Giro d’Italia #18: Berhane rides with courage in breakaway

The Giro d’Italia made its way into the Dolomites today and Tejay Van Garderen (BMC Racing) would be the winner of stage 18. Mikel Landa (Team Sky) finished in 2nd place and Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) was 3rd. Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) retained the overall lead.

It was a short stage of just 137km at the Giro d’Italia today but the organisers managed to squeeze in no less than 5 categorised climbs into the stage. This made for a difficult but very entertaining day of racing. Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka got things going with Natnael Berhane being the first rider of the day to attack.

3 riders went with Berhane as they made their way up the first climb of the day. Further back down the road, the attacks kept coming from the peloton and our Omar Fraile and Daniel Teklehaimanot were both involved. The peloton did not want a repeat of yesterday when close to forty riders escaped, so they kept the pace high. On the descent of the first climb, a group of chasers made it across to the leaders and our African Team had Berhane and Fraile representing.

The peloton held the gap at 2’00” for the majority of the day, making it a difficult day in both the break and the peloton. As the 2nd, 3rd and 4th climbs of the day followed, the break was whittled down to just 6 riders with Berhane still present and riding well. The peloton contained no more than 17 riders at the same point.

It was all going to come down to the final climb of the day. Van Garderen and Landa got the jump on Berhane and the other 3 breakaway riders, starting the climb 55 seconds ahead of the GC favourites group. The 2 leaders showed no sign of fatigue while the likes of Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) tried to attack Dumoulin. The attacks saw the remnants of the break caught, including Berhane with 6km to go, but they didn’t trouble Dumoulin at all.

In the end, Van Garderen out-sprinted Landa for the win while Quintana and Nibali marked themselves out of contention to let the other GC riders gain a few seconds. Berhane crossed the line in 22nd position and a little over 4-minutes behind Van Garderen.

Natnael Berhane – Rider
I really wanted to be in the break today and I was able to make it. We really went full gas in the first 26km of the stage and then a big group came across to us. Each climb it become more difficult but I always made sure I was near the front when it started splitting. I was giving 100% from the first kilometer today and finally on the last climb the suffering got to me and I was caught with 6km to go. I fought to the finish but I ended just off the top 20 on a very hard day.