Giro d'Italia: Santiago Buitrago survives crash to take stunning stage 17 win

Giro d’Italia: Santiago Buitrago survives crash to take stunning stage 17 win

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Santiago Buitrago (Bahrain Victorious) powered to a dramatic breakthrough victory on stage 17 of the Giro d’Italia, dropping Gijs Leemreize (Jumbo-Visma) on the final slopes of the Monterovere to take his maiden grand tour stage win.

The Bahrain-Victorious rider was in the break of the day, and despite crashing, and being dropped before the final climb, the 22-year-old battled back to Leemreize and Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) after the pair had established a one minute lead before the final climb.

Van der Poel briefly dropped Leemreize on the lower slopes of the Monterovere but the classics specialist was caught and dropped by the Jumbo rider with 11.5km to go. Buitrago rode at his own pace on the climb, first catching van der Poel and then working his way up to Leemreize roughly a kilometer from the summit.

Also read: Giro d’Italia: Simon Yates abandons midway through stage 17

Leemreize was able to match Buitrago’s first attack but not a second acceleration, with the Colombian kicking clear just before the summit and surviving the short descent and rolling terrain before the finish.

“I am very moved. It’s my first Giro and thanks to the team that believed in me, my family, my girlfriend, and everyone’s been supporting me. This is for all of them and I am very happy. It was a cold-headed moment. I knew the others were up ahead, but I felt I had the legs and I wanted to try. When I got close to them I knew how fast they are and I had to finish alone to have a chance to win this stage,” said the stage winner.

In the battle for the maglia rosa Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers), Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Mikel Landa (Bahrain Victorious) once again reaffirmed their status as the best GC riders in the race.

Both Bahrain and Ineos set a furious pace on the final climb with both João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) both losing significant time.

Both riders were dropped on the lower slopes of the Monterovere but it was Richie Porte who helped blow the group of GC contenders to pieces with a vicious turn of speed with 11.1km to go. The Australian reduced the pink jersey group to just himself, Carapaz, Landa, Wout Poels, and Hindley.

Landa attacked with 9.5km to go but could not distance either Hindley or Carapaz as the key contenders matched each other pedal stroke for pedal stroke. Poels came back to the leaders and offered Landa vital support as Almeida and Nibali continued to suffer further down the climb.

At the finish, Landa let a small gap open up to Carapaz and Hindley in the sprint for the line, losing six vital seconds, but the Spaniard moved up to third overall. Almeida lost 1:10 to his key rivals, while Nibali lost almost two minutes. Carapaz retained his slender three second lead over Hindley. Landa is now at 1:05, Almeida at 1:54, and Nibali at 5:48.

“It was a really hard stage and we have to be happy how it turned out,” Carapaz said. “Things are more defined now and I am happy to have defended the jersey. Everything was under control when Landa attacked, and I think I had good legs. I am happy to get through the stage with pink. Tomorrow is also an important stage and we have to get through it without any problems, because this weekend is very important.”

However, the stage and the day belonged to Buitrago. Van der Poel provided entertainment but it was Buitrago who battled back from a crash and getting dropped, to take the biggest win of his promising career.

How it unfolded

After Tuesday exploits and a tight battle all the way to Aprica, stage 17 of the Giro d’Italia was expected to follow suit. Riders were greeted with persistent showers and dark skies when they set off from the start with the Passo del Tonale immediately in front of them.

With the perfect terrain for attacks Hugh Carthy (EF Education-EasyPost) was the first rider to put in a strong attack and he was joined by three more riders, including second on stage 16, Thymen Arensman (Team DSM), who continues to impress on his Giro debut.

The break on stage 17 of the Giro d’Italia (Photo: Getty Images)

Over the top of the climb a group of 25 riders formed with Simone Ravanelli (Drone Hopper-Androni Giocattoli), Nicolas Prodhomme, Felix Gall (AG2R Citroën), Rein Taaramäe (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert), Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix), Santiago Buitrago (Bahrain Victorious), Filippo Zana, Luca Covili (Bardiani-CSF-Faizanè), Lorenzo Fortunato (Eolo-Kometa), Damien Howson (BikeExchange-Jayco), Guillaume Martin (Cofidis), Diego Camargo, Antonio Pedrero (Movistar), Attila Valter (Groupama-FDJ), Jan Hirt, Koen Bouwman, Gijs Leemreize, Mauri Vansevenant (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl), Thymen Arensman (Team DSM), Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo), Sam Oomen (Jumbo-Visma), Alessandro Covi (UAE Team Emirates), and Hugh Carthy (EF Education-EasyPost) all off the front of the peloton.

