wins the sprint

There was no battle for the points in the breakaway as Oss rolled across the line in first position but things were different in the peloton. Maarten Tjallingii (LottoNL-Jumbo) launched a surprise attack but the FDJ train reeled him in. They did the lead-out for Arnaud Demare but the Frenchman could only manage third as he was beaten by Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek) who launched a long sprint, and Matteo Trentin (Etixx-QuickStep).

 

Petilli, Niemiec, Lighthart, Ovechkin and the second Gazprom rider went back to work and reduced the gap to 2.00 as they got to the feed zone. Here Primoz Roglic (LottoNL) and another rider hit the deck but they were both back on their bikes quickly.

 

A game of cat and mouse

Passing through the feed zone, the gap went out to 2.40 but as soon as the peloton got going again, it melted away. Entering the final 65km, it was already down to 1.25 and this forced the peloton to slow down as they didn’t want to catch the break too early. Hence, it quickly went out to 2.20.

 

Petilli and the second Gazprom rider ended their work when Niemiec, Ligthart and Ovechkin upped the pace. The game of cat and mouse continued as the peloton quickly reduced the gap to 1.15 as they headed to the final intermediate sprint with 50km to go.

 

More points for Nizzolo

Oss led Maestri across the line in the sprint before FDJ again did a full lead-out for Demare. Like in the first sprint, Nizzolo was clearly the fastest though and again Demare had to settle for fifth as he was also passed by Trentin.

 

The sprinting action had reduced the gap to just 35 seconds but nonetheless Niemiec, Ligthart and Ovechkin went back to work immediately. The Russian soon disappeared though and while the gap was kept stable at 40 seconds, the fight for position slowly started.

 

A huge fight for position

Entering the final 40km, the escapees tried to surprise the peloton by going full gas but there was no chance that they were going to catch the peloton off-guard. As Niemiec disappeared from the front, it was now a huge fight for position with Ligthart leading Lotto Soudal next to the Etixx and Movistar riders.

 

Oss and Maestri did their best to maintain their gap but they were only 25 seconds ahead as they entered the final 30km. Movistar, Etixx-QuickStep and Lotto Soudal were still dominating the front positions and it was even GC rider Maxime Monfort who rode in the wind to keep Greipel in position.

 

The break is caught

Movistar, Etixx-QuickStep, Astana, Cannondale, Lotto Soudal and Tinkoff all sprinted in the front row of the peloton as the crosswind made the riders nervous and as everybody wanted to hit the finishing circuit in the front positions. Ramunas Navardauskas, Monfort, Jay McCarthy, Andrey Zeits and Jasha Sütterlin were all featuring prominently on the front.

 

The fast pace meant that there was no chance for the escapees who were brought back with 23km to go.  Moments later, Lighthart led the peloton onto the circuit to start a Lotto Soudal dominance.

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