After winning the 12th stage on Thursday, Nico Denz settled the breakaway that long animated the 14th round of the Giro 2023 ahead of Derek Gee and Alberto Bettiol. Again in the pouring rain, the peloton gave the breakaway full freedom and offered Bruno Armirail the pink jersey.
Nico Denz is on fire at the Giro 2023! While he raised his arms this Thursday in Rivoli at the finish of the 12th stage, the Bora-Hansgrohe team rider did it again in the streets of Cassano Magnago after a very long breakaway. Presenting an atypical route, with only one major difficulty whose summit was located in the first 60 kilometers, this 14th stage seemed ideal for the fighters. Once the start had been given from Sierre, the banderillas did not take long with a side wind which even caused breaks in the peloton.
However, after these skirmishes, it was 170 kilometers from the finish that the good shot was off. Nicolas Prodhomme, Bruno Armirail, Fernando Gaviria and even Alessandro de Marchi took their place in a group of 18 riders which Warren Barguil tried to join alongside Lennard Kämna but without success. However, the leader of the Arkéa-Samsic team has not given up on the idea. Helped by Thibault Guernalec, Derek Gee, Toms Skujins and Will Barta, the Breton joined the lead with 155 kilometers still to go. Composed of 27 members, this breakaway grew even bigger when Mattia Bais and Mirco Maestri joined their teammate at Eolo-Kometa Davide Bais.
Bettiol was the first to crack
It was therefore at 29 that this breakaway reached the foot of the Simplonpass, the only listed difficulty of the day with… the weather which began to deteriorate as the Italian border got closer. If Bruno Armirail tried to impose a big tempo on the slope to put Davide Bais in difficulty and defend the blue jersey of Thibaut Pinot, the rider from the Groupama-FDJ team did not achieve his objective. Indeed, the Italian went for 40 points at the top of the Simplonpass and took back the best climber’s jersey at the end of the stage. Very quickly, the fugitives understood that the stage victory was going to be decided between them, the peloton having not forced in the ascent, reaching the summit with a delay of eight minutes.
In the pouring rain, the risks were measured on both sides, seeing the gap between the two groups take on simply enormous proportions. Alexander Konychev, who went against, found himself in a hunt and never saw the lead again. Within the escape, personal ambitions surfaced at the start of the last 60 kilometers with Alberto Bettiol setting fire to the powder. Laurenz Rex and Stefano Oldani went against with Davide Ballerini then Toms Skujins who made the connection. This quartet managed to get closer to a minute’s lead in a far from obvious final, littered with short but unregistered climbs and disputed on a wet road.
Denz doubles the bet, Armirail inherits the pink jersey
At the same time, the Ineos Grenadiers team did not impose a crazy tempo on the peloton, letting the gap exceed 18 minutes and not defending Geraint Thomas’ pink jersey against the threat Bruno Armirail. Up front, Marius Mayrhofer broke down and chased behind the leading quartet when Laurenz Rex failed to keep up the pace at the front. Nico Denz, Alberto Bettiol and Derek Gee followed the German. A group that made the connection just 400 meters from the line. Nico Denz then made his effort to pass in front and go for the victory. The rider from the Bora-Hansgrohe team, however, scared himself by raising his arms too soon.
Fortunately for him, Derek Gee falls just under a wheel when Alberto Bettiol completes the podium. Crossing the line 50 seconds later, Bruno Armirail had to wait long minutes to find out if he was going to wear pink. But the attitude of the peloton and the riders of the Ineos Grenadiers team left no room for doubt. 24 years after Laurent Jalabert, a French rider will wear the Giro pink jersey this Sunday with a lead close to two minutes over a Geraint Thomas who will see his team relieved of responsibility for the race in the days to come.