French cyclist Armirail grabs Giro pink jersey after icy stage

 BRUSSELS -- German cyclist Nico Denz won an icy stage 14 of the Giro d'Italia Canadian Derek Gee finished second and Italian Alberto Bettiol third while French cyclist Bruno Armirail now leads the general classification.

 After a day in Switzerland, Saturday’s stage brought the Tour of Italy back to its homeland. Stage 14 started in sunny Sierre and finished in Cassano Magnano, Lombardy. Part of the itinerary was along tourist-famed Lago Maggiore.

 By incorporating a first category mountain at the beginning of the stage, the Giro organisation designed a stage for either a mass sprint or a successful early breakaway.

 After barely 16 km, a small group managed to break away. Among them were several cyclists, like Alberto Bettiol, Derek Gee and Belgian Laurenz Rex, who for the past couple of days had tried to win a stage by an early breakaway.

 The rain during the 50 km-long descent of the “Passo del Sempione” (2.000 M altitude) was ice-cold. After the stage, Laurenz Rex, who had finished fourth, said he had been wearing four jackets.

 On a hill at less than 10 km from the finish line, the group had split in three smaller groups. Finally, in a thrilling long sprint, three riders competed for victory. Nico Denz won his second stage in this Giro. Gee for the third time finished second.

 The peloton had allowed the breakaway group to take a lead of more than 18 minutes. Frenchman Bruno Armirail, who was part of the early breakaway, took the overall lead in the general classification. Team INEOS Grenadiers intentionally handed over the “maglia rosa” to Armirail and his team. INEOS’ team manager Matteo Tossato explained this manoeuvre created a perfect situation for his team. Leading the general classification brings along obligations after the race which are both time and energy consuming -Geraint Thomas had been leading the Giro for four days. Ceding the overall lead to another team bother relieves Thomas from these formalities and his team from defending the “maglia rosa”.

 Sunday’s race, being entirely in Lombardy and having about 3.600 metres of altitude difference, has been dubbed a mini Tour of Lombardy.

 Two weeks of bad weather have worn out many of the cyclists. Sunday, temperatures were expected to reach 24 degrees Celsius. It would almost make one forget that in this Giro there are still 20, 000 altitude metres to go.


 General classification (top 10) after stage 14:


 1. Bruno Armirail (FRA) Grouporama-FDJ

 2. Geraint Thomas (GBR) INEOS Grendaries +1’41”

 3. Primož Roglic (SVN) Team Jumbo-Visma +1’43”

 4. João Almeida (PRT) UAE Team Emirates +2’03”

 5. Andreas Leknessund (NOR) Team DSM           +2’23”

 6. Damiano Caruso (ITA) Bahrein-Victorious +3’09”

 7. Lennard Kämna (DEU) BOHRA-Hansgrohe +3’33”

 8. Thymen Arensman (NLD) INEOS Grenadiers +4’26”

 9. Laurens De Plus (BEL) INEOS Grenadiers +4’49”

 10. Thibaut Pinot (FRA)Grouporama-FDJ +4’54”