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LAVARONE, Italy (VN) – Mathieu van der Poel made what he described as an “all-or-nothing” attempt to win one of the Giro d’Italia’s toughest mountain stages, but ultimately came up short on the final climb, where the heat and the talent of the pure climbers that were chasing on his heels proved too much for him.
“I felt good today so I tried to go for the win. I’m happy with how it went,” he said at the finish having eventually finished in 12th place, three minutes down on Colombian stage winner Santiago Buitrago.
Alpecin-Fenix star Van der Poel defied his strapping classics-crushing frame and joined the big breakaway group that came together on the descent from the Passo Tonale, the uncategorized climb that the peloton tackled right from the start of an arduous mountain stage that tested even the fleetest mountain men.
The break then split on the first categorized climb, the Giovo, with Van der Poel among those in the 10-strong front group. Approaching the second climb of the Passo del Vetriolo, the Dutchman forced a split in that group, three riders bridging up to him.
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Nearing the top of that pass, they were reeled by four other riders, including Jumbo-Visma’s Gijs Leemrize, with whom Van der Poel attacked on the long, fast and tricky descent, the two Dutch riders opening up a gap of a minute going onto the lower slopes of the final climb, Monterovere, where the Alpecin team leader attacked his compatriot and made his bid for mountains glory.
“I was feeling good on the climb. I was just hoping it was going to keep raining and stay cool. It was the first time the temperatures were a bit more like normal, and that suited me a little better,” he explained.
“When we reached the final climb I went all in. It was a bit of an all-or-nothing attempt. I thought I might get away, but Leemrize kept pushing all the time. I tried to get a gap for the steep part, which would help me get over the top, but it was perhaps a little bit optimistic,” he admitted.
Van der Poel knocked down the suggestion that he’d been overconfident in making his final attack on Monterovere. “I knew that I had to try and do it this way. But Leemrize is the better climber, of course,” he said. “But today I felt good and that was why I tried.”
He described himself as being “not at all disappointed” by missing out on the stage win given the gap that eventually opened up between himself and Buitrago by the finish. “It wasn’t close in the end. I’m just happy with how it went,” he stated.