23 May 2021

Jan Tratnik a surprise 2nd at Zoncolan

The first mountaintop finish in the Alps of this year’s Giro d’Italia served up a real showdown of the overall contenders on the legendary Monte Zoncolan. But the fight for the stage win was contested by seven riders from a breakaway, and Team Bahrain Victorious’s Jan Tratnik rode brilliantly to an unexpected 2nd place.

Right after the first rest day, the 11th stage of the Giro d’Italia from Perugia to Montalcino was a copy of the semi-classic Strade Bianche. Before the Giro started a lot had been discussed about the four unpaved sectors in the last two race hours of this stage. And indeed this demanding finale provoked some time margins between the overall contenders. From Team Bahrain Victorious’s perspective, Damiano Caruso rode a very strong race, ably assisted by Pello Bilbao, and moved up from 7th to 3rd in the overall standings. Gino Mäder on the other hand crashed in this stage and crossed the finish line in Montalcino dead last. When the winner of the 6th stage went down in a crash early on in the 12th stage, this proved to be too much: Mäder abandoned the Giro about an hour later without having been able to get back to the peloton.

The 13th stage to Verona was a pan flat transitional stage for the sprint specialists. The five remaining riders of Team Bahrain Victorious focussed on keeping Damiano Caruso safe and sheltered from the wind. But the 14th stage was an all different affair, offering a first true climbing test in the Alps with its mountaintop finish atop the mythical Monte Zoncolan. Early on a breakaway of 11 riders went up the road, and Jan Tratnik was part of this group. The Slovenian rouleur took his share of riding in the wind and still had enough power left to survive the first selections on the way to the steep, final climb. Just when this 13-kilometer long climb started, Tratnik steadily accelerated away from his companions, and the only rider to make it back to the experienced Slovenian was Lorenzo Fortunato. The young Italian attacked with 2.2 kilometres to go on the steepest slopes, leaving Jan Tratnik behind. The latter continued at his own pace, fighting bravely against himself, the mountain and the chasers to cross the finish line in 2nd.

«I’m very happy, not just about this 2nd place but also about the way I rode this stage. The last couple of kilometres were super hard. And I’m all the more proud about the result that I’ve got here», Jan Tratnik said at the finish atop Monte Zoncolan that was shrouded in clouds. The main peloton had been split into three large groups in the technical descent from the Forcella di Monte Rest. While Pello Bilbao latched onto the wheel of the overall leader, Damiano Caruso had been surprised by this attack. But he was lucky that most other top10 contenders had been caught on the wrong foot as well, and so the groups merged again before the final climb started. On the lower sloped of the Zoncolan, the group of favourites opted for a steady pace. The attacks only came on the particularly steep, last three kilometres of the climb, when Simon Yates accelerated and no one except for Bernal could stay with him. Damiano Caruso stuck to his own pace, managed to keep the time loss to Bernal and Yates within tight limits and to keep all other rivals behind him. After the first Alps stage of the 104th Giro d’Italia, Damiano Caruso is 3rd in the overall standings.

1. Lorenzo Fortunato, ITA, in 5:17.22 hours
3. Alessandro Covi, ITA, + 0.59

1. Egan Bernal, COL, in 58:30.47 hours
2. Simon Yates, GBR, + 1.33
3. Damiano Caruso, ITA/TEAM BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS, + 1.51