21 oct. 2020

Jan Tratnik wins a Giro stage

A large breakaway that had attacked early on put its stamp on stage 16 of the Giro d’Italia, and Jan Tratnik decided to jump from this group. Despite having to let one rival get back to him, the Slovenian still found a way to win the stage. And thanks to Enrico Battaglin, another rider of Team Bahrain-McLaren finished on the podium in 3rd.

Before the second rest day of the Giro d’Italia, Team Bahrain-McLaren suffered a setback when Pello Bilbao could not keep up with the best climbers on the final ascent to Piancavallo. The Basque rider crossed the finish line in 8th place, conceding about one and a half minutes to the stage winner and about a minute to the Magia Rosa. As a result, he slipped from 3rd to 5th in the overall standings, but the time gaps to 3rd place are still small. After the second rest day, the remaining riders who had passed the second series of tests for Covid got to ride a transitional stage of 229 kilometers from Udine to San Daniele del Friuli. As the finale of this stage, the course featured three local loops with a selective climb, and the final kilometer also was an uphill stretch. Early on two riders went up the road, followed by a total of 26 more riders who left the peloton behind. With Jan Tratnik and Enrico Battaglin, Team Bahrain-McLaren had two riders in this large group.

Once the local circuit in the Friuli region had been reached the strongest riders quickly showed their ambitions. Teaming up with Manuele Boaro, Jan Tratnik attacked with about 60 kilometers to go, and this strong duo quickly built a lead of more than half a minute. On the following ascent Tratnik left his last companion behind, but there were still 40 kilometers left to go. With Tratnik riding in the lead on his own and Enrico Battaglin managing to keep himself in the first group of chasers, Team Bahrain-McLaren seemed to have very strong cards for the finale. But on the last ascent Australian Ben O’Connor attacked from the chase group and managed to get back to Tratnik at the end of the climb. For the next 12 kilometers, Jan Tratnik saved as much energy as possible, and when O’Connor accelerated on the ramps of the final kilometer, the Slovenian rider had the right answer at hand. He countered O’Connor’s attack, left him behind and still got to celebrate a solo stage win - the first stage win in a Grand Tour of his career.

A bit over a minute adrift of his Bahrain-McLaren team mate, Enrico Battaglin won the sprint of the three fastest chasers, thus securing 3rd place and adding to the team’s great result in the stage. As Pello Bilbao lost no time to his rivals in the overall standings, he’s still firmly in 5th place. After his stage win, Jan Tratnik had this to say: «Before the Giro started, I had marked this stage as I liked the profile and the finish is close to Slovenia. For me, it was the last opportunity this week. Soon I realized that we were in a very promising situation in the breakaway, and so I decided to go early.
When my lead came down quickly on the final ascent, I kept checking the power I had left, cooperated with O’Connor on the way to the finish and then gave it all on the final kilometer.» As per tomorrow Wednesday the Giro d’Italia is heading for the high mountains. It is here that the fight for the podium positions will be decided, and hopefully Pello Bilbao will be a factor in this.

On the same day that saw the 16th stage of the Giro d’Italia, the Vuelta España headed off as well. For the third Grand Tour of the season Team Bahrain-McLaren lined-up a team in support of its designated captain Wout Poels. This team consisted of Grega Bole, Santiago Buitrago, Scott Davies, Kevin Inkelaar, Fred Wright and Stephen Williams. As the eighth rider in the line-up, Matej Mohoric is free to chase stage wins as well. Due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic the organizers were forced to cancel the initial three stages that were scheduled to be held in the Netherlands. Instead the Vuelta started with a tricky stage in the Basque Country. Under windy and at times rainy conditions, the riders had to get over a number of climbs on the way from Irun to Arrate. Things were looking to be on schedule for Team Bahrain-McLaren all the way into the final Alto de Arrate ascent. But when the pre-race favorites started to attack each other, Wout Poels could not keep up with their pace. On the way to the finish line that he crossed in Mohoric’s wheel, the Dutchman conceded 1.40 minutes.  

1. Jan Tratnik, SVN/Team Bahrain-McLaren, in 6:04.36 hours
2. Ben O’Connor, AUS, + 0.07 
3. Enrico Battaglin, ITA/Team Bahrain-McLaren, + 1.14