Geraint Thomas king of the first Tour of the Alps
It was exciting until the end in the 2017 Tour of the Alps: the first edition of the new Euro-Regional project, taking over from the Giro del Trentino, was a showdown among top riders through five demanding days, with a final podium that says a lot about the level of importance and consideration the race managed to deserve in the years. Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) was the deserving winner of the 2017 edition: the Welsh took the jersey with his brutal acceleration to the finish of stage 3 in Funes, and managed to maintain it through the last couple of days in spite of the attacks, also thanks to an amazing Mikel Landa. The last Giro del Trentino’s winner acted like a key domestique for the teammate to claim the trophy he had deserved twelve months ago, ahead of sharing the leading grades on the roads of the Giro d’Italia.
Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) was the winner of the final stage in the beautiful scenario of Trento’s downtown. The Frenchman got the elusive stage win ahead of Brent Bookwalter (BMC) and Geraint Thomas himself, and was a mere 7” shy of the leader’s jersey: whoever wants the Maglia Rosa, will find the Frenchman on his way too. Third on the podium was Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r-La Mondiale), whose love for the former Giro del Trentino continues year after year.
HOW IT UNFOLDED
Again, an amazing sunny day welcomed the race at the start in Smarano, but Geraint Thomas’ Team Sky started the day with a blow: after 12 km, Ian Boswell was forced out of the race due to a nasty crash, reducing the Welsh’s support to only four riders. The British Team did not play defense though, as it imposed a very fast pace from the beginning, quickly reducing the peloton ranks to about 60 riders on the steady ascent towards Andalo.
After several attempts, six riders finally managed to break away at km 28: Daniel Martinez (Wilier Triestina), Ben Gastauer (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Joey Rosskopf (BMC), Nicola Bagioli (Nippo-Vini Fantini), Francesco Manuel Bongiorno e Paolo Totò (Sangemini-MGkVis). The six in the lead were eventually joined by three more – Steve Morabito (FDJ), Sergei Chernetski (Astana) and Francesco Gavazzi (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec). The nine riders reached a 5.10 maximum advantage, whilst two men of the Bardiani-CSF team that missed the break – Simone Sterbini and Edoardo Zardini – also went out at the chase for some kilometers.
The work by Gazprom-Rusvelo in the peloton reduced the lead to 2.40 at the foot of the Monte Bondone. The lead group started splintering, and the favorites started attacking from behind, quickly reducing the advantage and getting back on the break. When Pierre Rolland (Cannondale-Drapac) kicked away from the 20-men leaders’ group, Danilo Celano (Italy), Michele Scarponi (Astana) and Egan Bernal (Androni-Sidermec) followed him, and the four gained a little gap on the way to the top of Charly Gaul’s climb, but were eventually reeled in. The Colombian wasn’t ready to give up though: a solo move with 40 km to the finish saw Bernal earn 25 seconds on the top GC men and pass first atop the Monte Bondone. Nevertheless, the leaders’ group got back on the Colombian once again at 15 km to go, at the end of a gutty descent by the grimpeur, the only notable absence being Cannondale-Drapac’s Hugh Carthy and his best youngster’s jersey.
The attacks into the final kilometers could nothing against Mikel Landa, who drove Thomas with authority until the final sprint, in which Thibaut Pinot finally managed to take his elusive win, after two second places, one third and one fifth in the race. Brent Bookwalter (BMC) was second ahead of Thomas, who brings home a major boost of confidence along with the fuchsia jersey.
“There was no better way to finish up this setup for the Giro. It was a great race, sure we were put under pressure at times but I could rely on a strong team, with Mikel Landa playing an incredible role in the last couple of days. At the Giro we will share the leader’s role, we will back each other and in the end we’ll see who’s got the best chances.”
“It’s good that we managed to finish it off today, in spite of Boswell’s nasty crash at the beginning. The right breakaway went away, and we could ride on Gazprom-Rusvelo’s wheels until the foot of the Monte Bondone. The other teams pulled on the pressure on the climb, with plenty of attacks, but my decision was to try to control Pinot, that was arguably the most dangerous rival: after the climb, Landa just led us all the way to the finish.”
“Taking the race and managing to defend a lead for two days was certainly a morale boost and a good indication for the Giro, but a three weeks race is an all different story. At the Giro I could take advantage of time trials, provided that I haven’t lost too much efficiency in the quest to improve on climbs, but it’s hard to tell how I could perform on something like the final day of the Giro.”
“Tour of the Alps is a beautiful and hard race, and now I feel it was certainly the ideal choice to race it ahead of the Giro d’Italia.”
“I wanted a stage above all at the Tour of the Alps, I have battled hard to get it, and finally succeeded. Obviously it feels bad to lose by a few seconds, but I can only blame myself: Thomas was too strong on stage 3, and I made a mistake not to follow him on the attack. Today, dropping him was impossible”.
“Yesterday I had enjoyed a good lead up by the team for the sprint, though it was a near miss. Today I was focused on making a head sprint, and finally delivered.”
“I haven’t reviewed the Giro route carefully yet, but of course I like the uphill finishes. The Etna could be good for me, and also the final week features plenty of big climbs. I think Thomas should be regarded as one of the favorites for the Giro d’Italia, as he is strong in TTs and certainly showed his value on the mountains. I am solid in time trials, but certainly not as much as him. Hopefully I can dodge the bad days and play my cards at the best”.
“My first Tour of the Alps was an amazing experience. I didn’t know this area personally, and it’s amazingly beautiful, just like the route. It was the perfect choice to come here ahead of the Giro. Count me in for next year as well!”