Lopez and Landa find common cause to begin fightback at Giro d’Italia

Giuseppe Martinelli’s absence from the finish of stage 11 of the Giro d’Italia in Novi Ligure was a quiet statement of intent. Rather than watch Wednesday’s inevitable bunch finish, the Astana directeur sportif opted to drive a day ahead of the race to reconnoitre the new climb of Montoso and the finale of stage 12 to Pinerolo.

With Miguel Angel Lopez languishing some 4:29 down on Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) after a calamitous display in the San Martino time trial, it was not a question of whether Astana would go on the offensive, but when.

In Thursday morning’s La Gazzetta dello Sport, mind, Martinelli was quoted as saying that nothing much would happen on the Giro’s first mountain stage, even if the newspaper warned its readers to take those words with a grain of salt. “This is a pure bluff from Martinelli,” it wrote. “It won’t be surprising if his riders make a move.”

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So it proved. Dario Cataldo and Manuele Boaro were delegated to enter the day’s early break of 25 riders, which at one point established a lead of 15 minutes over the peloton. Once the bunch hit the Montoso, the first category 1 ascent of the Giro, Astana moved swiftly to the front.

Jan Hirt surged forcefully on the lower slopes of the climb with the clear aim of teeing up an attack from Lopez. The Colombian duly obliged with a rasping acceleration of his own that only Richard Carapaz (Movistar) and Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) could follow.

After that move petered out, Mikel Landa (Movistar) – another man with acres of ground to recoup – launched his offensive. Lopez responded immediately, and this duo quickly established a sizeable advantage over a dwindling group of favourites that included Nibali and Roglic.

Podium ambitions

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