18 May, 2016

Giro d'Italia Race Update

Image courtesy of Stiehl Photography.
Image courtesy of Stiehl Photography.
Image courtesy of Stiehl Photography.
Image courtesy of Stiehl Photography.
Image courtesy of Stiehl Photography.

The 99th Giro d'Italia got underway in Apeldoorn with Tom Dumoulin of Team Giant-Alpecin taking the stage 1 individual time trial win ahead of Primoz Roglic of Team LottoNL-Jumbo and Andrey Amador of Movistar. Tom also secured the first pink leaders jersey of the race. In their debut Giro d'Italia, Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka were motivated to race in front of the huge Apeldoorn crowd despite the African Team not having any specialist riders against the clock. With the start taking place inside the magnificent Apeldoorn Velodrome, it was a great spectacle to be a part of.

Stage 1:

Jaco Venter set a good early time over the 9.8km course for the African Team by coming across the finish-line in a time of 11 minutes and 49 seconds, maintaining average speed of 50km/h.

Primoz Roglic looked pretty comfortable in the hot seat, until Tom Dumoulin started his effort. After passing the intermediate time check 2 seconds faster than anyone else, Dumoulin went on to set the fastest time, beating the mark set by Roglic by just a few hundredths of a second.

For our African Team however, it would be Kanstantsin Siutsou to start last and end up as the best placed finisher on the stage for Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka. Siutsou set a time of 11 minutes and 43 seconds, just 40 seconds slower than Dumoulin's winning effort. The other riders on the African team had no issues out on the course and were looking forward to the first road stage of the Giro d'Italia.

“Today was a short and fast race, as all prologue time trials are. I was really excited to get the Giro d'Italia started. I didn't make any big mistakes and the course wasn't that technical. I'm not too sure yet of my time but I know I can be happy with my result as I did my best. I am happy with how the day went,” said Merhawi Kudus.

Stage 2:

Marcel Kittel of Etixx-Quickstepgot the win he was aiming for, taking the expected bunch sprint at the end of stage two in Nijmegen. He took a commanding victory, dominating the rush to the finish line, with a sprint that appeared almost uncontested by runner-up Arnaud Demare of Team FDJ and Sacha Modolo of Team Lampre-Merida.

Tom Dumoulin relied on his Giant-Alpecin team mates to bring him through the stage safely to the finish line. He remains in the overall lead with the same time as Primoz Roglic of LottoNL-Jumbo, but lost time to Kittel who picked up a 10-second time bonus and moved into third place, only one second behind.

The race for the stage victory truly started at the beginning of the final circuit with 8.6km remaining, as the field passed under the finish line banner surrounded by crowds of screaming fans, beating pink flags against the finish line, roadside barriers. Cannondale took the right side of the road while LottoNL-Jumbo owned the left, and Movistar, Giant-Alpecin and then Team Sky took the centre lines side-by-side.

The speed was high but the sprinter's team played a waiting game. Then in the final 2km, Cannondale and FDJ found their way into the best positions on the front but noticeably missing were Kittel’s Etixx-Quickstep team.

However, Kittel timed his move toward the front perfectly, edging to the fore with 1.5km to go, along with Caleb Ewan (Orica-GreenEdge), Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal), and Elia Vivani of Team Sky all on the wheels.

Etixx-Quickstep pushed forward with three men ahead of Kittel, leading the charge to the finish line, as FDJ pulled up beside them for Demare, Kittel on his wheel. Fabio Sabatini lead out early and then moved aside, forcing FDJ to take up the pace. Kittel launched his sprint off of Demare's wheel, caught him by surprise and pulled ahead, winning the stage by several metres and taking the 10-second bonus.

Stage 3:

Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka were at the forefront of the Giro d'Italia stage once again when Johann van Zyl was just caught in nail-biting finish. Marcel Kittel of Etixx-Quickstep made it two for two when he won the 3rd stage from Nijmegen to Arnhem. Elia Viviani of Team Sky took 2nd place in the mass sprint with Giacomo Nizzolo of Trek-Segafredo placing 3rd.

