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“I don’t think it will change Michel’s [Thetaz, IAM owner] opinion. He took his decision on Monday. But perhaps it’s something to give back to him for all that he has given in the last three or four years."

Photo: IAM Cycling


25.05.2016 @ 23:13 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Reactions from stage 17 of the Giro d’Italia


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.


We have gathered several reactions.


Roger Kluge: I don’t think that this win will make IAM survive

IAM Cycling celebrated its first victory in a grand tour since joining the pro peloton in January 2013.  Roger Kluge out-witted the sprinters by launching his attack with over 500 meters to go to the finish and exploiting a right-hand curve.


“It’s a dream,” the 30 year old Kluge commented just before mounting the podium.  “I am filled with so many emotions.  To have won just a few days after barely avoiding a time elimination, and then just two days after hearing the team announcement that our adventure together will end at the end of the season is just amazing.”


Roger Kluge collapsed into the arms of his teammates in celebration after this stage which ended with a speed of 43.417 km / h. Kluge was emphatic when thanking his teammates for their work that reeled in the breakaway.


"Vegard Stake Laengen did a huge job because without his work, those six would have made it to the finish for the victory.  Then we were really trying to place Heinrich Haussler well.  But he and I just were not able to stay together.  After we passed under the flamme rouge, I managed take the final bend in second position just behind Pozzato.  I did not hesitate when following him even if we were still 500 meters away from the finish.  I just gave everything and I have no regrets.   I had a strange feeling when I passed Pozzato, as if the field was riding in slow motion.  I even had the chance to turn around with 50 meters to go, and then savor my victory.


"I've been a pro for six years and this is the big victory I have been looking for. It's a dream. It wasn't planned at all. I was working for Heinrich Haussler, closing the gap for him but I saw a possibility to get away. The finishing line was very near.


“It's a strange feeling. Yesterday we were very disappointed to hear that our team is going to stop at the end of the year but we decided to stick together and it's wonderful to come up with a victory to make it up for our disappointment.


“I don’t think it will change Michel’s [Thetaz, IAM owner] opinion. He took his decision on Monday. But perhaps it’s something to give back to him for all that he has given in the last three or four years.


“Even though we got the disappointing news about the team we were still going for the victory, like today. I hope it’s not the last one. We’ve also got the last stage on Sunday in Turin.


“He had been looking forward to the team’s first victory in a Grand Tour. It’s not the last one I hope. Last year, on the last day of the Giro, I won the bunch sprint for third place and I hope I can win a bunch sprint for the first place this coming Sunday in Turin.


“It’s hard to believe I made it today. I think I took the last corner faster than the peloton and that was the key for winning.


“It was a confused finale. It was like a points race, with a long, long lap. I started my move early and then tried to hold on.


“Pozzato attacked with about 1.5km to go. I was looking for Heino (Heinrich Haussler) to help him in the finale, then with one kilometre to go, I moved forward on the right and said to myself: ‘It’s up to me, take your heart and go fast’. I passed the bunch and dived through the corner, opening a gap because I was going faster. I saw Pozzato up the road and I first tried to catch Pozzato. I got Pozzato with 200 metres to go and then I looked back. Things looked good and then when I looked back at 150 metres to go, I knew it was enough so that I could win and so celebrate my first WouldTour win.


“I think track racing helps in finales like this one. I knew I can win on a finale like this. I won an under 23 race in the same style. Now I have more power to hold it too. If I get a jump on the bunch it’ss difficult to get me back. For sure my track skills help me.


“I was fourth [in the Omnium at the 2012 Olympics], so the main goal is to go for a medal [in Rio], I want to go for the medal I missed in London. If I won a medal I’d be happy, if I won gold it’d be like today. I’d be the happiest man on earth.


"It was a surprise for everyone, for me, for the bunch ... I did not plan it, although I had the idea that it could happen like that in my head. But it's still only once of a lifetime that it goes well. The situation arose and I just followed.


