Cassano d’Adda, Italy, May 25, 2016 (AFP) – German IAM rider Roger Kluge got ahead of the pack in the final kilometer to bamboozle the sprint teams and steal a stage win on a flat run in the 17th stage of the Giro d’Italia on Wednesday.
There was no change in the overall standings with Dutchman Steven Kruijswijk still leading Esteban Chaves by 3min 03sec and veteran Spaniard Alejandro Valverde by 3min 23sec in third.
The 196km run between Molveno and Cassano d’Adda was raced in glorious sunshine and was an opportunity for the overall contenders to relax in the pack as a breakaway formed and was eventually reeled in with a few kilometres left to seemingly set up a bunch sprint.
Just as the escape ended, however, Filippo Pozzato made a powerful counter-attack and was only followed by Kluge as the sprint teams, stripped of many of the top contenders such as Marcel Kittel and Andre Greipel who have pulled out, failed to put in a concerted effort to close them down.
Kluge, an omnium silver medalist in the last world championships, won with relative ease ahead of Italy’s Giacomo Nizzolo, who has come second in nine Giro stages without ever having won, while another German Nikias Arndt was third.
The IAM man admitted after the race he had initially followed Pozzato to help form a team sprint lead-out train, but that his team’s sprinter had failed to emerge from the pack.
“Then I saw that Pozzato was just ahead of me, I was going fast and overtook him at full pelt round the last corner, with 50 meters to go I turned around and realized I was going to win.”
The German also said he was gunning for a track medal in omnium at the Rio Games.
“Any medal will do, but if it’s a gold it’ll be like today. That is, I’ll be happiest man in the world,” he said.
One man who looked far from happy Wednesday is overall fourth-placed Vincenzo Nibali, the Astana leader, home hope and pre-race favorite.
“I had a good day and it was an easy stage apart from that stressful finish,” he explained.
At 4min 43sec the best Nibali can realistically hope for is a place on the podium, if all goes to plan in the final mountain stages.
Pink jersey wearer Kruijswijk was enjoying the limelight.
“Lots of other riders came over and congratulated me. I wouldn’t say I had won the Giro yet though and for now I’m just taking it one step at a time.”
Thursday’s stage is a giant 240km slog back into the Alps between Muggio and Pinerolo and ends with a 5km climb at an average 10.5 percent gradient, before a spectacular daredevil descent to the finish line.
The race for the pink jersey continues in earnest with two big days in the mountains on Friday and Saturday.
1. Roger Kluge (GER/IAM) 196km in 4hrs 31mins 29sec,
2. Giacomo Nizzolo(ITA/TRE) same time,
3. Nikias Arndt (GER/GIA) s.t.,
4. Sacha Modolo (ITA/LAM) s.t.,
5. Matteo Trentin (ITA/ETI) s.t.,
6. Alexander Porsev (RUS/KAT) s.t.,
7. Pim Ligthart (NED/LOT) s.t.,
8. Ramunas Navardauskas (LTU/CAN) s.t.,
9. Manuel Belletti (ITA/SOU) s.t.,
10. Paolo Simion (ITA/BAR) s.t.
1. Steven Kruijswijk (NED/LNL) 63hr 40min 10sec,
2. Esteban Chaves (COL/ORI) at 3min 03sec,
3. Alejandro Valverde (ESP/MOV) 3:23,
4. Vincenzo Nibali (ITA/AST) 4:43,
5. Ilnur Zakarin (RUS/KAT) 4:50,
6. Rafal Majka (POL/TIN) 5:34,
7. Bob Jungels (LUX/ETI) 7:57,
8. Andrey Amador (CRC/MOV) 6:53,
9. Domenico Pozzovivo (ITA/A2R) 10:05,
10. Kanstantsin Siutsou (BLR/DDA) 11:03