Once again, Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka managed to set its mark on Giro d’Italia as neo-pro Ryan Gibbons got his fifth Top10 place and Omar Fraile moved into the lead of the mountain classification.
On paper, today’s stage was always going to be a day for the sprinters. However, with two categorized climbs in the first part of the 229 km long stage, the peloton couldn’t allow too big of a group to get away. At the end, only three riders managed to get a gap and the pack seemed very content with the situation.
Towards the top of the first climb, Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka went to the front of the peloton. With only three riders in the break, there were still KOM points up for grabs and as Fraile was already tied with Jan Polanc (UAE Team Emirates), he only needed to beat the Slovenian in order to take the blue jersey. To make it happen, the team set a high pace on the slopes and Fraile finished off the impeccable teamwork nicely by taking fourth place in the sprint to secure the KOM leadership.
As the peloton got closer to the finishing town of Reggio Emilia, the gap to the trio at the front started to decrease. Ultimately, the break got caught on the final 10 km as the teams of the sprinters moved to the front. Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka had both Kristian Sbaragli and Gibbons in the mix. Unfortunately, the two riders lost each other in a crucial moment but Gibbons still managed to hang on to sixth place. A truly impressive performance by the 22-year-old South African sprinter who is riding his first-ever Grand Tour.
“Coming into the sprint, the team was good in positioning me and Kristian [Sbaragli]. With about two kilometers to go, I moved in front of Kristian to try to move him up. It was quite hard and unfortunately, we lost each other with about 600 meters to go. I was a bit in no-man’s-land, thinking should I go or not. I looked back and saw that Kristian was not there, so I decided to try. I felt really good but I was never really sprinting to win, only to salvage something. Now, we are looking forward to tomorrow, which seems to be the last chance for the sprinters”.
“The team was really great today. In the last kilometer of the climb, Daniel [Teklehaimanot] pulled so hard it created a gap. Only me and Polanc stayed with him. Polanc then attacked but I had good legs and managed to get around him and take the points. From now on, I’ll take it day by day and see how long I can keep this jersey. The Giro is still long and we have to wait and see what happens”.