"This victory comes maybe a week too late. If it had arrived a week earlier, perhaps it have changed the opinion of Michel Thétaz. But as I said, now we are all happy and I'm happy to give him one of the things that we were missing the most, a win in a grand tour. There is still the Tour and the Vuelta, but I have to say 'thank you' 'to Michel for giving us a job for three, four years. "


Heinrich Haussler was ecstatic when talking about the victory of his friend and roommate:


“It really is pure happiness to win this after all the worries we have had since the beginning of the Giro on top of the announcement that the team will end.  Roger has earned this because he is a model teammate, and has always been ready to commit himself to the team.”


IAM Cycling team earned 51 points during the 17th stage, thanks as well to the 15th place of Heinrich Haussler. IAM Cycling, which is still the only Swiss professional team in the World Tour will get up in the morning tomorrow for the ceremonial podium to receive its bonus points for the stage win.


IAM Cycling collected 11'286 euros on account of its victory with Roger Kluge (€ 11'010) and 15th place for Heinrich Haussler (276 €).


The team is now ready for the 18th stage where Stefan Denifl will have a chance to defend his second place in the best climber’s category.  The Austrian has only 3 points ahead of Darwin Atapuma and 11 in front of Giovanni Visconti.


Giacomo Nizzolo: Karma is against me – I don’t know what I have done wrong

It's a tune that has become annoyingly old. Giacomo Nizzolo easily out-sprinted everyone in stage 17 but was left with a frustrating second place again. This time thwarted by a last-minute attack with just over one kilometer to go as Roger Kluge (IAM Cycling) pinched the win by meters.


Only one sprint stage remains, the final day into Milan, and everything rests on this final race for Nizzolo, who has a lock on the red points jersey but the bigger goal of victory continues to elude.


"What more can I do than this? I just won the sprint, and every time I am there," Nizzolo explained. "We can't do more than we are doing. Karma is against me; I don't know what I have done wrong to have this, but for sure there are worse things in life. We just need to keep going.


"The team today did a huge job from the start. We took our responsibility in the race, in the end, of course, we missed some power, but that is normal. If we did not pull before, probably the six guys in the breakaway make it. So we have no regrets. I have no regrets. That's it. We have to accept another second place, but we keep our heads high.


 “I have nothing to regret. I’m angry but it’s normal. It would have been so fantastic to win my first Giro d’Italia stage here, close to home. I had one team-mate too few to close the gap on Roger Kluge but that’s because my team had to work extremely hard earlier on to chase down the breakaway. I still have a chance to win a stage on Sunday in Turin.


“I can’t deny I let out my anger after the finish line. When you do a good sprint like I did but still finish second, with just a lone attacker ahead of you, it’s normal and understandable not to be happy.


 “It was the result that got to me. I really wanted to win here because it’s close to my home –I’m from Milan, and there were lots of family and fans club here. I’m still smiling because I think I gave it everything and there wasn’t anything else we could do. We haven’t got any regrets as a team. We chased the break all day and did what we could in the final with one rider less. When Kluge jumped away after Pozzato, I knew it would be dangerous but I still gave it everything, just like always.

“It’s going to be an interesting fight with Ulissi for the points jersey,” Nizzolo admitted. “But its not an equal fight because we're two different kinds of rider. If I lose the red jersey to another sprinter I’d be angry but if he wins, I can only congratulate him.”


"The good thing is all these people who came for the finish. I could not do more than this. I think I did a good sprint I was second. I am always missing a bit to win, but today I do not think it was my mistake. "


"When you invest so much, you have to take some risk. The racing dynamics are not the same as in the early days".


"We'll try to do it differently in the final stage. Today, we have no regrets. If we had not chased, the six riders would have made it so that's okay.”


It was a quiet journey for most of the predominantly flat 196 kilometers, an easy-to-control three-man breakaway the only concern, but when three others joined forces after the second intermediate sprint the composed scenario quickly became ruffled. 


Riccardo Zoidl and Laurent Didier policed the front all day, assisting Lampre-Merida in governing the three escapees, but when the extra firepower added to the breakaway with  over 30 kilometers remaining, the threat became real and imminent.


Jack Bobridge and Eugenio Alafaci threw everything they had into the chase, assisting Dimension Data and a few other teams, as the six men out front stubbornly held a gap that hovered between 15 and 30 seconds.


Trek-Segafredo was forced to add Marco Coledan into the mix and the escapees were finally tagged at 1.5-kilometers to go setting off immediate counter-attacks.


