Pozzovivo on track at the Giro d’Italia
The BAHRAIN MERIDA PRO CYCLING TEAM may have missed out on a stage win throughout the first nine stages of the Giro d’Italia. But Domenico Pozzovivo is firmly placed in 5th in the overall standings, and both Giovanni Visconti and Niccolo Bonifazio finished one stage each on the podium. The team achieved this despite suffering a severe blow before the race even started.
The first three stages of the 101st Giro d’Italia were raced in Israel, with the initial hilly individual time trial in Jerusalem and two flat stages. Right at the start Domenico Pozzovivo as the designated captain of the BAHRAIN MERIDA PRO CYCLING TEAM surprised friend and foe alike. The short climber from the South of Italy only lost 27 seconds to the reigning time trial World champion Tom Dumoulin, finishing the stage in 10th. As expected, the first mass-start stage to Tel Aviv came down to a bunch sprint, with Niccolo Bonifazio sprinting to 4th place. As he lost contact with the fastest group in an echelon the next day, his teammates were forced to improvise. At the same time, their top priority was to keep their captain Domenico Pozzovivo out of trouble in a finale around the town of Eilat that was blazingly fast and dangerous in places. While Matej Mohoric had to settle for 13th in the sprint of the main bunch, Pozzovivo finished in the same group safely.
With the initial three stages done, the race moved over to Sicily, adding to the motivation of both Giovanni Visconti and Antonio Nibali who both hail from Italy’s largest island. As for the pure-bred sprinters, the three stages in Sicily did not offer any opportunities as each of these stages featured a demanding finale. At the end of the fourth stage, Domenico Pozzovivo moved into the leading positions of the group of favourites, but he lacked the necessary punch in the sprint for the stage win, having to settle for 9th. The next day he could not avoid a pile-up with fourteen kilometers to go, so his BAHRAIN MERIDA PRO CYCLING TEAM mates had to dig deep to get him back into contention. Despite a sizable effort in doing so, Giovanni Visconti still had enough left in the tank to sprint for the stage win in Santa Ninfa. Crossing the finish line in 2nd, he scored the best result thus far for the team.
The sixth stage was set to give some shape tp the overall standings of the Giro d’Italia. After all the finish line was situated way up at the observatory on the slopes of the Etna with a long climb leading up to it. Domenico Pozzovivo put down a strong performance on the final five kilometers, set the pace on the steepest slopes of the climb and finished the stage in 5th, moving into 4th in the overall standings. For the seventh stage, the race moved back to mainland Italy, and the fast sprinters were back in charge. Despite suffering a flat tire in the finale and having to be brought back by his BAHRAIN MERIDA PRO CYCLING TEAM mates, Niccolo Bonifazio sprinted to a 3rd place in Praia a Mare, scoring the second podium result for the team. The next day it was Matej Mohoric’s turn to put the colours red, gold and dark blue in the spotlights for a couple of hours: He joined a seven-rider group that had formed early on in the stage and shrunk to four riders on the final ascent only to be caught with three kilometers to go.
Just before the second rest day of the race, another formidable challenge loomed with the second mountaintop finish of the race at Gran Sasso, situated at 2100 meters above sea level. Another opportunity to put some time into rivals for the overall standings and give the overall standings some shape. Right from the start, fourteen riders attacked, and the BAHRAIN MERIDA PRO CYCLING TEAM had Manuele Boaro and Giovanni Visconti in that group. These two kept the pace of their fastest companions for most of the seemingly endless climb up to Gran Sasso where the lead group shrank from fourteen to six riders, and they were only caught on the last five kilometers. Throughout the finale, Domenico Pozzovivo countered multiple attacks before taking the lead on the steep final kilometer. But on the last two hundred meters, three rivals were more explosive than him, passing him on the way to the finish line. Still, Pozzovivo managed in consolidating his 5th place in the overall standings, less than a minute behind Simon Yates in the Maglia Rosa after nine stages.
All these results were achieved despite the fact that the BAHRAIN MERIDA PRO CYCLING TEAM had suffered a hard blow even before the Giro d’Italia had started with the individual time trial in the streets of Jerusalem: As the freshly crowned winner of the Tour of Croatia, Kanstantin Siutsou crashed heavily when inspecting the race course, suffering a compound fracture of one of the vertebrae in his neck. Luckily Siutsou did not suffer any neuronal damages and now is back in Italy for treatment from renowned specialists. He’s out of competition for eight to ten weeks.
101ST GIRO D’ITALIA
STAGE 5: AGRIGENTO - SANTA NINFA (VALLE DEL BELICE), 153KM
1. Enrico Battaglin, ITA, in 4:06.33 hours
2. Giovanni Visconti, ITA/BAHRAIN MERIDA PRO CYCLING TEAM, st
3. José Gonçalves, POR, st
STAGE 7: PIZZO - PRAIA A MARE, 159KM
1. Sam Bennett, IRL, in 3:45.27 hours
2. Elia Viviani, ITA, st
3. Niccolo Bonifazio, ITA/BAHRAIN MERIDA PRO CYCLING TEAM, st
OVERALL STANDINGS AFTER 9 OF 21 STAGES:
1. Simon Yates, GRB, in 37:37.15 hours
2. Esteban Chaves, COL, + 0.32
3. Tom Dumoulin, NED, + 0.38
4. Thibaut Pinot, FRA, + 0.45
5. Domenico Pozzovivo, ITA/BAHRAIN MERIDA PRO CYCLING TEAM, + 0.57