Alessandro Covi (UAE Team Emirates) completed a 53km solo attack by climbing to victory on the penultimate day of the Giro d’Italia.
The Italian was the first rider to reach the summit of the Marmolada, beating Domen Novak (Bahrain-Victorious) and Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) in a gruelling stage that saw the peloton ascend almost 4,500m.
The battle for the maglia rosa was torn to pieces by Jai Hindley on the final climb's vicious gradients. The Australian, having trailed by three seconds to Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) at the start of the day, put over a minute into his rival to move into the race lead.
Hindley will take an advantage of one minute and 25 seconds into Sunday’s final stage, a 17.4km race against the clock round the streets of Verona.
How it happened
Starting in the town of Belluno, the final road stage of the race headed out on a 168km route through the Dolomites. After an undulating start, the peloton would ride gradually up to the summit of the Passo San Pellegrino, the first of three punishing category one climbs.
Next on the menu would be the Passo Pordoi, where the riders would go above 2,000m altitude for the first time in the race. A mountaintop finish then awaited the peloton on the Passo Fedaia – better known as the Marmolada.
Attacks came from the flag drop for the final breakaway of this year’s Giro d’Italia.
After numerous attempts, it took a punchy uncategorised climb 20km into the stage to finally split the peloton. A 15-man group formed at the front of the race, including previous stage winners Ciccone, Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) and Lennard Kämna (Bora-Hansgrohe).
The peloton, content with the composition of the move, eased up and let the front group stretch out their advantage. With just over 100km to go, the escapees had a gap of six minutes as they hit the foothills of the Passo San Pellegrino.
Despite the gruelling double-figure gradients, there were no shake-ups on the day’s first mountain test. Davide Formolo (UAE Team Emirates) took maximum points over the climb, adding to his tally in the mountains classification, even if Koen Bouwman (Jumbo-Visma) had already mathematically sealed the blue jersey.
At the foot of the Passo Pordoi, the breakaway began to fracture. Van der Poel and Andrea Vendrame (AG2R Citroën) were distanced at the back of the group, while Mauri Vansevenant (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) struggled to hold the pace.
Alessandro Covi (UAE Team Emirates) went off in search of the prize over the Cima Coppi, the highest point in the race, standing at 2,239m altitude.
With 45km remaining, the Italian reached the peak of the Passo Pordoi over a minute ahead of his breakaway companions. Covi extended his advantage to two minutes on the long, winding descent, with the peloton trailing six minutes behind.
The UAE Team Emirates rider then powered solo onto the lower slopes of the final climb, the 14km-long Marmolada.
Covi held a steady gap up to the 5km to go banner, where the road ramped up and the slopes became tougher. Novak attacked out of the chasing group, ploughing into the Italian’s advantage, which began to tumble.
Back in the pack, Ineos Grenadiers seized control and started to turn the screw on the GC challengers. Hindley and Landa were able to follow as Pavel Sivakov (Ineos Grenadiers) drained his final energy reserves for his team-mate Carapaz.
When Sivakov peeled off, Hindley attacked. The Australian joined forces with Kämna, who had dropped back from the breakaway, and the duo set an infernal tempo, riding Carapaz off their wheel.
Having started the day just three seconds in arrears, Hindley kicked into the climb and forced a 25-second gap to the race leader.
Covi, alone at the front, took a similar advantage under the flamme rouge. The 23-year-old had time to savour the moment as he took his first WorldTour victory at the summit of the Marmolada.
Out on the road, Carapaz's time losses multiplied. The Ecuadorian was caught by Landa and eventually finished eleventh on the stage, five places behind Jai Hindley who took the maglia rosa and a lead of one minute and 25 seconds ahead of the closing individual time trial.
Giro d’Italia 2022, stage 20: Belluno to Marmolada (168km)
1. Alessandro Covi (Ita) UAE Team Emirates, in 4-46-34
2. Domen Novak (Slo) Bahrain-Victorious, at 34s
3. Giulio Ciccone (Ita) Trek-Segafredo, at 37s
4. Antonio Pedrero (Esp) Movistar, at 1-36
5. Thymen Arensman (Ned) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 1-50
6. Jai Hindley (Aus) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 2-30
7. Gijs Leemreize (Ned) Jumbo-Visma, at 3-04
8. Hugh Carthy (GBr) EF Education-EasyPost, at 3-19
9. Mikel Landa (Esp) Bahrain-Victorious, s.t.
10. Lennard Kämna (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 3-39
General classification after stage 20
1. Jai Hindley (Aus) Bora-Hansgrohe, in 86-07-19
2. Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Ineos Grenadiers, at 1-25
3. Mikel Landa (Esp) Bahrain-Victorious, at 1-51
4. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Qazaqstan Team, at 7-57
5. Pello Bilbao (Esp) Bahrain-Victorious, at 8-55
6. Jan Hirt (Cze) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux, at 9-07
7. Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) BORA-hansgrohe, at 11-18
8. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux, at 16-04
9. Juan Pedro López (Spa) Trek-Segafredo, at 17-29
10. Hugh Carthy (GBr) EF Education-EasyPost, at 17-56
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