Kluge opened a gap, and there was no time, or teammates remaining, to organize a chase. Kluge narrowly eked out the win and Nizzolo easily sprinted to second – again.


"I am so disappointed because Giacomo deserves a win," said Alafaci, close to tears after the finish. "He showed he is the strongest sprinter right now in the Giro. It was a strong breakaway in the end and I had to pull full gas to help, and then Giacomo had just Marco (Coledan) with him. Marco had to work to work the last bit, and then Giaco was alone. We missed having one more guy to close the small gap to Kluge or Giaco could win.


"When you win the sprint and show you are the strongest but don't have the victory it's not easy to be happy. Zoidl and Didier pulled all day, they did a great job, but we have nothing to show in the end for the great teamwork. It's like this - now we need to go deep again on Sunday."


Nikias Arndt shows his potential with podium place at the Giro d’Italia

Team Giant-Alpecin’s Nikias Arndt picked up his best result of the race in Italy after the 196km relatively flat stage which was made for the fast riders.


Nikias Arndt was part of the sprint and he took 3rd place on the finish line after good work from his teammates.


Nikias Arndt said: “In the beginning, Trek, Lampre and we made sure that a small breakaway got away. That worked out perfectly, and then we had a nice easy day in the bunch.


“Towards the finale we all came together and the guys made sure that I was always in a good position. I was never too far back from the front and that shows what a great job they did today.


“Into the last km, Albert [Timmer] brought me in a good position but then I saw and realized that the victory would go to Roger who did an impressive finale! Overall, I’m so proud to have such a great team behind me. I got great support from the guys today and they did everything they could to get a good result.”


Coach Marc Reef said: “We focussed on the sprint with Nikias today. We had a good plan where everybody had their role. We managed to get Nikias in a position to sprint in the finale and he got a third place in the end.”


Matteo Trentin looking for more sprint opportunities at the Giro d’Italia

After previously getting involved at both intermediate sprints of the stage, Matteo Trentin sprinted to fifth, notching his best result at this year's Giro d'Italia, a race on which Etixx – Quick-Step left a heavy mark. For Bob Jungels, his teammate, it was an easy day at the office, which he finished in the same time as the winner. At the end of the stage, in Cassano D'Adda, he climbed on the podium to receive another white jersey, his 14th since taking command in the white jersey classification.


"It ws a chaotic final, with several attacks in the last kilometers. Kluge used his track skills and had a perfect timing, so congratulations to him. Behind, I opened my sprint, but probably did it a little bit too early and this cost me in the last 30 meters", was the analysis of Trentin shortly after the arrival. "Anyway, the important thing is that the condition is good, so in the next days I'll be ready to work for the team whenever it's necessary, but if another occasion will arise, then I'll try to grab it".

Alexander Porsev: I had to make a gamble to try to win the stage

Team KATUSHA’s Aleksandr Porsev tried to follow Kluge with some 500 meters to go, but finished 6th.


“I felt good today and in the final I had team support, especially from Slava Kuznetsov who helped me a lot to get a right position. The final kilometer was absolutely chaotic. When Kluge attacked, with 450 meters to go, I started my sprint. It was a big risk, but it was a question of fighting for the stage victory and not only for Top-10. So I decided to risk. Of course it was still far from the finish and later I paid for that. I could not reach Kluge and some more riders passed me. Anyway I think it was a good decision to risk a bit, because it was a chance to win,” Aleksandr Porsev.


Stage 17 started, for the first time ever, in Molveno and finished after 196 km in Cassano d’Adda. Three riders broke clear after only few kilometers of racing: Daniel Oss (BMC), Pavel Brutt (Tinkoff) and Eugert Zhupa (Wilier-Southeast) made the daily breakaway. The peloton, however, kept the situation under control and with some 30 km to go the advantage of the break was around 1 minute only. Right at that moment another group of 3 riders attacked from the peloton: KATUSHA’s Maxim Belkov, Lars Ytting Bak from Lotto Soudal and Ignatas Konovalovas from FDJ were able to catch the front break and to create a leading group of 6 riders.


This group fought bravely until the peloton caught the riders with just 1,5 km to go.