Today's 190km stage had a number of similarities to yesterday's stage, with an early escape also going clear almost from the gun. Four riders got the jump and there were two familiar faces in Maarten Tjallingii of Team LottoNL-Jumbo and Giacomo Berlato of Nippo-Vini Fantini.

Both riders were part of the break yesterday as well. Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka also had representation in the move once again and today it was in the form of our South African, Johann van Zyl. Julen Amezqueta of team Willier-Southeast was the final rider making up the escape quartet.

Like yesterday, the stage was totally flat with just one categorised climb coming midway through the stage. As Tjallingii picked up 2 points behind our King of the Mountains victor, Omar Fraile, the Dutchman was set to take over the Blue Jersey as long he wasn't 4th across the summit of the day’s climb.

Tjallingii made no mistakes and took maximum points on offer and also the jersey. Attention was now focused on the stage result and everybody was once again expecting a sprint finish. With 20km to go, the four leaders had a 2 minute and 13 second lead on the peloton and there was a slight sense of belief that the quartet could make it to the line.

A crash in the peloton did not help the cause of the main bunches efforts to chase down the leaders and their progress was quickly halted. Our South African rider Johann van Zyl attacked his breakaway counterparts with 12km to go and with the peloton just 45 seconds behind, he was able to open the gap back up to 1 minute.

Briefly before Etixx-Quickstep and the other sprinters teams really started to ramp up the pace in the peloton. Van Zyl had 34 seconds on the rest of the riders with just 5km to go and although @VanSnail is his social media handle and team nickname, he was certainly travelling a lot faster than a snail's pace.

Unfortunatley, after a brave and courageous effort, Van Zyl was caught with 1.8km to go and the sprinters would have their day. Our African Team had birthday boy, Kristian Sbaragli, in the thick of the action once again.

As Kittel sprinted to the stage victory and also into the overall pink leader’s jersey, our Italian had another solid ride to cross the line in 6th place for our African Team.

“It was a long day. For the first half of the race it was more or less a headwind so we had to time our effort smartly. After the feedzone we started riding harder and harder. With a tailwind and 6-minute lead, we knew we could get quite far if we rode smart but the guys were saving energy for the mountain sprint so they weren't really committing.

Once we got onto the local laps we rode as hard as we could and I attacked them with about 12km to go. I don't know if the guys just didn't want to commit anymore or if they were just tired but I knew I had to go now. I went as hard as I could and I ended up being 1 or 2 kilometers short, next time,” said Van Zyl at the end of the stage.

Stage 4:

Diego Ulissi of Team Lampre-Meridarode to his fifth career victory at theGiro d’Italia, this time during stage four in Praia a Mare. The Italian broke away on the steep slopes of the last climb of the day, with roughly 10 kilometres to go. He held off the chasing pack to win ahead of Tom Dumoulin of Giant-Alpecin and Steven Kruijswijk of LottoNL-Jumbo.

An all-day, four-man breakaway that included Matthias Brändle of IAM Cycling, Nicola Boem of Team Bardiani, Matej Mohoric of Team Lampre-Merida and Joey Rosskopf of BMC were reeled back in over the third category climb of San Pietro.Several attacks formed over the last climb of the day but it was Ulissi who cleared the field completely, and held on for the win.

Tom Dumoulin, who finished the stage five seconds behind Ulissi, now leads Bob Jungels of Etixx-Quickstep by 20 seconds in the overall classification, with Ulissi on the same time in third place. Pre-race favourite Vincenzo Nibali of Team Astana sits in sixth at 26 seconds.

Stage 5:

Andre Griepel of Team Lotto-Soudal won stage 5 of the Giro d'Italia sprint into Benevento ahead of Arnaud Demare of FDJ and Sonny Colbrelli of Bardiani-CSF. Tom Dumoulin retained the pink leader’s jersey.

For Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka however, it would not be the best of days as our African Team lost Omar Fraile. The Basque rider had to abandon after 100km's of today's stage. Fraile crashed heavily during yesterday's stage 4 but was still able to finish. Overnight though, the young climber picked up a fever and was not able to keep any fluid down. He started today's stage with the hope of nursing through to the finish but a really fast start meant this would not be possible and unfortunately he had no choice but to stop at the feedzone.

