Santiago Buitrago (Bahrain-Victorious) secured his first-ever Grand Tour victory on stage 17 of the Giro d'Italia, the young Colombian soloing to victory after powering past Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) and Gijs Leemreize (Jumbo-Visma) on the final climb.
Buitrago timed his attack perfectly, despite it looking like both Van der Poel and Leemreize would win the stage on the climb up Monterovere. Van der Poel initially attacked from the breakaway group during the descent of the Passo del Vetriolo with compatriot Gijs Leemreize (Jumbo-Visma), and then went again on the final ascent.
However, he couldn't maintain the pace, and Leemreize took up the mantle as he powered up the climb. Both attacks were unsuccessful, though, as Buitrago gained on both riders with his superior strength on the mountain before eventually coming home 35 seconds ahead of Leemreize.
Perhaps more impressive from Buitrago's ride, though, is managing to recover from a nasty fall he suffered mid-way through the race on the slippery surface. Emotionally crossing the line on stage 15 having come second, Buitrago's win will no doubt heal the wounds he suffered both that day and today.
Meanwhile, Mikel Landa (Bahrain-Victorious) moved into third place overal, during an entertaining stage for the GC contenders, as Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) retained the maglia rosa.
HOW IT HAPPENED
Stage 17 presented a mixed day of challenges, with some difficult climbs interspersed with long descents and slightly flatter terrain mid-way through the race.
Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) came into the stage still holding onto the maglia rosa, but after he picked up crucial bonus seconds yesterday, Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe) had cut the Ecuadorian's advantage down to just three seconds.
With the rain lashing down, stage 17 began with 8.7km of climbing up the Passo del Tonale. Felix Gall (AG2R Citroën), Hugh Carthy (EF Education-EasyPost), and Thymen Arensman (Team DSM) initiated the first breakaway, with Alessandro Covi (UAE Team Emirates) shortly joining them to create a quartet quickly ascending the uncategorised climb.
Mountains classification leader Koen Bouwman (Jumbo-Visma) and his closest challenger, Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo), were soon among 20 riders forming a chase group up the climb, and quickly caught the leading four riders. With two categorised climbs coming within the final 35km of the race, both Bouwman and Ciccone's intentions seemed clear.
Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) and stage 16 winner Jan Hirt (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux) were also a part of this breakaway, while the GC contenders were comfortable keeping their position in the peloton.
Upon reaching the summit of the Passo del Tonale, the leaders had built up a gap of around two minutes. With a 65km descent to follow, though, this gradually increased despite Ineos Grenadiers and Bora-Hansgrohe's best efforts in the bunch.
Diego Rosa (Eolo-Kometa) and David de la Cruz (Astana-Qazaqstan) both bridged across from the peloton to the leading group during the descent, and with 100km left, the peloton was three minutes behind the breakaway. This time gap soon rose to five minutes as the break reached the first categorised climb of Giovo, with Bouwman accelerating to take maximum KOM points, while Ciccone crossed the line second.
Bouwman's acceleration caused a split in the breakaway, but this soon came back together after 10km of riding with minimal distance between themselves.
By this point, the peloton had lost further time and was nearly seven minutes behind. With Jan Hirt only 7-42 behind Richard Carapaz in the GC coming into today, and in the breakaway, the maglia rosa group had to be careful not to let the Czech rider get too far up the road and come back into contention.
Shortly after the break reconvened as one large group, Van der Poel attacked - Guillaume Martin (Cofidis), Felix Gall (AG2R Citroën) and Luca Covili (Bardiani-CSF-Faizanè) soon joined him - building up a gap of 40 seconds on the chasers, and six minutes 40 seconds to peloton, with 50km still to race. Elsewhere, Simon Yates (BikeExchange-Jayco) dropped out of the peloton, and eventually abandoned the race.
Guillaume Martin won the Pergine Valsugana intermediate sprint, but posed no threat to Arnaud Démare's (Groupama-FDJ) dominant lead in the points classification. The Passo del Vetriolo climb shortly followed, a 11.8km ascent at an average gradient of 7.7%. By now the leading four were 1-20 ahead of the chasing group, and seven minutes in front of the main bunch.
An acceleration by Hugh Carthy split the chasing group, with Santiago Buitrago (Bahrain-Victorious), Mauri Vansevenant (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl), Hirt and Bouwman the only riders opting to follow. This group gradually ate away the front riders' lead, coming to within half a minute with 40km remaining.
Gijs Leemreize (Jumbo-Visma) managed to join the first chasing group, while Covi dropped off the head of the race. Both riders, with Vansevenant, couldn't keep pace for long with the chasers though, as Hirt, Buitrago, Bouwman and Carthy caught Van der Poel, Gall and Martin with 36km still left. At this point, the peloton was still six minutes behind, with Bahrain-Victorious taking the reins at the front of the pack.
