Ciccone beats De Gendt in ‘Challenge of Stars’

Froome knocked out early as some of peloton's top climbers virtually faced off.

Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) won Sunday’s climbers round in the Challenge of Stars online racing event. The Italian bested Belgian rider Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) in the final with knock-out rounds of some tops names of the peloton.

In a series of virtual elimination rounds, Ciccone beat Jakob Fuglsang (Astana Pro Team), Simon Geschke (CCC Team) beat Vincenzo Nibali (Trek-Segafredo), De Gendt  beat Rafał Majka (BORA-Hansgrohe), and Warren Barguil (Arkéa-Samsic) beat Chris Froome (Team Ineos).

“Even if it is a virtual tournament, it was very difficult to achieve the victory,” Ciccone said. “Thomas started very fast, he is a rider capable of producing great power. I had calculated how much power I would have been able to push on this climb so I climbed hard but with my pace, hoping he would have slowed down a bit.”

The route mimicked a 2.9km ascent on the Stelvio climb, with an average gradient of 8.69 percent that peaked at 12.75 percent. Ciccone crossed the finish line first with a time of 7:44, with runner up De Gendt stopping the watch at 8:03.

In the two semi-finals, Ciccone beat Geschke, while De Gendt  beat Barguil to reach the final of the online racing competition organized by Giro d’Italia owner RCS Sport. With coronavirus putting the brakes on real racing, organizers are trying out different formats.

“I was pushing more than 500 watts but I couldn’t keep it until the end,” De Gendt said. “I lost to somebody who is a very good climber. He is an up-and-coming rider who was better than me today.”

On Saturday, Fabio Jakobsen (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) won a sprinter’s version of the knock-out format.