It has always been like that in cycling: to win you need great legs, along with timing and wit. All the more so if you are surrounded with stronger rivals. What you need is perfection and a touch of luck. Today in Rivoli, Nico Denz had both.
As a group of 30 riders broke away on the stunning roads of Langhe, it soon became obvious that they were going to go all the way. The stage was made to measure for breakaways, and since no one of today’s attackers could trouble the Maglia Rosa Geraint Thomas, the lead group soon had the green light. Ineos Grenadiers put on cruise control and made sure that the breakaway always had enough of a margin to discourage any catch up action by the peloton.
The 30 riders in front tackled the demanding Colle Braida, followed by 17 long kilometres as flat as a pancake which led them all the way to the finish line in Rivoli. Michael Matthews and Mads Pedersen had also joined the breakaway, and so had Alberto Bettiol and Patrick Konrad, Sepp Kuss, Einer Rubio, Bauke Mollema and Davide Formolo, not to mention them all. Unfortunately for them, Nico Denz (Bora-hansgrohe) was there too, although no one would have bet on him initially.
But with 94 km to go, Denz seized the moment and brutally chopped the lead group to five contenders. Coming out of a roundabout at a fairly quiet phase of the race, the German, together with Alessandro Tonelli (Green Project-Bardiani CSF-Faizanè), Toms Skujiņš (Trek-Segafredo) and Sebastian Berwick (Israel-PremierTech), found himself a few metres ahead of the rest of the breakaway, who, lacking the necessary cohesion, did not even try to close the gap. Realising this right away, Denz began to push hard, along with his three fellow adventurers.
Within a matter of a few kilometres, the margin over the rest of the contending fugitives had grown to two minutes, which meant that Denz, Tonelli, Skujiņš and Berwick were going to compete for the stage victory.
On the climb to the Braida Pass, Denz managed to stick with Berwick and Skujiņš, overcoming the biggest obstacle of his day and bringing his opponents into a three-man sprint: there, he brought his power to bear, going on to seize an unhoped-for and quite remarkable success. The best victory of his career came from a well-approached roundabout. – www.giroditalia.it