Leemreize worked hard to stay within touching distance of the leaders, and towards the top of the climb he got back within them. Koen Bouwman was the first rider to pass the Passo del Vetriolo summit, picking up even more points as he extends his lead in the mountains classification.
Van der Poel and Leemreize led the group down the steep ascent with a slight gap to the other riders, as the peloton passed the summit five minutes behind. The duo in front were 40 seconds ahead towards the bottom of the mountain, their superior descending skills in full view.
This kept rising - to above a minute - in the valley between the Passo del Vetriolo and Monterovere, the final climb of the day. Leemreize won the Caldonazzo intermediate sprint, but it seemed both riders cared more about extending their lead to put themselves in an optimal position with 16km remaining.
The two leaders reached the 7.9km, 9.9% average gradient, climb of Monterovere with a 1-30 gap to the chasers. Van der Poel decided to take matters into his own hands up the gruelling climb, accelerating away from Leemreize. Out of the saddle and gritting his teeth, the Alpecin-Fenix rider was looking to secure his second Giro d'Italia win of his career, following his stage one victory. Leemreize certainly refused to give up, though, keeping his compatriot within sight.
Carthy, Hirt and Buitrago accelerated from the other chasers, but failed to put any time into Van der Poel motoring up the mountain. Meanwhile, the peloton reached the foot of the climb still five and a half minutes back from the Dutchman.
Buitrago attacked halfway up the mountain to open up a gap on Carthy and Hirt, and he gradually ate into the front riders' lead. As this happened, Leemreize caught up to Van der Poel, and duly dropped him by quite comfortably. The young Jumbo-Visma rider put metres into Van der Poel in search of the first Grand Tour victory of his career.
An attack from Richie Porte (Ineos Grenadiers) in the peloton saw GC contenders Carapaz, Hindley and Mikel Landa (Bahrain-Victorious) follow, but João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) failed to match the pace. Landa also had teammate Wout Poels with him, while Hindley sat solo in the group of five.
Buitrago soon caught Van der Poel, who had seemingly attacked to early and couldn't maintain the same pace up the steep incline. Further back, Landa accelerated, but both Porte, Hindley and Carapaz matched his pace as Porte was dropped, creating a thrilling battle in the race for the maglia rosa.
Into the final kilometre of the climb, and Leemreize's lead over Buitrago was minimal, and the Colombian eventually caught up to him. He then attacked up the final part of the climb, but Leemreize refused to give up. Another kick from Buitrago, though, opened up a gap to Leemreize, passing the summit with a large gap over a matter of metres. By now, there was just 8km of racing left, with hilly roads featuring on the final run to Lavarone.
An acceleration by Poels and Landa looked like Carapaz and Hindley couldn't respond, but both managed to get back on the wheel to stay in contention. This stayed as it was until the line, but both Hindley and Carapaz earned bonus seconds in the sprint as Landa loses time overall.
Buitrago opened up a 25 second gap to Leemreize heading into the final 3km, and it didn't seem like he would surrender the lead, despite the Jumbo-Visma rider's best efforts on the descent. The Bahrain-Victorious maintained his lead into the finale in what proved a stunning performance to secure the first Grand Tour win of his career.
GIRO D'ITALIA 2022, STAGE 17: PONTE DI LEGNO TO LAVARONE (168KM)
1. Santiago Buitrago (Col) Bahrain-Victorious, in 4-27-41
2. Gijs Leemreize (Ned) Jumbo-Visma, at 35s
3. Jan Hirt (Cze) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux, at 2-28
4. Hugh Carthy (GBr) EF Education-EasyPost, at same time
5. Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Ineos Grenadiers, at 2-53
6. Jai Hindley (Aus) Bora-Hansgrohe, at same time
7. Mauri Vansevenant (Bel) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl, at 2-57
8. Koen Bouwman (Ned) Jumbo-Visma, at 2-59
9. Guillaume Martin (Fra) Cofidis
10. Mikel Landa (Spa) Bahrain-Victorious, at same time
GENERAL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE 17
1. Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Ineos Grenadiers, in 73-19-40
2. Jai Hindley (Aus) BORA-hansgrohe, at 3 seconds
3. Mikel Landa (Esp) Bahrain-Victorious, at 1-05
4. João Almeida (Por) UAE Team Emirates, at 1-54
5. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Qazaqstan Team, at 5-48
6. Pello Bilbao (Esp) Bahrain-Victorious, at 6-19
7. Jan Hirt (Cze) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux, at 7-12
8. Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) BORA-hansgrohe, at 7-13
9. Juan Pedro López (Spa) Trek-Segafredo, at12-27
10. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux, at 12-30
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Ryan is a staff writer for Cycling Weekly, having joined the team in September 2021. He first joined Future in December 2020, working across FourFourTwo, Golf Monthly, Rugby World and Advnture's websites, before making his way to cycling. After graduating from Cardiff University with a degree in Journalism and Communications, Ryan earned a NCTJ qualification to further develop as a writer.
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