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Magnus Cort (EF Education-EasyPost) completed the set of Grand Tour stage wins with a dramatic victory on stage 10 of the Giro d’Italia, outsprinting his two breakaway companions after they’d beaten the odds to hold off the peloton in Viareggio.
On another rainy day at this sodden Giro, Cort made it into the finale alongside Derek Gee (Israel-Premier Tech) and Alessandro De Marchi (Jayco-AlUla) after going over the big mid-stage climb of the Passo delle Radici.
With a lead of two minutes with 30km to go, it looked like the peloton – reduced but still with most sprinters on board – had things under control, but they ran out of personnel and power, while the front three kept on turning faultlessly all the way until 1500 metres to go.
At that point, Gee launched the first attack, with Cort first putting the pressure on De Marchi before dropping the Italian to get across to Gee. De Marchi made it back as the front two stalled, and he even tried one last futile attack of his own, before Cort opened the taps and comfortably picked off Gee in the final dash for the line.
“I’m incredibly happy. Today was such a hard day, one of hardest stages I’ve done on a bike, to end up with a win is unbelievable,” said Cort.
“First of all it was a big fight to get in the breakaway then we wanted to push to the summit of the climb to see if we could break the peloton, but we didn’t get enough time to make the sprinters stop chasing, so we had no other choice but to keep pushing. I can’t remember ever pushing all day like this.”
Fellow Dane, and another rider who has completed the Grand Tour triple at this Giro, Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) led the peloton across the line at 51 seconds, sprinting for fourth place ahead of Jonathan Milan (Bahrain Victorious).
Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) survived a miserable first day in the pink jersey following the withdrawal of Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-QuickStep) on Sunday and while there was no change in the top five of the general classification, there was damage elsewhere. The big development was that Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe), sixth overall, abandoned the race through sickness after dropping in the early kilometres.
Later in the stage, 10th-placed Jay Vine (UAE Team Emirates) suffered yet another crash, on the descent of the Passo dell Radici, and saw his general classification hopes evaporate, eventually crossing the line in a second peloton nearly seven minutes down on the main bunch.
How it unfolded
The start of the second week did not signal a new dawn, with leaden skies and heavy rain once again greeting the riders at the start of stage 10 in Scandiano. The conditions were so miserable that discussions were held over a possible shortening of the stage, with numerous riders backing the idea of cutting out the Passo delle Radici – at the 1500-metre summit the conditions were said to be worst – and heading around it in team buses before getting back on the bikes for the final 70km. However, the organisers deemed the conditions not to be ‘extreme’ enough to warrant altering the stage.
Meanwhile, the peloton continued to be decimated by illness. Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-QuickStep) had already announced his departure due to COVID-19 but he was technically a non-starter, as was Rigoberto Urán for the same reason, while Stefan Kung (Groupama-FDJ) had retired given the time trials were out of the way. Sven Erik Bystrom (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty) pulled out just ahead of the stage after initially vowing to continue with COVID, while Oscar Risebeek (Alpecin-Deceuninck), Rein Taaramae (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty), Miles Scotson (Groupama-FDJ), and the Israel-Premier Tech duo of Domenico Pozzovivo and Mdds Wurtz Schmidt all failed to report for the start due to illness.
Out on the road, it got worse, with key GC contender Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe) immediately in trouble off the back of the peloton, and later forced to climb off and end his Giro after 70km, with his team citing sickness. Simone Petilli was another rider to stop, making it three down in a single day for Intermarché.
It took 50km for the breakaway to form. The first successful move saw Alessandro De Marchi (Jayco-AlUla) and Derek Gee (Israel-Premier Tech) go clear, and they were later joined after a long chase by another duo: Magnus Cort (EF Education-EasyPost) and mountains classification leader Davide Bais (Eolo-Kometa).
The first intermediate sprint came in Nus after 49km, where Bais led the breakaway and, four minutes later, Jonathan Milan (Bahrain Victorious) got the better of Michael Matthews (Jayco-AlUla) and Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) in the hunt for the magnolia ciclamino points classification.
The road had already been going uphill for 5km but it would continue to do so for another 40km on the long and rolling category-2 ascent of the Passo delle Radici, where Fernando Gaviria’s Movistar men took the reins in the peloton. They set a steady tempo through to the final 3km, where Gaviria stopped to change jackets, so cold he needed plenty of help from his team director. Thomas had to grab a bike change but after that the GC teams lifted the pace towards the top of the climb, causing numerous sprinters to lose contact.
At the top of the climb, 110km from home, Bais comfortably collected the maximum mountain points to make his blue jersey even more secure, while the peloton followed at 3:45.
The descent saw plenty more action. Bais dropped back from the break, while an interesting move went off the front of it. With wet roads and freezing conditions, Bahrain Victorious boldly went on the offensive, sending GC leader Damiano Caruso away in a move with Jonathan Milan and Andrea Pasqualon. Ineos Grenadiers’ Pavel Sivakov jumped to mark the move and followed the risk-taking Bahrain riders as they opened a minute on the peloton.
The corners, though, were dangerous, and Milan crashed towards the bottom but got back on, while Sivakov then dropped away entirely. One particular left-hander proved troublesome, with Jay Vine (UAE Team Emirates) going into a wall with Will Barta (Movistar) and starting to bleed time that ended his general classification bid.
The bottom of the descent was met by a short kicker at Monteperpoli – 2.4km at 95 – and that’s where Ineos thwarted the Bahrain move. The British team notably ramped up the pace to wipe out the one-minute gap in the blink of an eye, and the pace was evident by the size of the peloton over the top – just 40 riders.
The various sprinters who were dropped – some still chasing from the Radici – did manage to work their way back to that peloton, except for Karen Groves (Alpecin-Deceuninck), and Gaviria, who’d crashed on the descent. And the crashes continued to pile up on the flat, as Michel Ries (Arkea-Samsic) crashed with a Lukas Postlberger (Jayco-AlUla) rider with 55km to go, the consequent tailback of cars also causing Warren Barguil (Arkea-Samsic) to crash, along with a fuming Alberto Bettiol (EF) who was taken out by a race official stepping out to tend to the stricken Postlberger.
With Cort taking the second intermediate sprint with 40km to go, the race settled down somewhat, with the remaining three breakaway riders leading the main peloton by two minutes, while Vine’s UAE men frantically led a second bunch at 4:30, a gap that would only grow by the line.
The stage came down to a battle between break and bunch, with the three escapees taking 90 seconds in the final 25km and remarkably holding on to take 45 seconds into the final 10km, but at which point Trek-Segafredo, Astana, and Bahrain Victorious were chasing with increasing panic. The problem was, they were running out of men, and that became clear with a few kilometres to go as Ineos found themselves on the front, under no stress to push on. Astana and Trek sent a final rider forward but it was too little too late and the breakaway had it, with Cort safely negotiating the final attacks to make his finishing speed count.
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