Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates) took a three-rider sprint in a chaotic finale of stage 15 of the Giro d’Italia to notch his first Grand Tour victory and biggest result ever. The American all-arounder outsmarted and outsprinted Ben Healy (EF Education-EasyPost) and Israel-Premier Tech’s Marco Frigo, the last survivors of a day-long breakaway, to take the victory on a Tour of Lombardy-style course that finished in Bergamo. Here’s what went down:
- McNulty played a tactically perfect race to take the win, bridging to Frigo when the Italian made his move on the Roncola Alta climb, and then refusing to go too deep to try to stay with Healy’s counter. Instead, he relied on his formidable time-trialling skills to make the catch on the descent. “Ben was so strong [on that last climb],” McNulty said at the finish, “but I crawled back and then we played games on the flat and it came down to that last kick and sprint. I knew [Frigo] was coming back and he came at exactly the right moment, I was able to swing over and caught the draft and with 200 meters I just went for it.”
- There was no Healy dominance today; unlike on stage 8 where he attacked with 50 km to go for a convincing solo win, the revelation of the spring Classics was marked at every crucial point in the race. Frigo started the action on the Roncola Alta climb, with McNulty bridging, and Healy pointed to that as a possible error. “I made the mistake of waiting for [Einer] Rubio, thought he was going to bring me back,” Healy told Eurosport/GCN at the finish. Healy bridged alone and then went off the front, but “slowly [McNulty] crawled me back and I couldn’t do it on the last bit” he said of his attack on the final, uncategorized climb.
- With a gap of more than seven minutes between the break and the maglia rosa group, there wasn’t major incentive to chase, and the leaders held a ceasefire on the Roncola Alta. But Jumbo and then UAE’s João Almeida did make things spicy on the tricky Boccola climb through Bergamo’s Citta Alta. All of the main contenders stayed vigilant and in contact, but the pressure did gap race leader Bruno Armirail. The Groupama-FDJ rider ceded 23 seconds of his lead, but will stay in pink on Monday’s rest day with a gap of 1:08 to Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers). That was the only movement on GC.
- Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates)
- Ben Healy (EF Education-EasyPost)
- Marco Frigo (Israel-Premier Tech) both same time
- Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) @ 1:51
- Einer Rubio (Movistar) same time
Giro riders as the sun finally came out:
Healy’s second place is worth breaking down on two levels: strength and tactics. He may have been the strongest rider in the break today, but he seemed to lack a little of the snap he had in week one. That’s perhaps not surprising. Healy was the revelation of the Ardennes Classics and has a run of strong results dating to late March. Two months is a long time to hold that kind of form.
But McNulty was clearly the cleverest rider in the move, and capably neutralized Healy’s strength on the climbs. First, he was aggressive in responding to Frigo’s attack when Healy hesitated. When Rubio didn’t (or couldn’t) close it down, that left Healy to do it himself. When Healy went clear, McNulty didn’t go into the red trying to follow, instead relying on steady pace to get back across the gap and make contact just before the descent. Both riders can go down a hill pretty well, but McNulty simply stayed on the wheel for the most part to recover. Then in the finale, he launched one move on the flat that Healy had to cover and then sat on Healy when Frigo countered. That took place just before the final climb in Bergamo, and likely sapped a bit of Healy’s punch, which the EF rider would like to have saved for the climb. Finally, McNulty was alert to Frigo coming back in the final kilometer, sitting on Healy’s wheel and waiting for Healy to open his sprint just a bit too early. Just extremely smart riding from the American.
Today is Mark Cavendish’s birthday, and the rumor is that the 38-year-old sprinter plans a press conference on the rest day for an announcement of some kind. Cav is on a one-year deal with Astana that’s widely seen as a quest to break his tie with Eddy Merckx for all-time Tour de France stage wins. It’s been an up-and-down season for him so far; is a retirement announcement in the making? Stay tuned – we’ll have full coverage of anything that develops.
Speaking of Rubio, the young Movistar rider is vying to make the KoM competition a three-rider race (he’s currently second, two points ahead of Thibaut Pinot and 28 points behind leader Davide Bais). But he raised some eyebrows today with aggressive racing for the first KoM, literally banging elbows with Healy like in a sprint finish.
After Monday’s rest day, the race gets absolutely down to business with Tuesday’s stage 16, a tough, 203 km ride starting on the shores of Lake Garda that takes in five categorized climbs, including the Category One summit finish on Monte Bondone. There are more than 5,800 meters of climbing, making it the “hardest” stage in the race by that measure. Based on today, it’s almost certain that Armirail will give up the race lead, and whether a breakaway survives again or not, we expect a fierce showdown for the GC contenders.
Quote of the day:
“In those moments, you’re done, spent, but you carry on because it’s a Giro stage; it’s not a nothing race.”-Marco Frigo, on his never-say-die ride today
Silliness straight from the socials:
Two straight days in the breakaway for Davide Ballerini, who had a little fun with his fan club today:
Next up, a Zoolander-Hansel runway showdown:
Want to know how wet this May has been for Italy?
- Ben Healy doesn’t just ride on strength. He’s a committed aero geek; check out the gear that Healy relies on.
- Demi Vollering has been nothing short of amazing with her results this year; interestingly, Vuelta a Burgos is her first stage race victory this season.
- Remco Evenepoel is not a toy.
- Remember Cam Wurf running a half marathon as recovery from Paris-Roubaix? He just got third in his first Ironman tri of the season.
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