Tiralongo Escapes to Victory in Stage 9 of Giro d'Italia
Paolo Tiralongo (Astana) has picked up the third Giro stage win of his career. The Italian jumped away from the day’s big break to take Stage 9, a rugged, 215-km ride from Benevento to San Giorgio del Sannio, in 5:50:31. Steven Kruiswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) finished second at 0:21, and Simon Geschke (Giant-Alpecin) took third at 0:23. Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo Bank) remains the maglia rosa.
The break of the day did not form for a while, but when it did, it was big. The escape consisted of Carlos Betancur (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Paolo Tiralongo (Astana), Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani-CSF), Amael Moinard (BMC), Kenny Elissonde (FDJ), Jesus Herrada (Movistar), Ryder Hesjedal and Tom-Jelte Slagter (both from Cannondale-Garmin protected by POC), Geschke, Maxim Belkov (Katusha), and Kruiswijk. The break led the field by 4:30 at the base of the day’s first climb, the Category 2 Monte Termino, and by 5:53 at the summit.
At the summit of the Category 1 Colle Mollela, the stage’s second ascent, the 50-strong bunch was 2:06 behind the break. On the descent, Dario Cataldo (Astana) attacked from the peloton, but Contador reeled him in.
Slagter won the day’s second intermediate sprint and kept going. He led the peloton by six minutes with 40 km remaining. Tiralongo attacked, and Herrada joined him. However, their companions brought them back.
With about 15 km left, Elissonde attacked. Tiralongo countered and set out after Slagter. Both were reeled in by their breakaway companions. Tiralongo attacked a third time and got away from his companions.
Behind, Tinkoff-Saxo Bank led the peloton. The pursuit had cut the break’s advantage to under four minutes as it ascended the day’s last climb, the Category 2 Passo Serra.
On the climb, Astana had five riders and Sky a couple. Contador had only one teammate with him. Aru attacked. Contador, Richie Porte (Sky), and Mikel Landa (Astana) joined him. The quartet overtook break members who had been dropped. The maglia rosa group trailed Slagter by 1:20 at the summit.
With 8.1 km remaining, Tiralongo caught Slagter. Behind, Aru urged Contador, who had skipped turns at the front, to work. The Spaniard began doing so. The group’s acceleration took time out of Rigoberto Uran (Etixx-Quick Step), a prerace favorite who has not shown good form in this Giro because of bronchitis.
Tiralongo and Slagter led the maglia rosa group by 1:35 with five km left, but the Italian dropped the Dutchman one km later. Kruiswijk attempted to close with Tiralongo, but the Italian had none of it. He was able to freewheel to the finish, arms aloft for the last few hundred m.
The maglia rosa group followed the remains of the break into the homestretch. With 100 m to go, Aru jumped away from Contador to take 0:01 from the Spaniard.
Tiralongo’s job was to position himself to help Aru in the finale, but circumstances favored the Astana man getting a rare win. “Today the idea was for me or [Diego] Rosa to get in the breakaway,” he said. “In the end, I created the breakaway and pulled it away. There were some good riders in it. My goal wasn't to win but to be ahead, and then for the team to make a move at Lago Laceno and on the final climb, as they did. I was there as a point of reference for the final. In the end, the team car gave me the okay to go for the stage. I could hear on the radio that, behind, Aru and Landa were moving well. They gained on Uran, which was important. Now we are looking forward to the real mountain stages, because, to me, that's where the Giro d'Italia will be decided.”
Contador felt that the day was difficulty and surprising but satisfactory. “It was a hard stage with an unbelievable climb, much harder than I was expecting,” the Spaniard said. “I would have preferred to have ridden more conservatively from the final climb to the finish, but Aru asked me to work with him because Uran was behind us, and it was important to put time into him. We worked together, even if Aru sprinted to gain back a second, but I’m very happy with where I am after nine stages. There is very little time between the favorites, we have put time into Uran, I have the maglia rosa, and now I have a rest day for my shoulder and legs to recover.”
In the overall, Contador leads Aru by 0:03 and Porte by 0:22. Tomorrow will be the first rest day of the 2015 Giro d'Italia. Riders will rest, take stock of their situations, and plan. Contador’s leg and shoulders will rest. Uran will get a day to recover from the bronchitis that he has suffered from, and Aru and Porte will decide how they can take the maglia rosa from Contador. Stage 10, a flat, 199-km ride from Civitanova Marche to Forli, will be a stage for the sprinters. Who will take it? Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge)? Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal)? Luka Mezgec (Giant-Alpecin)? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!