Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) won a dramatic stage 19 of the Giro d’Italia. Mikel Nieve (Team Sky) finished 2nd and Esteban Chaves (Orica-Greenedge) was 3rd, but the Colombian also took over the race leaders jersey.
Today’s 162km stage took riders from Pinerolo to Risoul via the magnificent Coll dell Agnello, a 21km climb that took riders up to 2700m in altitude. The action would begin before the Agnello though as 26 riders got into the break of the day, this happened just after 74km of racing. Johann van Zyl was representing Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka in the big move.
The Coll dell’Agnello started just 20km later and that is when the race blew to pieces as the riders climbed up into the mist. The break was ripped apart with Michele Scarponi (Astana) riding away from the others in the move and crested the summit first. Back in the peloton, Nibali was piling on the pressure and he rode away with Chaves and Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo). Our GC rider, Kanstantsin Siutsou was not enjoying the Agnello but fortunately he could rely on Merhawi Kudus and Igor Anton to pace him up the climb, knowing that Johann van Zyl was also up the road.
Going over the top, Siutsou was around 4 minutes down on the Nibali group. There would be a big turn in events on the downhill, as Kruijswijk crashed out of the front group, putting Nibali and Chaves in pole position for the stage and in the GC race. Our trio of riders joined up with Van Zyl on the negative gradient and it became a 4 rider team time trial for our African Team. The boys were trying to limit the losses of Kanstantsin, bearing in mind that the stage still had to finish with a 12.8km climb to Risoul, averaging just above 6%.
Nibali and Chaves had caught all of the early breakaway riders on the final climb, with Nieve able to hold their wheel when the duo passed. The Italian champion had the best legs on the final part of the climb though and he was able to put just over 50″ into both Nieve and Chaves. Kruijswijk would finish 4’54” down on Nibali which saw him lose the pink leaders jersey to Chaves, Nibali slotted into 2nd overall and the Dutchman would end the day in 3rd, 1’05” off the lead.
The rider to finish directly behind Kruijswijk on the stage though was our very own Siutsou. After an incredible ride by the team to deliver Siutsou to the foot of the final climb, the team had ensured Siutsou didn’t lose any more time during the 45km downhill section to the start of the final climb. Our Belorussian then found his 2nd wind and flew up the final big test of the stage to not only limit his time loss, but to even gain a place on the general classification by moving up from 10th to 9th overall. A good day for our African Team with just 2 stages remaining of this years Giro d’Italia.
Jean Pierre Heynderickx – Sport Director
It was a crazy stage today and everybody knew it would be hard to get into the break. We tried first with Merhawi Kudus, then Jay Thomson and after with Johann. A big break of 26 riders went with Johann in, it was a good situation for us. Kanstantsin didn’t have a good moment on the first climb but luckily Merhawi and Igor could stay with him and help him in the downhill. Afterwards, Johann was waiting for him so we were pulling with 4 riders. It was a real team effort and great to see it, we are very happy about that. In the final climb Kanstantsin found his good legs again, he was catching one rider after the other one and now he is 9th in the GC, so we won a place today.