The stage went on though and it was four riders who animated the 230km stage by making the break of the day. While the stage was by no means flat, the sprinters teams were intent on bringing the race back together for a bunch sprint.

This scenario would eventually materialize and with 10km to go, the race was all together. Once again our African Team was focused on delivering Kristian Sbaragli to the sprint as the final 1.5km suited our young Italian. Being a slightly uphill pave surface, Sbaragli was well positioned going onto the pave but with no team really taking control of the leadout there was a slight lull in the pace which saw a number of rider’s swamp to the front before a left hand turn with 1km to go.

Sbaragli was boxed in, lost his position quickly and then there was also a crash in the final corner. The sprint then opened up and Sbaragli found himself having to come from around position 20 before the final corner. Sbaragli eventually made it up to 8th wheel and in the end the Italian had to settle for an 11th place finish.

“We have to start with the bad news of the day, Omar Fraile stopped today. He had a bad night after he crashed yesterday and he threw up a couple of times in the evening and a couple of times during the race. He was feeling dizzy and had a headache and you could see he was completely empty so he stopped in the feedzone.

It's always a bad thing when you lose a rider in a grand tour, and more so when it is early on so we are sad to see him go. We went for Kristian in the sprint due to the fact that had a good position but he was in the middle of the road and some of the riders went past him on the left and others on the right.

By then he was too far back before the last corner. There was also a crash that he was caught behind which didn't help the situation so it wasn't the result we were expecting from today,” said Jean-Pierre Heynderickx, Sport Director for Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka.

Stage 6:

Tim Wellens of Lotto-Soudal claimed the first Grand Tour stage of his career on today’s stage, a day when the race's first summit finish drew the overall favourites into direct battle. Tom Dumoulin of Giant-Alpecin believed his own insistence that he's not interested in the general classification.

Wellens took advantage of a moment of calm after a brief storm in the bunch to get himself up to the breakaway halfway through the 157km journey from Ponte to Roccaraso, where such names as Fausto Coppi, Bernard Hinault, and Moreno Argentin have celebrated in the past. 

The Belgian made his move on the early slopes of the 17km final climb, countering an attack from Laurent Didier of Trek-Segafredo – who was also part of the bridge to the break – before tucking his arms over his handlebars as if the long second category ascent were a time trial.

"I wanted to go from the beginning but I didn't succeed. Then the break didn't go very fast, and we could come back with Pim Ligthart, who had the idea to jump to the front," said Wellens. Tim also revealed that race leader Tom Dumoulin had encouraged him to attack, content to let the break contest stage honours.

"Tom said 'Tim, it's a moment to jump – we won't ride'. Then we bridged, we rode very well and I was the strongest on the final climb, so I'm very happy. I had a lot of pressure, because I said before the Giro that my objective was to win a stage, and I'm happy I did it," a chuffed Wellens stated.

The 24-year-old was over a minute clear by the time he crossed the line and lifted his bike above his head, by which point shots were being fired among the overall contenders. Jakob Fuglsang of Astana came home in second, closely followed by Ilnur Zakarin of Team Katusha who claimed a hard-fought third. But, it was Tom Dumoulin who finished a couple of seconds behind in fourth that would be most pleased with his day's work.

The Dutchman has always insisted he's only here for the time trials, but that didn't tally with the aggression shown as he countered an attack from Vincenzo Nibali, before opening up a sizeable gap to extend his overall lead by several seconds over most of the race favourites.

Only Domenico Pozzovivo of team Ag2r-La Mondiale and Zakarin could react to the move, and they soon caught early attackers Jakob Fuglsang and Kanstantsin Siutsou of Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka before going for the line. 

Fuglsang collected six bonus seconds and moved up to second on GC, but it was scant consolation for a disappointing day for the Astana team and its leader. The light blue jerseys had set a fearsome pace on the climb, and Fuglsangs’ early attack forced the other teams onto the front foot before Nibali's follow-up 3km from the finish.

