Victor Campenaerts raced to an incredible 3rd stage win at this year’s Giro d’Italia for Team Qhubeka ASSOS, at today’s stage 15 ending in Gorizia. This victory followed his teammates, Mauro Schmid and Giacomo Nizzolo, triumphs on stages 11 and 13 respectively.
Team Qhubeka ASSOS, already having it’s best ever Giro d’Italia, started the 147km stage 15 with clear intentions to continue chasing success. From the gun, Campenaerts and teammate Max Walscheid were the first two riders to attack. After getting an initial gap, the race was then neutralized due to a mass crash in the peloton, which included Mauro Schmid, who was able to continue but suffered from multiple abrasions to his right side.
Fortunately, most of the riders that went down, were without serious injury, and able to continue. When racing got underway for a second time, it was again Campenaerts and Walscheid who were first to attack. This time a third Qhubeka ASSOS rider also got involved though, as Lukasz Wisniowski infiltrated the front group too.
15 riders forced themselves clear from the peloton and quickly built a race winning lead. With three riders up the road, Qhubeka ASSOS were in a favourable position despite being closely marked.
Coming toward the race finale, Walscheid, Wisniowski and Campenaerts began attacking and counter-attacking the break as the group did contain a strong mix of climbers and sprinters, who were possibly favoured for victory ahead of the Qhubeka ASSOS trio on paper. However, it was the team work that proved the greatest asset on the day as the Belgian UCI world hour record holder managed to escape with two others in tow, Albert Torres (Movistar) and Oscar Riesebeek (Alpecin-Fenix), with 23km to go.
Campenaerts and Riesebeek were able to dislodge Torres on the final climb, as the rain came pouring down, adding further drama over the closing kilometers. From the top of the climb, the duo held onto a 15 second gap over their nearest chasers, and despite attacking each other a couple of times each, they went on to decide the stage in a two-up sprint.
Campenaerts had that extra kick in the legs to take a brilliant win, his first ever Grand Tour stage victory of his career.
I’ve been chasing a WorldTour, and specifically a Grand Tour, stage win for so long; having been four times second, twice third, once fifth, and I’ve always targeted victories in time trials. I’ve come so close but I decided to change how I race and focus more aggressively on racing on the road bike, and focusing a little less focus on the TT.
I am at my first Grand Tour with another objective and we’ve already had two victories with the team here. I can’t say that I helped Mauro that much in the break but I helped Nizzolo for his victory and now I helped myself to a big victory – what a day! I had big, big help from the whole team especially Max and Wizzy, who were also in the break with me.
For two years we’ve speaking about Ubuntu in the team – I am because we are – which is about riding as a team. We cannot go alone, we’re stronger as a team together, and the spirit we have in the Giro is building up to an even greater spirit. Our mission as a team is to change lives with bicycles and the Qhubeka Charity, these successes mean that we play our part in changing the world.
I also hope that these victories is great exposure for the team, to keep the team alive for the future. It hasn’t been easy to keep it alive and we needed this, so I am just so happy.