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Having moved to the front to work for Haussler, Kluge got a small gap in the final turn and then powered to the line to win stage 17 of the Giro d’Italia; Nizzolo was second (again!) while Kruijswijk retained the lead

Photo: ANSA - PERI / DI MEO / ZENNARO

GIACOMO NIZZOLO

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GIRO D'ITALIA

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IAM CYCLING

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NIKIAS ARNDT

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ROGER KLUGE

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STEVEN KRUIJSWIJK

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TEAM JUMBO-VISMA

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25.05.2016 @ 17:30 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Two days after the devastating news of the team’s demise, Roger Kluge salvaged the Giro d’Italia for IAM by taking a hugely surprising win on stage 17 of the Giro d’Italia. Having moved to the front to lead Heinrich Haussler out, the German got an unintended gap in the final turn and having taken a short look back, he went full gas to the finish, narrowly holding off Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek) and Nikias Arndt (Giant-Alpecin) who were the best in the bunch sprint. Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) finished safely and so retained the lead.

 

On the rest day, the riders and staff at IAM got the terrible news that the team will fold at the end of the season. In the evening, manager Rik Verbrugghe gathered his riders and they agreed that they had to show themselves in the final week to try to save their careers.

 

With no GC rider, they had little hope in yesterday’s tough mountain stage but they eyed an outside chance in today’s sprint stage where they had Heinrich Haussler as a winning candidate. And things came together for the Swiss team as they took a surprise win in Cassano d’Adda.

 

However, the winner was not the team captain and instead it was lead-out man Roger Kluge who delivered the shock. The German was the final lead-out man for Haussler and moved to the front just before the final turn with 600m to go at a point when Filippo Pozzato (Wilier) had launched a late move. As Pozzato’s teammate Manuel Belletti hit the brake while riding in second position, Kluge suddenly got a gap and after looking behind, he decided to go full gas. He powered past the fading Pozzato and as the sprint teams had burnt out their lead-outs to bring back a strong sextet, the German managed to hold off the sprinters to take the biggest win of his career.

 

The race really came to life after the final intermediate sprint with 32km to go. Until that point, it had been a steady affair, with Trek, Lampre-Merida and Dimension Data keeping a trio of Daniel Oss (BMC), Eugert Zhupa (Wilier) and Pavel Brutt (Tinkoff) firmly under control. They were just one minute ahead and things were under control.

 

However, Lars Bak (Lotto Soudal), Maxim Belkov (Katusha) and Ignatas Konovalovas (FDJ) attacked immediately after the sprint and quickly got a 15-second advantage. That forced the sprint teams to react and it was Laurent Didier, Riccardo Zoidl, Jack Bobridge (Trek), Manuele Mori, Valerio Conti (Lampre-Merida), Johann van Zyl (Dimension Data) and Alessandro Bisolti (Nippo) who started to chase.

 

With 25km to go, the gap were 30 and 45 seconds respectively and the junction between the two front trios was made just 2km later. However, the peloton was just 15 seconds behind.

 

Entering the final 20km, the gap had gone out to 20 seconds as the sprint teams were now blowing up. Only Bobridge, van Zyl and Igor Anton (Dimenion Data) were working on the front and so the bunch continued to lose ground.

 

With 15km to go, the gap had gone out to 30 seconds and this forced IAM to join forces with Trek and Dimension Data as Vegard Stake Laengen hit the front. As van Zyl, Anton and Bobridge swung off, Jay Thomson (Dimension Data) and Conti came to the fore to work with the Norwegian.

 

Trek had to dig into their lead-out reserves when Eugenio Alafaci started to pull on the front. He quickly swung off though and instead Pieter Serry and Carlos Verona started to work for Etixx-QuickStep.

 

With 10km to go, Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) took a final turn but when he swung off, there was no one to take over. LottoNL-Jumbo hit the front with Maarten Tjallingii but that only served to keep Steven Kruijswijk safe. At this point, the gap was only 15 seconds.

 

Tjallingii stayed on the front until Jose Joaquin Rojas took over for Movistar with 7km to go with Jose Joaquin Rojas and Jasha Sütterlin. However, the pace went down when he swung off as it was only a matter of positioning for Movistar, Giant-Alpecin and LottoNL-Jumbo on the front.

 

With 5km to go, Conti took one final turn for Lampre-Merida before Matej Mohoric took over for the Italians 14 seconds behind the leaders. The Slovenian halved the gap before he swung off and left it to Alafaci to set the pace.

 

With 3km to go, the gap was only 5 seconds and it was Bak who launched an attack to keep the break alive. That gave the break new momentum but when Roberto Ferrari hit the front for Lampre-Merida, the break was brought back with just 1.5km to go.

 

However, Bak refused to give up and attacked as soon as the junction was made. As Ferrari had swung off, he got a small gap and was joined by Pozzato who made a trademark late attack.

