Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe) won stage nine of the Giro d’Italia, prevailing atop the mighty Blockhaus and rising to fifth in the general classification.
Hindley held off Romain Bardet (Team DSM) and Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) in a sprint at the summit, taking ten bonus seconds on the line.
The stage promised to be pivotal in the battle for the maglia rosa. And it didn’t disappoint.
Simon Yates (BikeExchange-Jayco) and Juan Pedro López both fell victim to the pace set by Ineos Grenadiers on the final ascent. The Spaniard, in a valiant defence of his jersey, dug deep on the climb to hold on to the race lead by 12 seconds.
How it happened
Stage nine saw the riders leave the historic town of Isernia and head north across the Appenines, taking in five categorised climbs and a staggering total elevation of 5,000m. With a rest day beckoning, the peloton would first have to tackle two ascents of the unrelenting Blockhaus, the toughest way up saved for the finale.
The attacks for the breakaway came straight from the flag drop. Diego Rosa (Eolo-Kometa), who spent 140km up the road on his own on stage six, set off once again on a solo foray. Two chasing groups formed in pursuit behind the Italian, with the peloton policing any attempts to join them.
Just 15km into the stage, a crash in the bunch caused Pello Bilbao (Bahrain-Victorious) to hit the deck. The tears in the Spaniard’s kit revealed bright red grazes, that were quickly patched up as he was nursed back into the main group by his team-mates.
Rosa was alone for just 25km this time before he was joined by eight riders, including previous Giro stage winners Jonathan Caicedo (EF Education-EasyPost), Joe Dombrowski (Astana Qazaqstan) and Nans Peters (AG2R Citroën). The nine-man group established an advantage that teetered between four and five minutes.
The Eolo-Kometa rider took his chance to move up the king of the mountains classification over the first three climbs. Rosa took maximum points over two the peaks and moved within touching distance of Koen Bouwman’s (Jumbo-Visma) blue jersey.
As the road went uphill towards the Passo Lanciano, the gap to the breakaway dropped below three minutes. In the peloton, Jonathan Castroviejo (Ineos Grenadiers) took up the chase and drilled into the gradual gradients, with Trek-Segafredo and Team DSM on his wheel.
The Passo Lanciano officially began with 54km to go. Peters, having attacked out of the breakaway on the preceding slopes, led the race onto the category one climb. The Frenchman was followed by Drone Hopper-Androni Giocattoli duo Natnael Tesfazion and Eduardo Sepúlveda, and the three riders put over 40 seconds into their fellow escapees.
Determined to reach the summit first, Rosa bridged across the gap and powered off the front, towing Tesfazion behind him round the tree-lined hairpins. The Italian was uncontested on the line and took the points he needed to top the king of the mountains classification.
There was drama on the descent when Tesfazion crashed off the course. The Eritrean appeared to misjudge a corner, narrowly missing a metal barrier as he went over his handlebars and into the bushes. Fortunately, Tesfazion remounted his bike and was able to continue the stage.
With 20km remaining and Blockhaus looming large, the gap to the race leaders fell sharply to just 40 seconds. Less than 5km later, the breakaway was no more. A shootout between the race favourites was all but certain.
Ineos Grenadiers set a hard tempo at the foot of the climb and immediately shook off Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) and Simon Yates (BikeExchange-Jayco), who couldn’t hold the pace.
López, on his fifth day in the maglia rosa, also struggled to keep contact with the group. A touching of wheels in the group forced the Spaniard to unclip, and he fell adrift of the rhythm set by Richie Porte (Ineos Grenadiers).
The first attack came with 4.6km to go when Carapaz exploded past his Australian team-mate and set off up the road. Only Bardet and Mikel Landa (Bahrain-Victorious) could follow the Olympic champion on the climb's 14 per cent ramps, and the trio began working together to stay clear.
With 2km remaining, the front three became six as Hindley, João Almeida (UAE-Team Emirates) and Domenico Pozzovivo (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux) regained contact. Bardet then kicked ahead, splitting the group in two, before the gradient abated and the six riders came back together.
700m from the finish, Carapaz sat up, fastened his jersey and readied himself for a dash to the line.
Hindley led the pack round one final bend and jumped out of the saddle on the exit, kicking through the pedals. The Bora-Hansgrohe rider put two bike lengths into his rivals and managed to hold off Bardet and Carapaz to take a career second Giro d'Italia stage.
Giro d’Italia 2022, stage nine: Isernia to Blockhaus (191km)
1. Jai Hindley (Aus) Bora-Hansgrohe, in 5-34-44
2. Romain Bardet (Fra) Team DSM
3. Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Ineos Grenadiers
4. Mikel Landa (Esp) Bahrain Victorious
5. João Almeida (Por) UAE Team Emirates, all at same time
6. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux, at 3s
7. Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 16s
8. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Qazaqstan, at 34s
9. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar, at 46s
10. Thymen Arensman (Ned) Team DSM, at 58s
General classification after stage nine
1. Juan Pedro López (Esp) Trek-Segafredo, in 37-51-01
2. João Almeida (Por) UAE Team Emirates, at 12s
3. Romain Bardet (Fra) Team DSM, at 14s
4. Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Ineos Grenadiers, at 15s
5. Jai Hindley (Aus) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 20s
6. Guillaume Martin (Fra) Cofidis, at 28s
7. Mikel Landa (Esp) Bahrain Victorious, at 28s
8. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux, at 54s
9. Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 1-09
10. Pello Bilbao (Esp) Bahrain Victorious, at 1-22
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