Tour of Italy: A close sprint decides the mini Tour of Lombardy

Bruno Armirail

 BERGAMO - In Sunday’s heavy stage, American Brandon McNulty beat this year’s revelation, Irishman Ben Healy, and Italian Marco Frigo in a tight sprint. The general contenders again played a waiting game. French Bruno Armirail kept the pink jersey.

 Stage 15, 191 km from Seregno to Bergamo, took place entirely in Lombardy. With three hard climbs which make part of the Tour of Lombardy, the classic one-day race which each year takes place towards the end of the cycling season, this stage was dubbed a “mini Tour of Lombardy.”

 Already after one km, Ben Healy broke away. After Italian Simone Velasco joined him, a group of 13 riders decided to break away and chase the two leaders. The peloton let them go.

 After 13 km, the breakaway group joined the two leaders. Meanwhile, Armirail’s team, Gruporama-FDJ, controlled the peloton’s pace. At one point in time, the breakaway group had a lead of 6,5 minutes.

 Colombian Einer Rubio managed to join the group on his own. On each of the stage’s climbs, he and Healy competed fiercely for the King of the Mountains (KOM) classification.

 The stage’s final 56 km made a loop around Bergamo. When Italian Marco Frigo attacked, only McNulty and Healy could follow. Healy immediately counter-attacked, but this time McNulty and later, Frigo, managed to join him.

 On the last, steep hill Healy again attacked. It seemed that only McNulty could follow. Yet on the last flat and straight line, Frigo joined Healy and McNulty. In the last 500 m the trio set up a long sprint. McNulty won. Both Healy and Frigo finished in the same time.

 Monday is the second rest day. The weather forecast for the remainder of the Giro looks sunny.

By now, it is clear that the third, final week is paralysing the battle for the “maglia rosa.” Besides two 5-star and one 4-star mountain stages, particularly its uphill time trial on the one-but-last day seems to be frightening the general contenders. So far, the differences between the potential overall winners British Geraint Thomas, Slovene Primož Roglič and Portuguese João Almeida are seconds, but each of these last week stages can make one lose several minutes.

General classification (top 10) after stage 15:

1. Bruno Armirail (FRA) Groupama - FDJ

2. Geraint Thomas (GBR) INEOS Grenadiers 1’08”

3. Primož Roglič (SVN) Jumbo-Visma 1’10”

4. João Almeida (PRT) UAE Team Emirates 1’30”

5. Andreas Leknessund (NOR) Team DSM 1’50”

6. Damiano Caruso (ITA) Bahrain – Victorious 2’36”