Campenaerts ends his winning drought
It was only three years ago when Victor Campenaerts’ name was talked about regularly when discussing the world’s best riders.
A powerful time triallist who was European champion in the discipline in 2017 and 2018 and also finished third in the latter year’s World Championships, the Belgian still holds the Hour Record with a distance of 55.089km that he set in April 2019.
He followed up etching his name in cycling’s history books with two second-places in time trials at the 2019 Giro, but since then has fallen away from the spotlight.
In the past week, however, the 29-year-old has seemed determined to return to his former glory, and he finally ended his near two-year winning drought in stormy conditions.
It was a fascinating final 20km of the stage with the breakaway attacking one another and a boisterous Campenaerts remonstrating with Movistar’s Albert Torres, before the pair then slipped clear of the large break along with Oscar Riesebeek (Alpecin-Fenix)
Torres faded, and the remaining duo failed to work in unison but still had enough of an advantage in the final kilometre and despite leading the sprint out, Campenaerts was ultimately too fast for a heartbroken Riesebeek.
The question now is if Campenaerts will remain in the news or slip away again.
Another win from the break
The win for Campenaerts was the eighth time in 15 stages that the breakaway had held off the peloton, and an incredible third victory of the race for Qhubeka-Assos.
While on some stages a rider from the breakaway just about held off the chasing peloton, namely Taco van der Hoorn’s memorable victory on stage three, other days the GC teams have been more than content to let the fugitives take the day’s honours.
Stage 15 was definitely in the latter camp, a decision fuelled not only by the lumpy parcours coming a day after Monte Zoncolan and a day ahead of the queen stage, but also because of a crash in the opening kilometres no doubt spooking riders at the head of the general classification.
Hearing Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) climb off the race (see talking point below) will not have been a message Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers), Simon Yates (BikeExchange) and other GC favourites will have enjoyed listening to, and they would have been very satisfied to have a quieter, less stressful day thereafter.
For the breakaway to have now won more than half of the race’s stages, those teams still seeking their first win of the Grand Tour may be planning to infiltrate the day’s break even more now.
Devastation for Riesebeek shows the importance of the Giro
It looked like Riesebeek, riding his maiden Grand Tour, had the upper hand in the final kilometres, the way in which he attacked and responded to Campenaerts’ suggesting that he was just a little bit stronger than his rival.
He may even have been better than the eventual winner but appeared to be scared by the wet cobbles as they approached the finishing line, perhaps fitting if true given that it was a Belgian who mastered the slippery stones.
The defeat hit Riesebeek hard. When he conceded the victory he slammed his hands on his bars, and afterwards admitted that the opportunity to win a Grand Tour stage could have been a once-in-a-lifetime chance that has now passed him by.
Such a prospect clearly upset an emotional Riesebeek, broadcasting to the watching world just how special and important riding a three-week race is to riders.
Big crash leads to more abandons
Less than 24 hours after looking steady once more and definitely capable of securing a final podium spot, Emanuel Buchmann’s Giro came to a halt inside just the first five kilometres of stage 15.
The Bora-Hansgrohe rider, who was sixth on GC at 2-36 from race leader Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers), was caught in a big pile-up in the opening minutes of the day’s action that caused the race to temporarily be neutralised.
Buchmann, Natnael Berhane (Cofidis) and Jos van Emden (Jumbo-Visma) were the worst of the 15 who had fallen, the trio withdrawing quite soon after the incident. Not long after, EF Education-Nippo’s Ruben Guerreiro pulled out, too.
It was not immediately known what injury or injuries Buchmann had sustained, but his exit will be a major source of frustration for him, the German desperate to prove that his fourth-place finish in the 2019 Tour de France wasn’t a fluke.
It was the second time in four days that a number of riders abandoned during the stage, with stage 12 also seeing a number of withdrawals including Britain’s Alex Dowsett of Israel Start-Up Nation
A very nervous peloton
The early crash and the late storm definitely tamed the peloton who all crossed the line over 17 minutes after Campenaerts had won.
Filippo Ganna of Ineos Grenadiers, so often the de-facto leader leader-of-the-bunch, took control of the pace in the final hour and didn’t have to respond to any attack from behind.
The weather was miserable, the riders no doubt just wanted to climb into their team buses showers, and they were visibly wary of wet cobbles that could have upended him.
It means that apart from Buchmann’s withdrawal, there were no other changes in the general classification with Egan Bernal still holding an advantage of 93 seconds to Simon Yates ahead of Monday’s queen stage.
Climbing back into the top-10 as the cost of Buchmann is Tobias Foss of Jumbo-Visma, the young Norwegian 5-37 adrift of the maglia rosa.
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