“In the last 30 km our sports director told us that there could be attacks from the peloton. I was in front, and when I saw Lars Bak attacking, I followed him. With 25 km to go we caught the front break and immediately started to work well together. Normally it was a stage for sprinters, so I am happy I have spent this day in action. We had a small chance to stay in front until the finish line, but finally the group caught us with 1,5 km to go. Anyway, I am happy with my attack, it gives me a good motivation,” said Maxim Belkov.


Lars Bak eyes more attacks after near-miss in the Giro d’Italia

Lars Bak was one of the riders who had attacked. Together with Belkov and Konovalovas he bridged to the front. Bak orchestrated the break and the escapees could gain some time on the peloton, but not enough to stay away although Lars Bak was only caught in the last kilometre. Pim Ligthart sprinted to seventh place.


"I said to my sports director that when we reached the last intermediate sprint, I would attack. I had made a plan with Christian Knees from Team Sky and one from Katusha. I didn’t see Knees but we were joined by the good time triallist from FDJ [Konovalovas] so it was absolutely perfect," Lars Bak told TV 2 SPORT on tactics.


"You go crazy when you see the Flamme Rouge. You are part of the finale and that’s the fun part. Trek and Lampre had chased all day and it's the 17th stage. We were men riders that worked well together so of course you believe in it. It was close. The stage should just have been one kilometer shorter.


"The legs are actually getting better and better, but they always do so in such a Grand Tour, so now I will try to join the break tomorrow and then it probably becomes too hard for me.


”Today we had a transition stage,” his teammate Maximoe Monfort said. “The start was relatively quiet but the final was intense. We rode well together with Lars [Bak] who attempted in the final and the team that was well placed for the sprint with Pim [Ligthart] and Sean [Bie]. Tomorrow it is the longest stage with a difficult final. I am feeling the fatigue but there are still things to do in this Giro.”

Filippo Pozzato and Eugert Zhupa put Wilier in the spotlight at the Giro d’Italia

Wilier – Triestina was really close to getting the first win in the Giro d'Italia 2016.


The riders of Luca Scinto and Serge Parsani were protagonists in the stage, first with the 190km breakaway of Eugert Zhupa and then with the final solo move from Filippo Pozzato, caught by the peloton with only 300 metres to go.


The stage ended with the 9th place of Manuel Belletti.


“I had a chance today because were in the third week and some riders are tired. That gives the riders with a bit of talent an extra chance. It’s easier to stay up front now because people are taking as many risks for the sprint,” Pozzato told Cyclingnews and Spaziociclismo.


“I was trying to help Manuel Belletti for the sprint and so I’d been up front for about 20km. Then I saw a Lotto rider go and that nobody closed him down because the sprinter’s teams are pretty low on power after so much hard racing. I went for it and then when I looked around with a kilometre to go and saw I had a gap, I went again. But there was a lot of wind in the final kilometres. I died when I saw that there was still more than 600 metres to go.

“I thought I could do it until he (Kluge) jumped passed me with about 200 metres to go. Then the finish seemed to get further and further away… He was able to take aim at me and use my slipstream a bit. He was smart. I’ve seen the replay on television and he won it well. I can only congratulate him.


"At 500 meters I believed in it, then when I saw it Kluge, I realized that I no longer had the legs and there was headwind. I had been riding in the wind to protect Belletti. There was still a chance and I tried. "


“I’ve always said I had good legs and had the form to do something. Unfortunately cycling these days is really intense. You start every stage at full gas. I tried yesterday too, I got in a break of 15 riders but they chased us down after we’d down a first hour at 52km/h.

“I think the general level in the peloton has gone up because of the quality of the bike technology has improved and because he sport is far more global. Once the Italians were the top dogs and there were perhaps three British-speaking riders. Now there are 40 Brits in the peloton and at least five are really strong. It’s same with the Americans and the Africans. It’s good there’s a globalisation because its opened new doors but it’s made it harder for historic cycling nations like us.

“I hope to get in the break tomorrow but there will probably be 50 other riders who want to do something too.


"The plans were to try and so I tried to escape,” Zhupa told Cpaziociclismo. “In the end I tried to be smart, pulling less than the others, but I have no idea what my teammates did behind.