 

The pair passed the flamme rouge with a small advantage while Katusha started to chase with Viacheslav Kuznetsov. Bak sat up and was brought back, leaving just Pozzato to press on.

 

That’s when Kluge came to the fore just before the final turn with 600m to go and as Belletti opened a gap, he saw his chance. He powered past Pozzato and as there was no lead-out left, the peloton came to a standstill. This forced Alexander Porsev to launch a long sprint but it was too late. Kluge had time to celebrate the win before Nizzolo narrowly came around Nikias Arndt to take another second place.

 

Steven Kruijswijk finished safely in the bunch and so kept his 3-minutes advantage over Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEDGE). He will have a much harder stage in tomorrow’s mammoth 240km stage 18. It is an almost completely flat course but it has a nasty sting in its tail on the 28.2km finishing circuit. The category 2 climb of Pramartino averages 10.5% over 4.65km and summits just 19.5km from the finish. After the descent, it’s a flat run to the finish but there’s a short 500m wall with a gradient of 13.2 just 2km from the line.

 

One for the sprinters

After yesterday’s hard mountain stage, the terrain was significantly flatter on stage 17 which brought the riders over 196km from Molveno to Cassano d’Adda. After a rolling start, there was a category 4 climb at the midpoint but as the second half was a flat run along the Po valley, a bunch sprint was the expected outcome.

 

Despite speculation in the Italian press about Vincenzo Nibali’s desire to continue in the race, almost every rider was present when they gathered for the start under a sunny sky. Only Luka Mezgec (Orica-GreenEdge) who has been riding with a broken wrist for a week, stayed at the hotel.

 

Three riders get clear

Stages in the third week can often be difficult to control, and therefore the sprint teams ready to battle right from the start. However, they got a pleasant surprise as Eugert Zhupa (Wilier), Daniel Oss (BMC) and Pavel Brutt (Tinkoff) were allowed to get clear immediately from the start and after 5 km of racing, they had a gap of 1:12. It quickly went out to 4.12, and the slow pace meant that Nicola Boem (Bardiani) easily rejoined to the peloton after a puncture.

 

After 28 km of racing, the gap had gone out to5.12, and not surprisingly it was Trek and Lampre-Merida who took control. The work was quickly left to the Italians though and they allowed the gap to grow to six minute before they stabilized the situation. Nevertheless, the pace was fast as they covered 44km during the first hour.

 

Three teams lead the chase

After 62km of racing, the gap started to come down and it again dropped to less than 5 minutes. Trek again came to the fore to lend Lampre-Merida a hand and Dimension Data also decided to do some work. Simone Petilli, Valerio Conti, Ilya Koshevoy (Lamoe-Merida), Laurent Didier, Riccardo Zoidl (Trek) and Songezo Jim (Dimension Data) shared the pace-setting but there was no stress in the peloton. In fact, Alessandro Bisolti (Nippo-Vini Fantini) even had time to stop to get celebrated by his home public in his home town.

 

Entering the feed zone with 100km, the gap was still 4 minutes and it was allowed to grow by 15 seconds while the peloton took time to refuel. Meanwhile, the front group tackled the only categorized climb and it was Oss who was allowed to lead Zhupa and Brutt across the line in the KOM sprint.

 

Important points for Nizzolo

The relaxed ride in the sunshine continued until the riders got to the first intermediate sprint with 75km to go. Oss sprinted for the points and none of his rivals tried to challenge him, with Zhupa taking second and Brutt third. In the peloton, Matej Mohoric tried to do a lead-out for Diego Ulissi but the Lampre-Merida were easily passed by the Trek train of Eugenio Alafaci and Nizzolo and Matteo Trentin (Etixx-QuickStep). Ulissi tried to surprise them by doing a long sprint but Nizzolo was clearly the fastest, holding off Trentin and Ulissi to pick up fourth place points.

 

Conti, Petilli, Didier, Zoidl and Jim went back to work (Koshevoy took a breather) and led the peloton into the final 70km with a delay of 3.45. At this point, Nippo-Vini Fantini also came to the fore with Genki Yamamoto, Alessandro Bisolti and Gianfranco Zilioli and apparently that had a big effect as the gap had dropped to 2.35 ten kilometres later

 

More points for Nizzolo

Entering the final 50km, the gap was only 2 minutes but it was too early to catch the break. Hence, the peloton slowed down and kept the gap stable for several kilometres.

 

The peloton upped the pace when they entered the final 40km and during the next 8km, they reduced the gap to a minute. Here Zhupa and Oss sprinted for the points in the final intermediate sprint and it was the Italian who came out on top.

 

In the peloton, Marco Coledan and Manuele Mori did the lead-out for Nizzolo and Ulissi respectively but it was Trentin who launched the sprint. However, he was passed by his compatriots, with the Trek sprinter coming out on top. Moments later, Bak, Belkov and Konovalovas went on the offensive to start the exiting finale.

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