May 15, 2023
Giro d’Italia 2023 – Stage 15 – Seregno – Bergamo : 195 km
Falling in May, the Giro d’Italia welcomes in the start of the much-anticipated Grand Tour season.
May 15, 2023
Giro d’Italia 2023 – Stage 15 – Seregno – Bergamo : 195 km
Falling in May, the Giro d’Italia welcomes in the start of the much-anticipated Grand Tour season. This is the time of the year where we see the climbers finally emerge, all vying for the same coveted prize – the coveted maglia rosa, or pink jersey. As is the case with all Grand Tours, the Giro route changes year on year as organisers send it around new areas of the country, seeking out ever more challenging parcours. Despite the route changing every year, the format remains very much the same. With a route that features no fewer than three individual time trials – adding up to a total distance of 73km – this year’s race looks set to favour those riders who are strong against the clock. There’s no shortage of legendary mountain passes though, in addition to three time trials the riders will also be faced with summit finishes atop Gran Sasso d’Italia, Monte Bondone and Tre Cime di Lavaredo. Across this year’s 3,481.9km-long route, riders will encounter no less than 54,331m of climbing – almost 2,000m than last year’s, an edition described by many as one of the most mountainous in years! Taking the sheer amount of climbing and abundance of ITT kilometres into account, this year’s Giro looks set to be one of, if not the hardest in recent memory.
The ‘mini Il Lombardia’ stage 15 of the Giro d’Italia was another day for the breakaway in Bergamo, with Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates) outsprinting Ben Healy (EF Education-EasyPost) and Marco Frigo (Israel-Premier Tech) after a dramatic fight to the line.
The trio emerged at the head of a 17-man breakaway on the final climb at Roncola Alta, with Frigo battling back on the descent after dropping on the way up.
Healy and McNulty were the strongest on the late unclassified climb at Colle Aperto in Bergamo’s old town, but Frigo once again fought his way back in the closing kilometres to set up a three-man sprint.
Frigo, who made the catch 500 metres from the line, immediately launched the dash for the line, but Healy got back to his wheel as he and McNulty broke past in the closing metres. The Irishman may have looked the strongest on the day’s climbs, but it was McNulty who was the fastest finisher, nipping past at the death to secure the stage win.
“Indescribable. It was my goal coming here and then I got sick during the TT. I didn’t know what was going to happen. Today it came together and I’m so happy,” McNulty said after the stage.
“On the last long climb I tried to go. I thought my race was done there because Ben was so strong. I clawed back and rested and then we played games on the flats. In the end, it came down to the last kick and the sprint.
“I knew [Frigo] was coming and he ended up coming just at the right moment because we could swing over. I caught the draft and then at 150-200 metres I just went for it.
“We came here for GC and also with the goal of me having a stage win and now that’s happened, so we can fully focus on João [Almeida].”
McNulty and Frigo had launched the attacks on the 10km climb of Roncola Alta, 38km from the line, catching and passing Niccolò Bonifazio (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty), who was out front after going clear on the flat run to the climb.
Healy got across just over 2km later, setting up the grand finale that would play out on the run back to Bergamo. He made his bid for victory further up the climb, but McNulty bridged across shortly after the summit. Frigo, meanwhile, put in a stunning effort on the descent and flat road afterwards to close a 40-second deficit and get back on with 10km to go.
The final hill at Colle Aperto saw Healy flying at the front once again, with Frigo again dropping back, while McNulty stuck to the EF rider’s wheel.
It looked like the stage would end with a two-man battle for victory, but Frigo was tenacious and once again managed to bridge just in time for the sprint. He was first to jump for the line, but his efforts in the chase proved too much to beat his breakaway companions, and McNulty came through to score the sixth win of his career.
6:53 after the podium trio sprinted across the line, the GC contenders came home after the battle for the maglia rosa briefly lit up on the last hill at Roncola Alta.
An eight-man group including Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers), Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma), and João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) ended up taking two seconds on a group including Hugh Carthy (EF Education-EasyPost), Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) and Lennard Kämna (Bora-Hansgsrohe).
However, the move didn’t change anything in the top 10 of the general classification. Further back, race leader Bruno Armirail (Groupama-FDJ) was dropped 29 seconds down on Thomas and co, but he remains in pink by 1:08 heading into the second rest day.
How it unfolded
Following a long and wet day in the saddle on Saturday, stage 15 promised better weather, though four major climbs on the 195km road from Seregno to Bergamo would provide a different challenge on an ‘Il Lombardia-like’ stage.
The first-category Valico di Valcava (11.6km at 8%) and second-category Selvino (11.1km at 5.6%) and Miragolo San Salvatore (5.2km at 7%) featured in the Monument back in 2016, while the final climb of the day, Roncola Alta (10km at 6.7%), was on the 2021 route.
With a maximum of 94 mountain points up for grabs and a possible stage win to boot, riders would clamour to get into the break of the day, though the battle was less intense than some might have expected.