"One more year of experience does so much and it is normal. Now I feel better and I will try. I chase a victory and I hope it will arrive sooner or later arrivals, but also a top-5 would be good.


"Surely in Turin I'll try again and we hope the action will succeed. It is the second time that I am caught with two kilometers to go, sooner or later it will work out.”


Near-crash takes Sonny Colbrelli out of contention in the Giro d’Italia

Bardiani focused on the fast legs of Sonny Colbrelli and Paolo Simion. Unfortunately, the former was taken out of contention by a swerve in the group two kilometers to the finish line. He ended up in the grass, with the risk of crashing, and he had to raise the white flag. Simion, after the efforts of recent days in the Dolomites, finished in an encouraging tenth place.


Kristian Sbaragli: I don’t have the condition to be competitive

Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka were one of the teams that eventually took responsibility for the chase. As the race reached the final 20 kilometers 3 more riders tried their luck by riding across the now, 1-minute gap to the leaders. Johann van Zyl, Igor Anton, Jay Thomson and Jaco Venter had things under control though and the gap kept on coming down.


With 6km to go, Kristian Sbaragli was placed on the wheel of Nizzolo as the race finished with a tight technical run in, through numerous roundabouts.  Sbaragli was looking for his way through in the final 500m but with no real gaps and not enough pace at the front. It was difficult to get through and when the sprint opened up for him, you could see the past week with bronchitis had taken its toll on the Italian fast man. He crossed the line in 12th position. Kanstantsin Siutsou, the GC contender, finished in the peloton to keep 10th place overall.


Kristian Sbaragli said:

“We tried to arrive for the sprint but the final was a bit chaotic. All I can I say as I don't really have the condition after being a bit sick. I could not find my legs and wasn't able to sprint today. Now it is just about making it to the end of the Giro.”


Daniel Oss eyes points jersey and breakaway classification at the Giro d’Italia

Daniel Oss continued his run of breakaways at the Giro d’Italia, spending all but a couple of kilometers in the lead on Stage 17.


The original three-rider breakaway looked set to be caught by the approaching peloton, before three more riders bridged with 20 kilometers to go, strengthening the breakaway and holding the peloton at bay.


Just 1.4 kilometers before the line, the peloton made the catch and set the scene for a surprise attack by Roger Kluge (IAM Cycling), who took the win.


After taking both intermediate sprints on offer, Oss now sits in third place in the Points Classification, and leads the breakaway competition with a substantial lead.


Daniel Oss said:


“The objective for today was in two parts. Firstly, to make the breakaway which was actually pretty easy, as the bunch was focused on the sprint finish so they were happy to let a breakaway go away. I also was thinking about the intermediate sprints and to get some points there, and of course we wanted to make it to the line.


“When the three riders bridged, we started to think about making it. The next 5 kms we were riding full gas to keep going and stay away. The gap was growing so we thought maybe we could stay away. But then you also think about conserving yourself for the sprint, but still needing to ride hard to keep the breakaway away. So it was about finding a balance between the two. We had three guys pretty fresh, and three guys pretty tired. The bunch was just there on the last kilometer so we tried everything we could. In the end a sprinter didn’t win and the sprinters’ teams who were chasing were clearly tired. So this is also a good sign for tomorrow, that maybe a breakaway can go again.”


Max Sciandri, Sports Director, added:


“When the three riders bridged to Daniel’s breakaway that’s when we thought that maybe they could really make it to the line. Strong, fresh guys with fresh energy can make a lot of difference. We try and do what we can every day. The two realistic goals for Daniel were the sprints and the breakaway classification, and that’s something he has been targeting everyday. But when you do that, you’re in the front and it means that you put yourself in the position to go for the stage win.


“We knew with three guys it would have been a tough ask, but a 6-rider breakaway is a different story. We knew that the sprinters’ teams were on the limit and a sprinter didn’t win. We had Stefan [Küng] up there to try and launch an attack like what Kluge did but he wasn’t in the right position. We’ll try again tomorrow and see what we can do!”


Team Sky target breakaway win on stage 18 at the Giro d’Italia

Team Sky kept their powder dry on what should have been a sprint-friendly 17th stage of the Giro d'Italia, only for Roger Kluge to emerge as a surprise winner in Cassano d'Adda.


