So much for that being a sprinters day on what looked on the profile like a pan-flat stage with a couple of little bumps near the end. Turns out those hilly were harder than they looked and enough to shake virtually everyone not in GC contention from the final shootout for the stage win.
Vincenzo Nibali turned up the pressure on the descent of one of those hills and split it up nicely. For a moment it looked like himself, Alejandro Valverde and Esteban Chaves might take time on everyone else with 15km to go, but the leading duo on GC — Bob Jungels and Andrey Amador — soon bridged across…and then attacked. It was an attempt by Amador to take the jersey from Jungels, but the young Etixx – Quick Step rider had more in his legs than they thought and it was soon about the two putting time into the rest with Jungels looking the strongest of the two. With 4.5km remaining Diego Ulissi, he of one stage win to his name in his Giro being quickly dominated by Italian stage winners, sprinted across the small but holding gap to join the attack and set up the potential three man sprint and with the Italian then present it should have been obvious who would win the stage.
The gap held and Ulissi took the win, sprinting around Jungels who was more focused on keeping the chasing group at bay with a huge effort in the final kilometre that resulted in him finishing third of the three. The result gave the Luxembourgian four bonus seconds, though his lead of the Giro was reduced by 2sec with Amador finishing in front of him and gaining 6sec overall. Still the limited bunch that contained the other GC contenders trailed in behind Giacomo Nizzolo at 13sec thus improving Jungels advantage over the likes of Nibali and Valverde by 17sec.
Ulissi will no doubt steal the local headlines for his superbly timed effort, but Jungels is the story now. What is the limits to this 23 year olds potential? In many ways he is replacing the feel good, likeable, newcomer-on-the-GC-contention block, Tom Dumoulin (who incidentally abandoned the Giro this morning) by putting in the kind of performance we seen from the Dutchman at last years Vuelta.
This Giro is only Jungels third Grand Tour, the first of which (the 2014 Vuelta) he abandoned, but he did finish 27th overall at the 2015 Tour de France (including three top 10 stage finishes in the mountains) so the potential is there. He was 3rd at Tirreno-Adriatico this year (albeit a race in which the queen stage was culled due to weather) and 9th at the 2014 Critérium International, but this Giro is very much proving to be his breakout party, and how enjoyable it is to watch.
Of course, the high mountains have all still to come so a lot can and probably will change, but a lot of people will now be rooting for the rider from an Etixx team who surely never imagined they’d be fighting the GC battle this far into the race.
Long may it continue.
Notes: Tom Dumoulin abandoned the Giro this morning citing saddle sores, making it two days in-a-row that a pre-race contender has dropped out following the withdrawal of Mikel Landa through illness. The Sky rider has since said he would be willing to turn his attention to aiding Chris Froome at the Tour in July.
2016 Giro d’Italia, stage 11 result:
|1. Diego Ulissi (Lampre)
2. Andrey Amador (Movistar)
3. Bob Jungels (Etixx – Quick Step)
4. Giancomo Nizzolo (Trek-Segafredo)
5. Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani CSF)
6. Matteo Trentin (Etixx – Quick Step)
in 4h 56′ 32″
General classification after stage 11:
|1. Bob Jungels (Etixx – Quick Step)
2. Andrey Amador (Movistar)
3. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)
4. Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo)
5. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana)
6. Rafal Majka (Tinkoff)
in 45h 16′ 20″
@ 1′ 07″
@ 1′ 09″
@ 2′ 01″
Elsewhere, in California, Julian Alaphilippe won the queen stage over the climb of Gibraltar Road and moved into the race leaders yellow jersey ahead of Peter Stetina, who also finished second on the stage, by 19sec. Alaphilippe won the queen stage of the Tour of California last year too but had Peter Sagan to contend with in the GC battle, a battle he lost to the Slovak on the final day when Sagan over turned a 2sec defecit. This year Alaphilippe won’t have Sagan to worry about as the world champion trailed home 21min 52sec down and well out of contention to retain his title.
Tour of California GC after 3 stages:
|1. Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx – Quick Step)
2. Peter Stetina (Trek-Segafredo)
3. George Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo)
in 12h 49′ 47″