The 2013 champion, however, lacked conviction and as he eased up in anticipation of being caught, Tom Dumoulin sprung his surprise. Nibali couldn't react, nor could he stay with the likes of Esteban Chaves of Team Orica-GreenEdge, Rafal Majka of Tinkoff, Alejandro Valverde of Team Movistar, Rigoberto Uran of Cannondale and Steven Kruijswijk of team LottoNL-Jumbo as the fragmented main group sprinted for the line several seconds behind that front group.

Mikel Landa from Team Sky, who seemed to struggle on stage 4, finished with Nibali and so too lost a small chunk of time. In the end, Nibali and Landa lost 23 seconds to Dumoulin, who now leads the race by 26 seconds from Fuglsang, with Zakarin third a couple of seconds back. Though he dropped from second to fourth, Bob Jungels of Etixx-Quickstep put in another impressive display to keep himself in the white jersey and in contention overall.

Stage 7:

Andre Greipel won the 7th stage of the Giro d'Italia after beating Giacomo Nizzolo of Trek Segafredo and Sacha Modolo of Lampre-Merida in the mass sprint finish in Foligno. Once again, Tom Dumoulin had no problem in retaining the overall race lead.

For Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka, the stage was all about supporting Kristian Sbaragli throughout the 211km. Six riders went up the road, forming the break of the day. They were not allowed much leeway and the sprinters teams were not going to let an opportunity pass them by.

The only point of concern for the pure sprinters was the category four climb that would summit with 40km to go. It was here that our African Team tried to play one of its cards by putting the team on the front in order to put some of the big name sprinters into difficulty, with Sbaragli not having a problem to get over such climbs.

The plan almost worked as Marcel Kittel was distanced but with there being a tailwind on the climb, the difference was not all that significant and the race came back together. The riders up front in the break were also, as expected, reeled in by the charging peloton and the sprint finale would again decide the stage. Sbaragli went into the last kilometer in a pretty good position, being 7th wheel. As the road veered to the right, Greipel was able to pull away and take a strong win. Sbaragli who was 6th with 50m to go, didn't have much space in front of him to move up while the riders who flanked him were able to just nudge ahead.

The Italian ended the stage in 11th place, while you could throw a blanket over position four through 16. Kanstantsin Siutsou was able to gain a place on the general classification and moved up to 9th overall, when he placed himself on the right side of a small split that happened in the final kilometer. 

“It was quite a long stage and we tried to make the final climb as hard as we could. It was bit too easy, the climb. Everybody was able to come back before the finish. I had quite a good position but it's possible that I was a little too far back in the final corner and the finish was right after the corner. I wasn't able to sprint for a top result, so I am a bit disappointed but we look forward to the next stages,” said rider Kristian Sbaragli.

Stage 8:

Alejandro Valverde of Team Movistar led home a group of favourites that included Mikel Landa and Vincenzo Nibali. Race leaderTom Dumoulin of Team Giant-Alpecin had a tough day and was dropped on the main climb of the Alpe di Poti. Dumoulin finished more than three minutes back on Brambilla, handing the young Italian the maglia rosa. Brambilla now leads Ilnur Zakrin by 23 seconds.

"I can't believe what I've done," Brambilla said. "Thanks to Matteo Trentin, we did an amazing job all day. It was a hard stage as a whole but he pulled until the last climb then it was my turn. I'm really happy - this victory is for my girlfriend Christina, and my little girl who was born 20 days ago. My idea at the beginning of the Giro was this stage, and I did it. I can't believe I have the pink jersey.”

Despite being less than two minutes down on the general classification, Brambilla made it away as part of a 13-man group right at the start of the day. Importantly for the 28-year-old, Matteo Trentin was also part of the breakaway and put in a lot of work on the front to keep the peloton at bay. Brambilla made his move in the main climb of the Alpe di Poti, following an earlier move from Montaguti. The baby-faced climber, who finished third at Strade Bianche earlier this season, quickly caught and passed the AG2R La Mondiale on the dirt roads that covered much of the ascent.