Despite the large number of riders, and a lack of consistent cooperation between the attackers, the group established a near three-minute lead as they raced down the long decent before a section of valley road.

Back in the peloton Carapaz’s Ineos Grenadiers patrolled the front of the main field with Salvatore Puccio and Ben Swift swapping turns as they protected their climbers for what was still in store.

With 130km to go the gap held at 2:49 but by the time the leader reached the foot of the Giovo with 87km to go the gap had moved out to over four minutes as EF Education and Jumbo Visma took responsibility for the pace setting.

At the top of the climb Bouwan took the maximum points on offer in the King of the Mountains competition but on the descent Buitrago crashed heavily and was lucky to carry on after losing his front wheel. By this point the roads had dried up but the crash was a timely reminder of how the race can change in the blink of an eye.

With 80km to go Carthy pushed on in an attempt to force a split. The acceleration in pace caused the break to fracture and the gap to the peloton stretched to 6:11 but with 69km to go the break reformed through the Cembra Valley as their advantage edged out to 6:36.

Van der Poel took off with 65.5km to go with Martin, Covi, and Gall creating a four-man move with a 25-second gap on the Carthy group.

The serious climbs begin

With 43km to go, and at the foot of the Passo del Vetriolo, the four leaders had a minute on the Carthy group but the British climber increased the pace almost as soon as he hit the climb, dragging a handful of riders, including Bouwman, and Hirt, with him as the bunch drifted to 6:50. Hirt’s presence was a threat to the GC and the top five with the stage 16 winner catapulted up the overall standings.

Carthy dragged his group up the van der Poel and company with 36.km to go and used that opportunity to press on as Covi slipped back. At the front of the bunch Bahrain Victorious took over from Ineos Grenadiers and quickly stretched out the maglia rosa group as the group thinned to less than 40 riders almost immediately.

One of the early casualties was Alejandro Valverde, with Ivan Sosa asked to wait for his veteran team leader as Carthy reduced his companions to just van der Poel, Bouwman, Hirt, Gall, Buitrago, and Leemreize.

At the summit Bouwman picked up another 40 points in the KOM competition to extend his lead, with the break cresting the top of the Passo del Vetriolo 4:57 clear.

Demon descenders

Ineos Grenadiers patrolled the front all day. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

On the descent Leemreize surged clear with only van der Poel able to match the Jumbo-Visma rider. Van der Poel almost crashed with 24km to go when his back wheel skidded out on a wet corner but he kept himself in check and linked up with Leemreize to create a 32-second gap on the Carthy group as the peloton held themselves at 5:05.

The gap between the leading pair and the remnants of the break ballooned to over a minute with 20km to go as the cooperation between the chase fell apart.

With 15km to go van der Poel dropped Leemreize as the road began to climb towards the final summit of Monterovere as back down the road Ineos Grenadiers replaced Bahrain-Victorious on the front of the maglia rosa group.

Carthy, realizing that a potential stage win was slipping through his fingers, attacked from the rest of the break with 14km to go with the gap to van der Poel at 1:34.

Bahrain took over from Ineos for a second time as Almeida slipped from the maglia rosa group with 12.5km to go as Covi dropped back to support his UAE Team Emirates leader.

Leemreize regained contact with van der Poel with 11.5km to go, and pushed on alone almost immediately as further down the climb Ineos reduced the Carapaz group to less than a dozen riders.

However, even when Leemreize appeared in control, Buitrago was eating into the Dutch rider’s lead. The Colombian cut into the one minute gap, first catching van der Poel and then Leemreize just before the summit.

On the short descent and rolling roads before the finish Buitrago held on to take the biggest win of his career.

Giro d’Italia Stage 17 Results

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