Jungels Wins Stage 15 of Giro d'Italia
Bob Jungels sprinted to his maiden WorldTour stage victory on Sunday afternoon, when a wild stage 15 unfolded at the Giro d’Italia 2017 as soon as the flag was waved following a neutralized start phase. 24-year-old Jungels, who enjoyed a five-day stint in the maglia rosa before moving into the white jersey as best young rider, initiated a forceful and brutal attack on the cobbled climb of Bergamo Alta, his huge acceleration catching many of his opponents off guard and forcing an important selection.
After instigating his move on the short and steep hill, which was featured on the route of last year's Giro di Lombardia, Jungels was joined on the descent by offensively riding defending Giro d’Italia champion Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), Giro d'Italia race leader Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) and race favorite Nairo Quintana (Team Movistar), among others, and the newly-formed group powered on towards the finish line, which was located less than four kilometers away.
Nibali pushed hard in an attempt to break free from the other general classification favorites, but he failed to prevail, as the select group stayed together and continued to ride at a high velocity, thereby increasing their lead on the chase group. In the last kilometer, they pulled back a combined attack of Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) and Domenico Pozzovivo (AG2R), before Jungels took the front of the group, leading it as it approached the finish line.
The stage concluded with a sprint between the general classification contenders. Jungels carefully bided his time and came out of the slipstream of Pozzovivo with 150 meters to go, making use of his raw time trial power and roaring over the line with his arms raised in the air, finishing ahead of Quintana, who showed surprising sprinting ability, and other GC favorite Thibaut Pinot (Team FDJ). It was a victory for the history books, as the 24-year-old became only the second Luxembourger to win a stage at the Giro d’Italia in its 100 edition history, following Charly Gaul in the 1950s and 1960s.
"I had strong legs, felt good on the climbs, but wasn’t thinking of this outcome," stage winner Jungels told Roadcycling.com. "When I saw Nibali moving up on that hill, I decided to have a go and attack. The atmosphere on the climb was incredible and I couldn’t hear (sports director) Davide Bramati in the earphone, who was trying to encourage me from the car. I knew it was going to be tight, as all the riders in the group would be interested in the win and the bonus seconds that come with it. Fortunately, I also had a bit of luck, being in a perfect position in the last meters and launching the sprint from the wheel of Pozzovivo. To take a stage at the Giro d'Italia in such a quality group is really incredible," Jungels added.
"It was a fast and stressful stage, but a good day for me. In the finale it was all about timing in the sprint. I was just protecting my Maglia Rosa, nothing else. I didn’t want to take time on Quintana when he crashed because it wasn’t the right way to do it. Sometimes, the race goes on but this was a good moment to hold back and wait for him. My legs felt good today but I’m always looking forward to a rest day," Giro general classification leader Dumoulin explained to Roadcycling.com.
Following Monday's rest day, the 2017 Giro d'Italia will continue on Tuesday with an extraordinarily challeging 222 kilometer stage 16 from Rovetta to Bormio. The queen stage across the Alps will challenge the peloton to pass the Stelvio twice, first from the Bormio side, then followed by a first-ever climb up the Swiss side.
Following the stage start, the route climbs slightly while crossing the Val Camonica. Next, the peloton clears the Mortirolo Pass from its southern side, as in the 1990 Giro d'Italia, with gradients topping out at 16% in the last kilometers. Then comes a narrow and very technical descent leading to Grosio, where the route will run up the Adda River valley, heading for the first passage in Bormio that marks the beginning of a 100 kilometer circuit that will challenge all champions who remain part of the Giro peloton.
The final 20 kilometers are basically downhill. Shortly after the red flag in Bormio, the route takes a U-turn and levels out, heading for the finish after a few 90-degree bends. The finish line is situated on a 100 meter long and 7 meter wide asphalt home stretch.