Stage 9:

As the wet conditions dawned upon the race, wet roads slowed down the General Classification contenders. This allowed for Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka and Kanstantsin Siutsou to remain in 17th position. Primoz Roglic of Team LottoNL-Jumbo won the stage 9 individual time trial. 2nd place went to Matthias Brandle of IAM Cycling followed by his team mate Vegard Stake Laengen. The leader’s jersey would stay with Gianluca Brambilla.

Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka went into stage 9 with the primary objective being for Kanstantsin Siutsou to keep his general classification hopes alive. For the rest of the African Team, the time trial discipline is not particularly their forte and so the team aimed to get around the technical 40.5km course in Chianti without expending too much energy.

The early starters all enjoyed some good weather conditions and Jay Thomson, our South African strongman was even able to hit 90km/h on some of the descents after being one of the first riders off. Just as Thomson reached the finish though, the rain started to fall out on course, making things particularly difficult for the main contenders who started later in the day. 

Siutsou was one of the riders who had to bear the brunt of the worst weather and reaching speeds of 90km/h was no longer an option for the general classification contenders on. Roglic was one of the fortunate riders to do most of his time trial on dry roads and so his mark of 51 minutes and 45 seconds would not be beaten.

Siutsou, like many others, had a tough time on the wet roads and finished 4 minutes and 35 seconds below Roglic. Igor Anton was our African Team's best placed rider on the day, finishing 4 minutes and 7 seconds below the leader.

After the days’ time trial, Siutsou retained his 17th position on the overall classification and headed into the 2nd rest day of this year’s Giro d’Italia.

“Today's individual time trial was actually a really nice course but when the GC boys had to do their stuff it was kind of monsoon type weather. For myself it was just a day to get through but for Kanstantsin and Igor the weather didn't play so nice for them.

At least they stayed upright and everybody made it through to the rest day. So now we can rest and recharge the batteries for what is to come because the next 12 stages are pretty tough on the GC side of things. We need to recover and reset, and look forward to going with Kristian for the next 3 days,” said South African rider Jay Thompson.

Stage 10:

The 10th stage of the Giro d'Italia was a really tough test as riders took on over 4000m of climbing from Campi Besenzio to Sestola. Giulio Ciccone of Team Bardiani CSF would eventually be the stage victor, taking the win ahead of Ivan Rovny of Tinkoff and Darwin Atapuma of BMC Racing.

An incredibly hard start saw the race split from early on, as a number of riders tried to get into the breakaway. Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka and Johann van Zyl were part of the early action and the South African made a good move but was reeled in by a constantly attacking peloton. Eventually three riders jumped clear followed by another 10 who eventually joined them up front.

The break had to ride exceptionally hard all day to achieve a maximum lead of 5 minutes while there were also no free rides in the peloton as Astana kept the pace high. The stage was constantly up and down and it certainly took its toll on the riders as many of them were dropped from the peloton a long way from the finish.

Our African Team had Igor Anton and Kanstantsin Siutsou up with the main contenders throughout the day after being well supported by the rest of the guys. The business end of the stage would be played out over a 13km category one climb, followed directly by a 7km category three climb to the finish. The break would shatter on the upward slopes with Ciccone proving to be the strongest. The young Italian would survive to the finish and took a nice victory. Positions one through five would be snapped up by the early break with the main favourites racing for 6th.

The favourites group though, was only 27 riders at the start of the last climb. Anton and Siutsou were both part of the selection and our two African Team riders were able to stay in the wheels of the big names up until 1km to go where they got distanced by just 9 seconds to both finish just outside of the top 20. In the general classification race, Bob Jungels of Team Etixx-Quickstep took over the lead while Siutsou moved up a spot, to now place 16th overall.

“It was a very long stage with a lot of meters of climbing. In the last part of the stage Etixx-Quickstep and Astana were putting down the power. The penultimate climb had a very steep final 3km and this is where the group was broken. Kanstantsin and myself were dropped but on the downhill to the last climb we could come back to the riders of the general classification. The last 6km climb was not very steep but it was still hard after already 211km of racing. I am happy with how the day went in the end,” said team rider Igor Anton.

For more updates on the 2016 Giro d’Italia, stay tuned to our page.

Kyle Deeley

Kyle Deeley

Editorial Assistant |