Giro d’Italia #9: O’Connor gains in the GC

Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) won the stage nine summit finish ahead of Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) and his team mate, Esteban Chaves (Mitchelton-Scott).

With over a week of racing completed, today was another battle for the GC contenders. With the stage offering two category two and one first category climb, it was a tough day in the saddle. The summit finish on Gran Sasso d’Italia proved critical in the stage.

A break of 14 riders escaped 20kms into racing. Team Dimension Data were represented by our Eritrean climber, Natnael Berhane. They enjoyed a long day in the front, pushing their lead to eight minutes during the stage. Their numbers started to dwindle as they started the final 25kms of climbing. Fausto Masnada (Androni) was able to ride clear of the breakaway midway up the final climb, only to be caught with 2.5km to go.

Ben King and Ryan Gibbons ensured that Louis Meintjes and Ben O’Connor were well positioned in the heading into the climb with the peloton. Louis lost contact in the final kms, along with Fabio Aru and Chris Froome, as the attacks started. Ben O’Connor was only distanced in the final km, and he went on to finish 11th on the stage, just behind the CG group.

He regained a few positions in the GC, now sitting in 14th overall. Louis Meintjes finished in 16th place on the stage, just ahead of Froome and Aru to also move up a few GC placings.

Simon Yates won the stage (Mitchelton-Scott), ahead of Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) and Esteban Chaves (Mitchelton-Scott). Yates extended his overall Maglia Rosa lead.

Ben O’Connor- Rider
It sure was a long day today. Conservation was key for 160km until Jaco, Ben and Ryan got Louis and I into position for the very long climb up to the Gran Sasso. The group slowly whittled and Ben King was great going back to get some final food to then make Louis and I be in the front with 8km to go. The wind switched and became head/cross which made being opportunistic kind of impossible. Also with the day being so long today wasn’t just raw numbers – it essentially came down to how well you cope with endurance. I managed to hold on with the top guys until 900m to go, and then after a mini explosion I was able to finish just outside the top 10 in 11th. The dramatic mountain vale of the Gran Sasso made for an amazing Giro Stage.