Zakarin shines to win on Colle del Nivolet, Yates fades as Polanc keeps pink
Russia’s Ilnur Zakarin soloed to glory on the snow-capped Colle del Nivolet to win Stage 13 of the Giro d’Italia as Slovenia’s Jan Polanc battled to retain his pink jersey and Briton’s Simon Yates conceded more time to his general classification rivals.
Entering the race boasting that he was the clear favourite and that his rivals should be “s***ing themselves”, Yates was left to swallow his words on the Giro’s first summit finish, the Mitchelton-Scott rider shipping more than two minutes to his big rivals Primoz Roglic and Vincenzo Nibali.
A fantastic stage win went to Zakarin of Katusha-Alpecin, who blew the doors off the Giro on the climb most renowned for that infamous cliffhanging scene at the end of The Italian Job.
Zakarin rode clear of Yates’s Spanish teammate Mikel Nieve with just over one kilometre remaining to secure his first major win since 2016 and his team’s first WorldTour scalp of the season. The rangy Russian also jumped up the overall standings to third place, 2’56” down on the Slovenian Polanc.
Polanc (UAE-Team Emirates) rode bravely in a chasing group with Yates while doing enough to retain the maglia rosa by 2’25” on compatriot Roglic.
Team Jumbo-Visma’s Roglic scrapped with Italy’s Nibali (Bahrain Merida) all the way up the final climb, the two exchanging blows but ultimately neutralising each other’s efforts. They came home in seventh and eighth position almost three minutes down on Zakarin.
Dutchman Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo), who was part of the day's large 28-man break along with Zakarin and Nieve, finished fifth ahead of Rafal Majka of Bora-Hansgrohe after the Pole took advantage of the attritional battle that attached Nibali and Roglic at the hip to steel a small march on the duo.
Russia’s Pavel Sivakov (Team Ineos) and Davide Formolo (Bora-Hansgrohe) completed the top 10 before an out-of-sorts Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) came home after a challenging day in the saddle, the Colombian struggling to fight back after an untimely mechanical near the start of the decisive climb.
Polanc gritted his teeth over the line in 15th place and ahead of the Italian Giulio Ciccone, who starred in the break to take maximum points over the first two climbs and take back the blue jersey from his Trek-Segafredo teammate Gianluca Brambilla.
But the story of the day – besides Zakarin’s brilliance – came from Britain’s Yates, who finished exactly five minutes behind the Russian and now sits a massive 8’14” off the summit and two places out of the top 10. His rivals won't be changing their bib shorts just yet...
Ahead of the first summit finish of the race, there was always going to be a mad battle to get riders in the break – and so it proved, with a move not sticking until around an hour into the 196km stage through the Italian Alps in Piedmont.
A strong 28-man move formed ahead of the Colle del Lys although the presence of Dutchman Mollema – sixth in the overnight standings and only 1’55” down on Roglic – meant the Slovenian’s Jumbo-Visma team never gave the break too much leeway, the gap rarely stretching above the three-minute mark.
Supporting Mollema were a trio of Italians from Trek-Segafredo in Ciccone, Brambilla and Nicola Conci. Meanwhile, both Movistar and Astana had three men in the break with Andrey Amador, Hector Carretero and Jose Joaquin Rojas, and Dario Cataldo, Ion Izagirre and Andrey Zeits respectively.
Also involved was breakaway specialist Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal), birthday boy Tony Gallopin with his Ag2R-La Mondiale teammate Alexis Vuillermoz, GC outsiders Zakarin and Formolo, Team Ineos duo Tao Geoghegan Hart and Eddie Dunbar, and stage 6 winner Fausto Masnada with his Androni-Giacattoli teammate Mattia Cattaneo.
A mechanical did for De Gendt while British youngster Geoghegan Hart was forced to abandon the race after a nasty fall on the descent of the first categorised climb.
Ciccone had led the break over the summit of the Colle del Lys with a gap of around three minutes on the pack to move back into the top of the virtual maglia azzurra standings.
With Mollema the key danger man in the break, the Trek quartet worked hard setting tempo between the first two climbs as the UAE Emirates team of the maglia rosa Polanc joined forces with Roglic’s yellow army on the front of the pack.
Everything blew apart on the second climb, the Cat.2 Pian del Lupo, when Astana lit the torch paper with Pello Bilbao bringing Lopez to the front. The sudden acceleration tore through the pack, distanced the maglia rosa and saw Roglic lose all his support.
On the front of the race Ciccone doubled up by cresting the summit in pole position ahead of Pozzovivo, with Bilbao leading the streamlined group of favourites over a minute in arrears. With 60km still remaining, Polanc and Bob Jungels (Deceuninck-QuickStep) were riding in a group another minute back.
But after a narrow and technical descent, the pink jersey group managed to rejoin the main favourites as a large pack reformed on the long uphill drag to the foot of the decisive climb.
The break, now down to 15 riders, extended its lead back above the two-minute as the pace in the pack slowed ahead of what promised to be a feisty finale.
An attack from Masnada was countered by Izagirre, Ciccone, Carretero and Joe Dombrowski (EF Education First), before a five-man chase group formed through Zakarin, Formolo, Mollema, Amador and Nieve.
Landa was the architect of the destruction behind the leaders, the Spaniard throwing a grenade amid the spokes of his rivals before bridging over to Movistar teammates Amador and Carretero up the road.
Yates, Jungels and Polanc could not cope with the sudden acceleration, while a mechanical took the wind out of Lopez’s sails. After changing bikes, Lopez was behind the Yates group – and although the Colombian would drop the Briton and almost catch Roglic and Nibali up the road, he faded in the final kilometres.
Zakarin, Mollema and Nieve rode in a leading trio and, as if warned of Landa’s move behind, Zakarin put in a big attack with 5km remaining. Mollema was not able to respond. Nieve, too, had no answer when the Russian, his jersey unzipped, put in another dig with the final kilometre approaching.
A winner in the rain at Imola in the 2015 Giro, 29-year-old Zakarin added a second in the snow at 2,247m near the border with France.
As Roglic and Nibali traded blows behind, Majka and Carapaz zipped clear while the impressive Sivakov yoyoed around the two rivals. With Britain’s Hugh Carthy (EF Education First) blowing a gasket on the 20km climb, 21-year-old Sivakov moved into the lead of the white jersey youth classification in his maiden Grand Tour.
A second successive day in the Alps on Saturday sees the riders tackle five categorised climbs in the short but sharp 131km stage 14 from Saint-Vincent to Courmayeur. If Polanc may struggle to hold on to the pink jersey, it remains to be seen if it’s Roglic, Zakarin, Mollema or Nibali who moves into the hot seat.
As for Yates, the British Vuelta champion needs to get his race back on track or risk disappointment in La Corsa Rosa for a second year running.