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TREVISO, Italy (VN) – Logic suggests that four riders who are being chasing by 150 riders are always going to get caught, but thanks to the effects of terrain, the elements and canny use of tactics, the quartet who broke away on the stage 18 of the Giro d’Italia into Treviso managed to defy the odds stacked against them and transform what seemed a nailed-on bunch gallop into a sprint between themselves, with Alpecin-Fenix’s Dries De Bondt ultimately the quickest to the line.
Many of the riders who swept in with the peloton that arrived 14 seconds behind them were very evidently on their knees with exhaustion. They’d given everything to reel in the four escapees on the flat roads across the Veneto towards the end of the stage, but came up short.
So how did four beat 150?
“I would say that at 50k’s to go the break looked like it was going get caught. Then, to be honest, after the Poggio climb I was thinking it’s not going get caught,” Team DSM directeur sportif Matt Winston told VeloNews.
“They rode really smart in the breakaway and fair play to them for that. They played all day. They kept the gap really low, and that meant we were worrying on the climb about 20 guys going across to them. So then it’s a balancing act. Do you bring it closer? Do you leave it?’ Winston explained.
“The gap was two minutes going onto the climb, but then they pushed on at the right moment in between time checks. That was super smart. It’s what I would have been saying if I’d been behind the break. Then they went all in and were fully committed to the line. They fully deserved the victory.”
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Winston said that his team and a number of others were fully committed to setting up their sprinters, in DSM’s case stage 11 winner Alberto Dainese, who comes from the Veneto.
“Every sprint team that was there used up every single guy. No one was holding back. It was all hands to the pump and the four of them kept the peloton at bay. But I think a sprint stage after 18 days is very different to sprint stage on stage two when everyone’s fresh. Then it’s a different story,” said Winston.
“Alberto is a bit disappointed as we set out to win the stage. But he also understands and could see the effort that the guys were putting in. No one’s left anything on the road there,” he concluded.
Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl DS Davide Bramati’s take was very similar to Winston’s.
“I think the four riders at the front were stronger. Congratulations to them. We wanted to close it, but then we heard Radio Tour say the gap was just 20 seconds,” he told VeloNews.
“Five K’s after that there was a 2.5km climb. We decided that if the bunch was jumpy, we’d wait and control at 1-30, two minutes, 2-30,” Bramati explained, the tactic intended to prevent riders bridging across to the break from the bunch. “Then for a while we didn’t have any television and they got almost three minutes. We sped up, but then there was the 1km Poggio climb and from there they went full gas.
“They were stronger,” Bramati added. “I think four teams put a lot of riders on the front. We thought it might be possible like last time in Cuneo but it wasn’t. I put all of the riders I have on the front, I didn’t have any more. Maybe I needed to go on the front with the car, but that’s not possible.”
Breakaway member Edoardo Affini (Jumbo-Visma), who finished second to De Bondt, confirmed that the leading quartet had managed to outfox their pursuers.
“Once we got clear, we all decided to take it easily, gamble a little bit with the bunch to see what they were going to do and just before the Poggio climb, we decided to speed up and try to gain time,” said the Italian.
“Actually the plan worked out pretty well. We always kept working together with the same goal, to try to win the stage. Unfortunately, at the end I found out that Dries was faster than me.”