With no dedicated sprinter still in the squad and some brutal mountains stages to come, Team Sky opted to spend the day in the bunch on the 196km traverse from Molveno.


Christian Knees was active as the race swept into the destination town, and was Team Sky's first rider home in 19th position after Kluge had claimed his unlikely triumph.



Nicolas Roche and Sebastian Henao were also among an 80-strong pack who were credited with the same time as Kluge, meaning Henao didn't lose any time on Bob Jungels (Etixx - Quick-Step) in the young rider classification.


After the stage Sport Director Dario Cioni gave an insight into how the day had played out from his Team Sky perspective, and offered his predictions for the following day of action.


He told them: "We had been prepared to try and get in the break if a large move had gone, but when only three riders went it was high unlikely they were going to stay clear until the finish. The sprinters' teams controlled for most of the day so we waited instead for the finish.


"Christian gave it a go but got boxed in just before the end so that was that. The main priority was to save our energy for the days to come.


"We're expecting a big, long battle to get in the breakaway tomorrow because it's a long, lumpy stage and we're not expecting the sprinters' teams to control.


"If no-one's a threat on the overall standings the GC teams could let it stay away because on Friday and Saturday we have two huge days in the mountains.  


"It's a great chance for a breakaway win so we'll do our best to get someone in that move."

Movistar safely through penultimate sprint stage at the Giro d’Italia

After a tense, grueling stage on Tuesday, the Movistar Team and its GC references had their only task in defending Alejandro Valverde's third place overall today. The squad directed by Garcia Acosta and Jaimerena accomplished that mission, taking care of Alejandro Valverde in the bunch all the way through stage 17, 196km from Molveno to Cassano d'Adda. The early part of the route, with some gentle hills before the last categorized climb, the Passo Sant'Eusebio, saw a three-man break led Daniel Oss (BMC) staying away, with Eugert Zhupa (WIL) and Pavel Brutt (TCS) also in.


Back into the province of Brescia and into the plains, the final 76km did not make things easy for the sprinters' squads, as another trio - with Bak (LTS), Belkov (KAT) and Konovalovas (FDJ) - caught some free air and jeopardized the bunch sprint. It wasn't until the final 3km when it was caught and José Joaquín Rojas, Jasha Sütterlin and Rory Sutherland could take the front to keep the Blues out of trouble. In the end, Roger Kluge (IAM) made an impressive finisseur action to reach the line ahead of the peloton.


Thursday will bring an appetizer of the final showdown in this Giro d'Italia. The profile will be mostly similar to today's, with plains over the 240km course from Muggiò to Pinerolo, yet with a Cat-2 ascent in the finale, the Pramartino, at 15km from the end, plus a short, sharp climb just before the finish.


Pavel Brutt close to first stage win for Tinkoff at the Giro d’Italia

Mirrowing his escape on stage 5 of this year’s race, Pavel Brutt and two others went on the attack and quickly gained a minute on the peloton, which had no obvious desire to bring the escapees back in. This lead grew to two minutes, then four and then to more than five minutes. Brutt and his group were relishing the chance to stretch their legs.


Brutt was pleased to have anticipated the break, but was aware of the control the sprinters’ teams had on the chasing peloton.


"It was quite a straightforward day. I tried from the very start to anticipate the move and got away with two riders. However, our breakaway was always controlled by the sprinters’ teams. They kept us tightly under control. We built an advantage of a bit more than five minutes but from there, the peloton steadily closed the gap."

The ability of the break to stay away so long was impressive on a flat stage like today’s, as Sport Director, Tristan Hoffman explained.


"With three guys out there you think it's mission impossible, but when the others came across the peloton had to go full gas to catch them so it was a good try and we're happy with our race.”


After being out front for most of the stage, the chasing group was a welcome addition to the break, even though Brutt knew the chances of staying out weren’t high.


“At 20 km to go, we were joined by three more riders but we knew our chances were very slim. Our lead was too small to hold. However, I gave my best and I'm satisfied with my performance. I feel well, despite the natural tiredness that comes after 17 intense stages of the Giro d'Italia."


Rafal Majka was the first Tinkoff rider home – taking 26th with the bunch, and keeping his hold on sixth spot in the GC.

