The Italian Davide Bais lived the best day of his cycling life on Friday by winning the 7th stage of the Giro at the top of the Gran Sasso d’Italia after a breakaway of more than 200 kilometers.
A mountain stage in his National Tour, arriving at more than 2,000 meters, in the middle of snowfields: the rider of the Eolo-Kometa team could hardly dream of a more beautiful place to win, at 25, the first victory in his professional career.
The last long climb, in desolate, almost arctic landscapes, could have become the scene of a first big explanation between the favorites. But, the fault in particular of a strong headwind, absolutely nothing happened in the peloton and the big guys arrived grouped, more than three minutes from the winner.
“I was expecting attacks. This scenario benefits me. I’m happy to be still in pink this evening”, blew the Norwegian Andreas Leknessund who retains the lead in the general classification with 28 seconds ahead of the Belgian Remco Evenepoel.
The spectacle was elsewhere on Friday, in the form of an unranked breakaway, three riders not counting the slightest victory on their record, accustomed to working in the shadows for their leaders and who shone in full light to dispute the victory in a Grand Tour at the top of a mythical pass.
Davide Bais, his compatriot Simone Petilli (Intermarché) and the Czech Karel Vacek (Corratec) started almost from the start of this 218 km long stage to take up to thirteen minutes ahead of a drowsy peloton, and still keep some three on arrival.
At the top of Gran Sasso, at 2,130m, Bais was the cleverest to surprise Petilli, who had given a lot all day, and Vacek, on the verge of breaking during the climb.
Contador in ecstasy
“I wasn’t the strongest on the climb, I was waiting for the sprint. This is my first victory. I didn’t expect it. I thought I was helping (his leader Lorenzo) Fortunato in the final,” said underlined the winner who also stole the blue jersey for best climber from Thibaut Pinot.
Within the Eolo-Kometa team, it was euphoria. In this second division formation, invited to this Giro, the stars are above all in the coaching with the Spaniard Alberto Contador, double winner of the Tour de France, in ecstasy at his post as commentator, and the Italian Ivan Basso, former double Giro winner turned team manager.
“For a team like ours, winning here is fantastic. Above all, we are here for Fortunato, but there are so many Italian riders in our team who want to shine. This is Davide’s third year with us. Winning the Giro , it’s beautiful”, he commented.
Behind, the favorites therefore remained in their niche, even if Remco Evenepoel sprinted to the top of the pass, without making a difference.
The Belgian, well recovered from his double fall on Wednesday, had announced at the start that he would not attack to “keep up his strength” before the 35 km time trial on Sunday, the next big meeting of this Giro.
Rather, he relied on his competitors, and in particular the Ineos team, to attempt an offensive. “But the conditions were not suitable. There was a strong headwind and that deterred us. We didn’t want to try anything,” said Geraint Thomas, one of the leaders of Ineos.