Giro d’Italia: Georg Steinhauser claims maiden pro win as Tadej Pogacar shows rivals who is boss on Stage 17

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If at first you don’t succeed: a mantra that applies not only to Georg Steinhauser’s debut Giro d’Italia but also his spellbinding performance in a sodden Stage 17.

Three days after finishing third in the queen stage of the race, the German youngster from EF Education-EasyPost – an attacking tour de force over the past fortnight – was part of the day’s thwarted breakaway in a tough day in the Dolomites, but still had enough in the tank to attack again on the third of five categorised climbs on his way to securing a first professional win in style.

With the big-name GC riders all marking each other out, 22-year-old Steinhauser took advantage of a brief lull on the Passo Gobbera ahead of two different ascents of the Passo del Brocon to chase down Eritrea’s Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier (Lidl-Trek), the founding member of an earlier 10-man breakaway.

Like Steinhauser, Ghebreigzabhier had a second wind as indecision suddenly shrouded the main field once Romain Bardet’s dsm-firmenich PostNL team-mates took their foot off the gas after reeling in the remaining escapees inside the final 60km of the 159km test.

Steinhauser caught and then dropped Ghebreigzabhier before opening a three-minute advantage over the main field ahead of the second and final ascent of the Brocon.

A late attack from the pink jersey Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) provided a bit of late drama on an otherwise tepid day of GC action. But Steinhauser’s gap was still around two minutes as he went under the kilometre-to-go banner and the victory all but secured.

“I heard on the radio [about Pogacar]. I was super nervous on the last climb. I knew I had to push all the way to the finish. I heard at one point that he was attacking, but it was already two kilometres to go, so I thought I would make it,” an ecstatic Steinhauser said after his victory.

Pogacar rode a steady tempo to secure second place 1’24” behind Steinhauser, extending his overall lead on Colombia’s Dani Martinez (Bora-Hansgrohe) to 7’42” with four stages of the race remaining. Britain’s Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) retained his third place on the standings but fell to just over eight minutes behind the peerless pink jersey of Pogacar.

Australia’s Ben O’Connor (Decathlon AR2G La Mondiale) cracked on the final climb but battled to limit his losses and protect his fourth place. His advantage over fifth place Antonio Tiberi (Bahrain Victorious) dropped to 42 seconds after the Italian youngster – the white jersey – came third in the stage on the nose of a select chase group.

A short but sharp day in the Dolomites saw the riders head uphill from the outset with the legendary Passo Sella – promoted to the Cima Coppi following the cancellation of the Umbrail Pass on Tuesday.

After the usual skirmishes and shenanigans, nothing stuck on the first climb as two riders – the youngest in the peloton and one of the oldest – zipped clear in pursuit of the prestigious award over the summit.

It was the rider who came so close to taking a maiden pro win on Monte Pana 20 hours earlier, Giulio Pellizzari (VF Group-Bardiani CSF-Faizane), who pipped former Giro winner Nairo Quintana (Movistar) over the top of the Passo Sella in a photo finish for the prestigious prize.

On the long, twisting descent back to the valley several riders blasted clear of the fast-slimming peloton before that breakaway of 10 riders came together on the run towards the foot of the second climb.

Joining the Colombian veteran and the 20-year-old Italian were Damiano Caruso (Bahrain Victorious), Marco Frigo (Israel-Premier Tech), Davide Ballerini (Astana Qazaqstan), Julian Alaphilippe (Soudal Quick-Step), Attila Valter (Visma-Lease a Bike) and Nicola Conci (Alpecin-Deceuninck), as well as Steinhauser and Ghebreigzabhier.

Propelled into the battle for blue after his Passo Sella antics, Pellizzari doubled up over the top of the Passo Rolle to move into second place in the KOM standings. Pellizzari would end the day 82 points behind Pogacar but will don the maglia azzurra by default on Thursday despite Steinhauser’s late surge seeing him come within 18 points of the Italian.

The long and wet descent of the Rolle changed the complexion of the stage as Bardet’s team-mates upped the tempo in the main pack to halve the break’s advantage ahead of the Passo Gobbera. If Team dsm-firmenich PostNL were eyeing a win for the French leader, then Soudal Quick-Step had similar ideas for Jan Hirt.

But both teams did not have the sustained firepower to continue dictating play once the breakaway was caught on the Gobbera – teeing up Ghebreigzabhier and Steinhauser with a second bite of the apple.

Steinhauser caught the Eritrean at the start of the first ascent of the Passo del Brocon while the peloton combined to reel in lone chaser Frigo. With Ghebreigzabhier starting to tire, Steinhauser made his move a few kilometres from the summit – and then extended his lead on the wet descent.

Despite all the hard work to reel in the initial break, none of the teams behind were prepared to take things up and so it was left to Ineos Grenadiers to ride on the front – Pogacar seemingly happy to let his rivals take the reins for a change.

When Martinez finally rolled the dice inside the final 5km, Pogacar was the first to respond before riding clear of all his rivals. But the victory was already secured by Steinhauser, who came of age as the rain lashed down.

“It’s something unbelievable,” said Steinhauser, whose father Tobias rode the Giro in 1997, the same year his uncle Jan Ullrich came second in his debut Tour de France.

“Already on Stage 8 I noticed that I had good legs – maybe the legs to win a stage. The queen stage [Stage 15] was an unbelievable day. I could already be happy with [my third place on] the queen stage at this Giro. And today, already when I rolled to the sign-on, I though, ‘F***, I have good legs’.

“So I went from the beginning in the break. It was a bit strange because we got caught by the peloton. But at one moment I thought I had to try again – and I did, and it worked out.”

The Giro d’Italia continues on Thursday with Stage 18 from Fiera di Primiero to Padova, a largely flat 178km blast through the prosecco vineyards that could see the pendulum swing back in favour of the sprinters – provided a breakaway does not go the distance.

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