Compared to the spectacle of the mountains, today’s stage could have been dull, especially with the absence of the bigger-name sprinters, but Brutt’s group’s break livened up the day, as Hoffman explained.


"In the end it was exciting for a flat stage, and great to see Brutt up there all day. It's good for him too as he's had some days where he's struggled here, so it's good for his morale and will give him and the team a lift in this tough last week. Behind, Rafal came home safe in bunch with the other boys, so no problems today.”


With a profile that resembles that of stage 11 – where a single climb at the end of an otherwise flat stage signalled the start of the GC race – stage 18 is also the Giro’s longest stage, at 240km. Flat for 170km before a few short climbs and then the second category Pramartino, the stage will be won – or lost – on the final climb in the last kilometre. The uncategorised San Maurizio has a 20% ramp that will stop riders like a wall. Hard enough with fresh legs, but with 239km in their legs and two weeks of racing, anything can happen here.


Hoffman explains:


"Tomorrow is a different story, with a second category climb in the final, then a 20% ramp with 2km to go. If a break goes I'm not sure which team will want to control the race on this long stage, so being in the break will be crucial but then when every team thinks the same it makes for a real fight to get into the break. We will aim to be up there and see what we can do for a stage result."


Steven Kruijswijk: I don’t have a weak point

LottoNL-Jumbo’s Steven Kruijswijk maintained his lead in today’s Giro d’Italia stage 17 to Cassano d’Adda. Roger Kluge (IAM Cycling) won the stage and Kruijswijk placed 30th, still with three minutes on Esteban Chaves (Orica - GreenEDGE).


Unlike yesterday, a breakaway went immediately. Daniel Oss (BMC), Eugert Zhupa (Wilier Triestina - Southeast) and Pavel Brutt (Tinkoff) built a lead of more than five minutes. Trek - Segafredo and Lampre – Merida controlled the peloton. Right behind, the men of LottoNL-Jumbo kept the pink jersey at front. 


After the second intermediate sprint, three men crossed over to the leaders. Not much later, the peloton also joined and bunch sprint built towards the line. Roger Kluge (IAM Cycling), however, shot free with a late attack.


"It was not an easy ride", said Sports Director Addy Engels. "There were good riders in front that were not dangerous for us. The sprinters teams had to ride hard in the pursuit. We rode well just behind, but the twists and turns made it difficult." 


Kruijswijk finished with the other favourites and the overall remained the same, three minutes on Chaves and 3-32 on Alejandro Valverde (Movistar). 


"This was probably the last easy day. I enjoyed it and tried to save as much energy as possible,” Kruijswijk said. 


"It's been a long stage but quite a nice day. I've enjoyed riding with the Maglia Rosa as much as I could because I knew this was my last easy day race before some hard stages coming up, starting tomorrow. It's a stage with a hard and spectacular finale after a tricky downhill. I'm ready.


“A lot of riders, including the most famous ones, came to congratulate me this morning for what I did yesterday. I know they liked the way I raced. They were congratulating me on yesterday's ride, not on keeping the Maglia Rosa until Turin. I myself don’t think that I’ve already won the Giro.


"Today was a day easy. We merely followed the teams of the sprinters and stayed out of trouble. Tomorrow will be different, in the end we will climb and have a technical descent. We will stay in front and not lose time."


“I don’t feel to make a statement about doping. “Of course I’m against it. I’ve got nothing to say about it. I feel happy to be at this level. It proves that it’s possible without doping because I know it from myself. I know that the past years haven’t been the best for cycling but I think it’s improving a lot and I have confidence in this cycling.


“I’ve done it always [publishing data on Strava]. I like to share what I’m doing in races and training so people can also see from the inside what I’m doing. I’ve got nothing to hide. Within the team we are very transparent about this, and I think it makes cycling more credible.


“I do it because I like to share with the people because they like to follow it and they are interested in what I’m doing for training. They can compare themselves with me, I think. I get a lot of good comments about it, so why not?


“I don’t think that I’ve already won the Giro d’Italia. I’m taking it day by day. The only thing I can do is try my best and do the same as I’ve done for the last two and a half weeks, and be there in the stages that come and try to bring this jersey to Turin.


