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After several punctures destroyed things for the sprint teams, Keisse and Durbridge held off the peloton in the final stage of the Giro d’Italia, with the Belgian taking a surprise win; Contador took his second Giro victory

Photo: © Etixx - Quick-Step / Tim de Waele














31.05.2015 @ 17:39 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Iljo Keisse (Etixx-QuickStep) created a major surprise when he won the final stage of the Giro d’Italia by making it into a two-rider breakaway that did what everybody thought impossible as they held off the charging peloton in Milan. Having refused to take a turn in the final 2km, he easily beat Luke Durbridge (Orica-GreenEDGE) in the sprint while Roger Kluge (IAM) was fastest from the peloton 9 seconds later. Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) stayed safe in a very hectic finale and so secured his second official Giro d’Italia victory.


If the final stage of a grand tour is a road stage, it is always an affair for the sprinters. In fact, the fast riders haven’t been denied the chance to sprint for the win in such a stage for more than 20 years and no one expected that to change today when the 2015 edition of the Giro d’Italia ended with a completely flat stage from Turin to Milan.


However, an already memorable edition of the Italian grand tour will now make its way into the history of cycling as the one that broke the trend. After a hectic finale marked by punctures, Iljo Keisse and Luke Durbridge made the big surprise when they held off the peloton and even had time to play the game of cat and mouse before Keisse beat his companion in the sprint.


The drama started when the riders hit the technical 5.4km finishing circuit that would be covered 7 times. Until that point, it had been the usual relaxed affair that had allowed Alberto Contador to celebrate his overall victory.


After one lap during which Tinkoff-Saxo had set the pace with Michael Rogers, Ivan Basso, Sergio Paulinho and Roman Kreuziger, the action started just after the second passage of the finish line. Here Keisse launched the first attack and he was quickly joined by Durbridge.


The two rouleurs quickly got an advantage of 30 seconds while Tinkoff-Saxo set the pace and at the end of the second lap, the sprint teams still hadn’t reacted. That changed when Manuele Mori hit the front for Lampre-Merida and later Sky took control with Vasil Kiryienka and Salvatore Puccio.


Keisse led Durbridge across the line to win the final intermediate sprint while Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek) was the only sprinter to show interests in the points as he crossed the line ahead of his teammates Marco Coledan and Fabio Felline. Sky and Lampre-Merida went back to work with Mori, Puccio and Kiryienka and everything seemed to be under control.


That all changed when Luka Mezgec (Giant-Alpecin) and Leopold König were two of more than a dozen riders to suffer punctures. Most of the Sky team stopped to wait for their GC rider and as Lampre-Merida also disappeared from the front, it was suddenly Rogers and Christopher Juuel setting the pace for Tinkoff-Saxo.


With 11km to go, the gap had gone out to 55 seconds but it was only Mori who took one final turn before Tinkoff-Saxo again took over. Finally, Trek took control with Fabio Felline but as Nizzolo could secure himself the red jersey by having the breakaway take away maximum points, he quickly disappeared.


Katusha and Maarten Tjallingii (LottoNL-Jumbo) did a bit of work before Sylvain Chavanel (IAM) took aa huge turn with 7km to go. However, he only got a bit of help from Marco Frapporti (Androni) and so the gap was still 34 seconds as they started the final lap.


Lampre-Merida and Katusha decided to sacrifice Roberto Ferrari and Luca Paolini before Felline took one final turn. When he swung off, the peloton suddenly slowed completely down and as the gap was still 38 seconds with 3km to go, things were looking good for the escapees.


Patrick Gretsch (Ag2r) even launched a small attack before Giant-Alpecin hit the front. Chad Haga, Tobias Ludvigsson and Simon Geschke took some huge turns before Bart De Backer took over. However, the gao was still 25 seconds with 2km to go.


Keisse now made a big gamble as he refused to come through for another turn and this forced a frustrated Durbridge to ride on the front. Even though it ended up like a track sprint match, it was clear that they would be fighting for the win when they entered the finishing straight.


Finally, Durbridge did a long sprint but unsurprisingly Keisse was clearly the fastest. The Belgian easily passed the Australian to take the biggest win of his career.


A little further back, Trek were doing the full lead-out for Nizzolo with Coledan and Boy van Poppel both taking turns but in the end it was Roger Kluge (IAM) who took the sprint for third. Nizzolo finished fifth in the stage and that was enough to take the win in the points competition.


Alberto Contador stayed safe in the hectic finale and so he took the overall victory with an advantage of 1.53 over Fabio Aru. Mikel Landa finished third to make it two Astana riders on the podium. Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) won the mountains jersey, Aru was the best young rider and Astana took a hugely dominant victory in the teams classification.


A ceremonial stage

After three tough stages in the mountains, the battle for the GC was over and the final stage was the usual largely ceremonial affair. The 178km course brought the riders over completely flat roads from Turin to Milan where they ended the race by doing 7 laps of a flat, technical 5.4km circuit where the sprinters were expected to shine.


There were no non-starters when the riders gathered in Turin for the start under a beautiful sunny sky and in hot conditions. As usual, it was a relaxed and festive start to the race as the riders took the ooportunity to celebrate the fact that they had survived three weeks of hard racing.


Contador celebrates

Alberto Contador and his teammates celebrated the win with a bit of prosecco while they rolled out of Turin and headed towards Milan. Nonetheless, they held a decent 37km/h average speed in the first hour.


Tinkoff-Saxo decided to up the pace to make sure that they would get to Milan within a reasonable time frame and it was left to Rogers, Kreuziger and Basso to do the early work. The atmosphere was still very relaxed though and the riders had plenty of time to catch up with each other.


Gilbert attacks

As they approached the first intermediate sprint with 91km to go, BMC made a surprise attack when Marcu Burghardt, Silvan Dillier and Philippe Gilbert took off. Only Maximilano Richeze (Lampre-Merida) was quick to react and join the BMC trip.


They maintained a fast speed all the way to the sprint and even though Trek briefly tried to bridge the gap, Gilbert managed to cross the line first, followed by Richeze, Burghardt and Dillier. Sacha Modolo (Lampre-Merida) was the only sprinter to show any interest in 5th place points as he moved ahead to cross the line in front of the Tinkoff-Saxo riders.


Ag2r tries a move

The four attackers waited for the peloton before Patrick Gretsch and Axel Domont made a surprise attack for Ag2r. Lampre-Merida reacted quickly and brought them back and a hugely frustrated Kreuziger asked the two attackers to stay calm until they got to Milan.


That dampened the attacking spirit and from there it was a ceremonial ride all the way to the city. Basso, Kreuziger and Rogers set the pace while the teams gradually started to gather themselves further back. As they entered the urban area, the pace was significantly faster and the three Tinkoff-Saxo riders were allowed to ride on the front for the first lap before Keisse and Durbridge launched the winning move.



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