Geraint Thomas gives away pink as Nico Denz wins second Giro d'Italia stage in three days

The Bora-hansgrohe rider helped bring back the leading trio before securing another victory

Nico Denz
(Image credit: Getty)

Nico Denz's barely believable run of form at the Giro d'Italia continued with a brilliant second victory on stage 14, as Geraint Thomas opted to hand control of the race over to Groupama-FDJ's Bruno Armirail.

German Denz helped a chasing group of five bridge across to a group of three leaders in the final 500m of the 194km stage, before the Bora-hansgrohe rider sprinted for his second win in just three days.

"I was already satisfied after the first one and I have already told my soigneur to wake me up," the 29-year-old laughed at the finish. "This cannot be true. It must be a dream. I don't understand what's going on to be honest."

Also struggling to comprehend the day's results was Armirail who began the day 18-37 behind Thomas in the general classificiation, but thanks to being part of a huge 29-rider break and Ineos Grenadiers wanting an easy day ahead of the crucial final week, the Groupama-FDJ rider jumped 22 places and into the maglia rosa by 1-41.

In doing so he becomes the first Frenchman this century to lead the Giro, and he could very well hold onto his position at the top of the standings on stage 15's hilly Classics-like profile.

"For me personally it's a dream," the 29-year-old said. "I can't believe it. I wanted to look for the stage win today and I didn't really imagine I would take the maglia rosa tonight."

A rider winning from the breakaway became the most likely outcome of the race not long after the race flag dropped in Sierre in Switzerland, with a huge breakaway group of 29 riders going clear ahead of the climb of the Simplon Pass, that took riders to 2,002m above sea level.

The following 140km comprised of a descent and mostly flat terrain as the race re-entered Italy, but with the sprinting teams of Astana-Qazaqstan, Jayco-AlUla and Bahrain-Victorious having a rider in the break, no one was inclined to chase down the escapees. What's more, Fernando Gaviria of Movistar, one of the fastest sprinters in the race, was one of the 29 who had jumped clear.

On the climb of the Simplon Pass, torrential rain began to fall yet again, and the only event of note was Davide Bais of EOLO-Kometa taking the maximum 40 KOM points on offer at the summit to retake the lead of the mountain's classification from Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ). He now has an advantage of 30 points.

After that, it was all mostly quiet for a long period of time, until with 57km remaining Laurens Rex of Intermarché-Circus-Wanty and Stefano Oldani of Alpecin-Deceuninck built a small lead over their breakaway colleagues. They were joined shortly after by Davide Ballerini (Soudal-QuickStep) and Toms Skujinš (Trek-Segafredo).

The quartet's lead hovered around 45 seconds, but there was now growing interest in the slow speed of the peloton who had sat up even more, letting the time gap to the escapees grow from seven minutes to near 20 minutes. That opened up the door to Armirail moving into pink.

Up ahead, Armirail was out of the picture for the stage victory though, and into the final six kilometres the trio of Skujinš, Oldani and Ballerini had a lead of around 20 seconds, but there was a chasing group of five pressing hard.

With 600m to go, Oldani attacked but he was soon brought back; within 300m the group of three had swelled to eight, and Alberto Bettiol of EF Education-EasyPost opened up his attack. But the Italian was not able to get away, and emerging through the middle was Denz who held off the advances of Derek Gee (Israel-PremierTech) to take a memorable second win.

"We put in a massive, massive effort to come back in the last 10km, and everyone went full gas, we all wanted to go for victory and not fourth place," Denz reflected. "At one kilometre to go, everyone was looking at each other and I thought, 'I already have one win' and I didn't want to be fourth. It was either win or I didn't care. I pushed, closed a bit of the gap and then Bettiol went immediately. I jumped on his wheel and I went all in until the line. And here I am again."

It was disappointment, however, for Gee who has been another revelation in this year's corsa rosa, the Canadian now finishing second three times and also placing a fourth. "I'm sorry I couldn't finish it off," he said, but admitted that "I am really, really happy with my legs."

The day, however, had two winners: Denz, again, and Armirail, the new owner of a pink jersey.

Result: Stage 14 of the Giro d'Italia 2023 Sierre > Cassano Magnago, 194km

1. Nico Denz (Ger) Bora-hansgrohe, at 4-37.30
2. Derek Gee (Can) Israel-PremierTeach
3. Alberto Bettiol (Ita) EF Education-EasyPost, all at same time
4. Laurenz Rex (Bel) Intermarché-Circus-Wanty, at 1s
5. Davide Ballerini (Ita) Soudal-QuickStep, at same time
6. Toms Skujinš (Lat) Trek-Segafredo, at 4s
7. Marius Mayrhofer (Ger) Team DSM, at 10a
8. Stefano Oldani (Ita) Alpecin-Deceuninck, at 20s
9. Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Bahrain-Victorious, at 50s
10. Mirco Maestri (Ita) EOLO-Kometa, at same time.

General classification after stage 14

  1. Bruno Armirail (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, in 56-17.01
  2. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 1-41
  3. Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma, at 1-43
  4. João Almeida (Por) UAE Team Emirates, at 2-03
  5. Andreas Leknessund (Nor) Team DSM, at 2-23
  6. Damiano Caruso (Ita) Bahrain Victorious, at 3-09
  7. Lennard Kämna (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 3-33
  8. Thymen Arensman (Ned) Ineos Grenadiers, at 4-26
  9. Laurens De Plus (Bel) Ineos Grenadiers, at 4-29
  10. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 4-54.

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Chris Marshall-Bell

Chris first started writing for Cycling Weekly in 2013 on work experience and has since become a regular name in the magazine and on the website. Reporting from races, long interviews with riders from the peloton and riding features drive his love of writing about all things two wheels.

Probably a bit too obsessed with mountains, he was previously found playing and guiding in the Canadian Rockies, and now mostly lives in the Val d’Aran in the Spanish Pyrenees where he’s a ski instructor in the winter and cycling guide in the summer. He almost certainly holds the record for the most number of interviews conducted from snowy mountains.