Bais Gets Shocking Win From Breakaway After GC Snoozefest In Mountains
Italy’s Davide Bais took a first pro win as the breakaway went the distance in what proved to be a damp squib of a first summit showdown on the Gran Sasso d’Italia. Bais outfoxed fellow escapees Karel Vacek and Simone Petilli on his way to securing the blue jersey. Remco Evenepoel led home the main field three minutes later as Andreas Leknessund survived another day in pink.
On a day everyone expected fireworks in the fight for pink, it was left to an unlikely threesome and a 25-year-old Italian to steal the limelight on the snow-capped Gran Sasso. Davide Bais (Eolo-Kometa) got the better of compatriot Simone Petilli (Intermarche-Circus-Wanty) and Czech tyro Karel Vacek (Team Corratec-Selle Italia) to take the first – and biggest – win of his career, denying his companions what would have been maiden career wins of their own.
Bais led the breakaway over all three climbs on the menu to secure the maglia azzurra as well as the stage win. He also won both intermediate sprints during a 218km day in the saddle that he will never forget. Forget, however, is what most viewers will do – with the anticipated GC battle never materialising and an atmosphere of resigned stalemate taking over the peloton.
At one point, the breakaway held a gap of almost 13 minutes on the pack – and although this came down to three minutes on the final climb to Campo Imperatore, none of the race favourites felt inclined to show their hand until the final few hundred metres. By which point it was too little, too late.
The world champion Remco Evenepoel (Soudal Quick-Step) responded to a dig from the British rider Eddie Dunbar (Jayco-AlUla) as the Belgian led the main field home ahead of Slovenia’s Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) and Frenchman Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) some 3’10” after Bais had raised his hands in triumph.
Norway’s Andreas Leknessund (Team DSM) finished safely in the pack to complete a third day in the pink jersey, his only trouble coming in the form of a tricky donning of a jacket during the heavy showers which rained down on the riders as they made their way towards the Apennines in Abruzzo.
Leknessund retained his 28-second lead over Evenepoel while French Stage 4 winner Aurelien Paret-Peintre (AG2R Citroen) kept his third place a further two seconds back. Portugal’s Joao Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) is in fourth place at 1’00”, 12 seconds faster than Roglic in fifth, with Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) keeping his sixth place at 1’26” – level on time as the seventh place Russian Alexandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe).
Britain’s Tao Geoghegan Hart (Ineos Grenadiers) rose one place to eighth while Germany’s Lennard Kamna (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Italy’s Damiano Caruso (Bahrain Victorious) both climbed into the top 10.
Bais now leads Pinot by 76 points to the Frenchman’s 50 points in the king of the mountains competition after he took maximum points over both Cat.2 climbs ahead of the final Cat.1 slog to Gran Sasso, most of which was tackled into a fierce headwind and in near-freezing temperatures.
But it will be Bais’ stage win that will linger longest in his memory bank – a rider renowned for racking up breakaway kilometres having finally delivered the goods on an iconic climb that will now forever put him in the same bracket as the late, great Marco Pantani, a memorable victor on the highest point of the Apennines back in 1999.
A fourth rider – Henok Mulubrhan (Green Project-Bardiani) – featured in the breakaway after it formed shortly after the start in Capua, but the Eritrean was dropped like a stone on the first climb of the day, the Cat.2 ascent to Roccaraso, which came after the riders already had 100 largely rain-soaked kilometres in the legs.
The sun came out on the long plateau over the summit as Petilli rode in the virtual pink jersey having started the stage almost eight minutes down in the standings. It was the DSM team of pink jersey Leknessund who set the tempo on the front of the pack, now allowing the advantage of the leaders to grow above the 13-minute mark.
Once the teams of the big GC riders gathered on the front ahead of the second and penultimate climb to Calascio with 40km remaining, the gap suddenly plummeted below 10 minutes. But once the pace eased again, the pendulum soon swung back in favour of the rookie breakaway – even if each rider was entering unchartered territory.
None of the three leaders had ever stood atop a professional podium before while debutant Vacek had never ridden as long a race before in his career. It showed – and it was Vacek who was dropped once Petilli put in the first attack with around 3km remaining to the snowy summit.
The Czech fought back – and after being dropped once again, he even put in his own acceleration ahead of the final kilometre to put his Italian companions under pressure. It was Vacek who rode on the front of the trio in the final kilometre until Petilli launched the final sprint. But Bais got the better of his two rivals to surge clear and complete a flawless day in the saddle – capped off with the blue jersey.
The win may not rank up there with Pantani’s triumph in 1999 or even Simon Yates’s victory in pink five years ago. But Bais will go down in the history books as a winner on the Gran Sasso – even if the race behind him was a complete non-event.
The Giro d’Italia continues on Saturday with a lumpy 207km Stage 8 from Terni to Fossombrone, the final third of which includes three categorised climbs and a fast descent to the finish.