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Buitrago has twice come close to a breakaway stage victory in the last week, riding in for fifth into Genova behind Stefano Oldani, and taking second to Giulio Ciccone into Cogne on stage 15.
It looked like his dreams of taking a stage win home with him were going to end in disappointment again Wednesday when he crashed on the descent of the Giovo climb when he slid out on a corner. As he screamed in pain, it looked like his race was done, but he quickly grabbed a new bike and chased back into the escape group.
“I had a small mishap on the descent, and it was a difficult moment, but I was able to get back up and fight for the victory in the end,” Buitrago said. “It is exceptional to win, especially after the big disappointment on Sunday. The key to this success was patience on the climbs. I think I rode well.
“I want to dedicate this victory to my family and my big brother in Colombia. I came into this Giro with the aim to do well so this is very important. Of course, I was hoping to get a victory rather than to do GC so I’m very happy I managed to get a stage win.”
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Buitrago was very patient in his bid for stage success and didn’t panic when other riders went off the front. Mathieu van der Poel had been keen to drop the stronger climbers, attacking multiple times before the final climb.
Van der Poel and Gijs Leemreize took a sizeable gap onto the climb, but Buitrago waited for his moment. He eventually made his move with less than 15 kilometers to go, cutting chunks out of the deficit to the two leading riders.
In the end, he had a comfortable gap as he rolled into the finish to take the biggest victory of his young career. His win was a popular one among the massed crowds with Colombian fans seeking him out to shout their support as he spoke to the press after the stage.
Buitrago’s team leader Mikel Landa also sought him out, walking into the press area to embrace him. Now that he has the win in his back pocket, Buitrago may have to shy away from breakaways in the coming days to support Landa, who jumped up into third overall Wednesday.
“At the start of the last climb, there was a minute and a half gap to my group, but I felt like I had good legs and I knew that it was a really hard climb. I decided to have a go but I didn’t know if I would be able to escape,” Buitrago said.
“After the finish, when I realized that I had won a stage of the Giro, I thought of all the people that have helped me to become a pro cycling.
“The objective now for the team is to help Mikel Landa, he’s in good shape, even if it’s there are complex stages. He can do well in the GC. I helped him yesterday and he knows what this victory means for me. It gives me great morale to have him helping me.”