Cogne (Italy) (AFP) – Italy’s Giulio Ciccone won the 15th stage of the Giro d’Italia on Sunday after a solo attack on the final climb with Ecuador’s Richard Carapaz holding the leader’s pink jersey heading into the final week.
Trek-Segafredo rider Ciccone was part of a small breakaway group with no overall contenders, crossing the finish line 1min 31sec ahead of closest rival Santiago Buitrago after making his move with just under 20km to go.
Carapaz of Ineos holds the race lead he grabbed on Saturday after the 177-kilometre run between Rivarolo Canavese and Cogne.
“This is my most beautiful win,” said Ciccone after his third Giro stage victory.
“It’s better than the yellow jersey at the Tour de France, better than my first wins at the Giro because I went through difficult times in the past two years, with crashes, illnesses and Covid.”
Ciccone was the winner of the mountains classification of the 2019 edition of the Giro which Carapaz won.
On Sunday, the 27-year-old burst away from Hugh Carthy and Buitrago with the trio on the ascent to the summit finish in Cogne in the Aosta Valley.
“Today I felt strong,” explained the Italian.
“I chose to attack solo with 19km to go because it was the steepest part of the climb and I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to drop everyone later on.”
Carapaz survives fall
On a quiet day for the general classification, Carapaz stayed in the main peloton, which contained all the main men and was several minutes back when Ciccone crossed.
Ciccone distanced his last breakaway on the steep part of the very long climb to Cogne over 22.4 km at 4.3 percent gradient in the Gran Paradiso National Park.
On the line, installed at an altitude of 1,611m, the rider from Abruzzo preceded young Colombian climber Buitrago, 22.
Spaniard Antonio Pedrero took third place, more than two minutes behind.
The breakaway of the day took shape after many attempts over 80km in the 177km stage.
In the second of three climbs at Verrogne, Ciccone attacked and was joined by Buitrago and Pedrero, and then Carthy.
Apart from a minor fall early with about fifteen other riders, Carapaz was not worried in this mountain stage, on the eve of the last day of rest near Lake Garda.
“I had a small crash at the beginning of my first day in the Maglia Rosa but with no consequence at all,” said Carapaz.
“I just had to change bike. Then it went smoothly. The scenario of the race was pretty good. The first part was hard. Then we had it under control.”
The Olympic champion crossed the line in the first peloton, almost eight minutes behind the winner, to extend his overall lead on Australian Jai Hindley to nine seconds with Portugal’s Joao Almeida third over half a minute off the pace before the final week featuring three mountain stages.