Stage 8 winner Ben Healy was joined out front by Simone Velasco (Astana Qazaqstan), while more attacks flew behind and a chase group formed. The break of the day established itself inside the opening 15km as the peloton eased up. Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) made the move, along with Brandon McNulty, Davide Ballerini (Soudal-QuickStep), Israel-Premier Tech duo Marco Frigo and Sebastian Berwick, and Niccolò Bonifazio (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty), among others.
Stage 13 winner Einer Rubio (Movistar) mounted a chase alongside Martin Marcellusi (Green Project-Bardiani CSF-Faizanè), though with 1:30 to bridge before the Valico di Valcava, making it across looked a tall order.
The pair did it, though, as Rubio came across with the help of teammate José Joaquín Rojas dropping back from the break at the bottom of the climb. Marcellusi reappeared midway up the climb, surprisingly getting up to the break having been dropped by Rubio some kilometres earlier.
The gap back to the peloton stretched out to seven minutes on the steep slopes of the climb, while the first battle of the day unfolded at the summit as Rubio and Healy banged shoulders in the sprint to the line. Healy came out on top to grab the 40 points as Rubio settled for 18.
Back in the peloton, Groupama-FDJ set the pace on behalf of new race leader Bruno Armirail, with Ineos Grenadiers and Jumbo-Visma lined up behind the French squad. 6:30 up the road, Alberto Dainese’s (Team DSM) time in the break ended on the climb of Selvino, while Marcellusi was also dropped before getting back on.
At the top, six minutes separated the break and peloton as Healy once again beat Rubio to the line for another 18 points. Shortly after the summit, Velasco, Berwick, and Frigo were caught in a crash, though all swiftly got back up and running to chase back on down the descent.
It was all back together up front on the Miragolo San Salvatore, which hosted another Rubio-Healy sprint at the top. This time, however, it was Rubio who edged out the Irishman to move within 32 points of maglia azzurra Davide Bais (Eolo-Kometa) with Healy 22 points further back.
15 men tackled the descent and the 30km run along the valley to the base of the final climb of the day, Marcellusi having dropped on the upper slopes of the climb. Healy led the tentative attacks early on the flat road following the descent, but the break stuck together, at least until they hit Bergamo and the unclassified climb at Colle Aperto at 57km to go.
The break fights for victory
Velasco upped the pace on the short ascent, spitting Gavazzi out the back as the peloton followed six minutes later. Ballerini also dropped away before getting back on before the attacking started shortly after the first pass through the finish line.
Mollema kicked off the moves but Bonifazio was the first man to get a gap, jumping at 47km to go on the run to Roncola Alta. There was no immediate reaction in the chase, who left the Piemontese to go a minute clear as he hit the climb.
Bonifazio only increased his advantage on the early slopes, gaining 1:20 at one point before Rojas got to work on behalf of Rubio. The upping of the pace saw Vincenzo Albanese (Eolo-Kometa), Ballerini, Berwick, and Pasqualon drop out the back while in the peloton Jumbo-Visma massed at the front.
The big attack came at 37km to go, with Frigo and then McNulty jumping from the chase and flying past Bonifazio on the way uphill. The Italian escapee wouldn’t see the front of the race again as the stronger climbers showed their talents on the 8% slopes.
Two kilometres later, Healy worked his way across to make it three up front, but McNulty was quick to launch an attack of his own. Healy countered powerfully, so much so that the American couldn’t muster a response.
He and Frigo dropped to 20 seconds behind Healy before McNulty pushed on alone in the chase as Rubio lingered further down the climb. At the top, Healy grabbed another 18 mountain points – Rubio took four – to make it a four-way fight for the blue jersey. He was, however, joined by McNulty shortly afterwards, with the pair taking much of the descent together.
The gap back to Frigo was 40 seconds but the young Italian flew down the descent to halve that. The largely flat run to the line – barring another short ascent at Colle Aperto – favoured the two leaders, but Frigo didn’t slow up there, amazingly bridging across with 10km to go.
After a short calm period, the attacking began again at 7km to go as McNulty jumped. Healy, who looked the strongest of the three, led Frigo across, and at 6km the Italian gave it a nudge without success.
He led the way up the Colle Aperto, but once again it was Healy who came to the fore on the hill with another ferocious effort. Frigo couldn’t keep up, but McNulty was glued to the Irishman’s wheel.
Somehow, Frigo mustered up the strength to chase back, once flying down the descent and on to the flat finish in Bergamo. He rejoined the lead duo just in time to sprint, but Healy, and then McNulty, had too much pace in the closing metres, with the 25-year-old American sprinting through to victory.
Almost seven minutes later the GC contenders fought a mini-battle on Colle Aperto, with a chase group led by seventh-placed man Lennard Kämna ceding two seconds at the finish, while maglia rosa Bruno Armirail shed 29 seconds to second-placed Geraint Thomas.