“The only thing I can do is to try my best, and do what I have been doing for the past two and a half weeks. I’ll do it with confidence because I don’t have a weak point.”


He must ride the longest stage of the Giro tomorrow with the Pramartino climb before Pinerolo.


"It is a long day with a tough final, I have to be up there and make sure I climb it well and don’t lose time." 


"We have to pay attention tomorrow,” Sport Director Addy Engels said of the 240-kilometre stage. “The distance and especially that climb in the end, makes it a dangerous stage. After 220 kilometres, 4.6 kilometres uphill, averaging 10.5%, will hurt.”



Ag2r ready to go for stage win on stage 18 at the Giro d’Italia

"It was a rather quiet day,” Ag2r sports director Didier Jannel said. “With a lot of spectators, narrow passages, we had to stay focused all day. It's always about the transition stages that can be problematic. We had to stay around Domenico (Pozzovivo) and we did that. We spent a day without incident, which is important in the third week. Tomorrow, the stage will be open. We will seek our luck and send riders on the attack. The fight for the general classification will be done on Friday and Saturday on climbs at very high altitude. This will be the big fight for Domenico to see if he can gain one or two places overall.”


Vincenzo Nibali vows to fight on at the Giro d’Italia

"It has been all quiet today even though we went very fast,” commented Jakob Fuglsang.


"A stage like this was necessary to recover from the fatigue of the past few days. I feel good thinking to the mountain stages ahead of us.”


"Here in Cassano d’Adda, it was a finish for sprinters,” said Astana sporting director Alexander Shefer. “So the sprint teams did the big part of the work. Tomorrow there will be a difficult finish, but the guys are ready."


”It was a good day and a relatively easy stage if you exclude the stress in the final 40 kilometers," Vincenzi Nibali told Spaziociclismo. “We have to wait for the tougher stages


"The condition is what it is. I cannot express myself better, there are no more excuses.


"I try to understand what’s wrong. This is not my level. I was hoping to be better. I do not seek excuses but it is right for us to seek an explanation.


“There are moments in life when things don’t go as you hope, when I don’t ride well. There’s no point in being so heavily critical of me because I’m not riding well. I understand how social media works and how the media works things, but it’s all pointless.

“If these are the results I can achieve, then they’ve got to be accepted and understood. Some have even suggested that I’m suffering mentally, but it’s just not true. I’m fine.

“There are hard stages to come and I hope the feeling is good.

"Vincenzo has no intention of giving up,” sports director Giuseppe Martinelli said.


“We’ll do the exams tomorrow morning and then we’ll decide. But like Vincenzo said this morning, he has no intention of leaving the Giro. We’re fourth overall, so there’s no need for alarm.

“I think that you could expect anything from Vincenzo. But right now, words count for little. I think Vincenzo has taken on the race from the very beginning and taken on the responsibility to try to win the Giro. It hasn’t gone as it should have done, but I have faith in him.”


"It's probably the most difficult moment of his career. But in difficult times the man shows himself and I want Vincenzo to be that man now.”


Esteban Chaves safely through sprint stage at the Giro d’Italia

ORICA-GreenEDGE spent stage 17 of the Giro d’Italia successfully keeping second place Esteban Chaves out of harms way as the peloton hurtled along behind the days early breakaway.


With no change in the general classification, Colombian Chaves stays in second place ahead of tomorrow's long stage 18 from Muggio to Pinerolo. At 240kilometres to length, the stage is flat for the first 170km before two brutally steep but short climbs just before the technical descent to the finish.


Sport director Matt White was happy with how intelligently the team raced today.


“I was surprised that the race wasn’t more aggressive today,” said White. “It was probably the last real stage for the sprinters and I expected it to be a lot more explosive than it actually was.


“The style of racing suited our objectives for the stage because we were able to keep Esteban (Chaves) in a good, safe position throughout the day without too many issues.


“The team rode very intelligently all day long,” continued White. “Everyone stuck to their tasks really well and with all the top ten on general classification finishing together there was no change and Esteban is still up there in second.”


“Tomorrow could turn out to be a very interesting stage, particularly the last climb. It’s very steep with a tricky descent and after 220kilometres its going to feel even harder.”



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