The 23-year-old was again one of the best riders of the race, strengthening his grip on both the GC 6th place and the white jersey.
Col de Vars, Col de la Bonette, Colle della Lombarda and Sant'Anna di Vinadio were the four categorized climbs which awaited the riders on the penultimate stage of the 99th edition for one last battle of the riders who had their focus on the general classification. After the regular break of the day was established, the peloton relaxed and allowed the men at the front to open a gap of nearly 11 minutes. The real fireworks during the intense stage 20 began on the Colle della Lombarda, where Astana whipped up the pace and put the hammer down, thus slimming the bunch, before Vincenzo Nibali surged ahead, but not for too long, as Bob Jungels reacted quickly and closed down that attack on the punishing 10% slopes.
Not long after, Nibali went clear again and this time nobody could take his wheel, as the Italian pushed hard and extended his lead to one minute at the top of the ascent. On the sketchy and narrow descent, Bob linked up with Gianluca Brambilla, who earlier on the stage was part of the escape, and the Italian proved again what a valuable and selfless teammate he is, by helping the white jersey wearer to reduce the advantage of the riders who were up on the road.
Sant'Anna di Vinadio, a short but punchy climb with a maximum gradient of 11%, witnessed the victory of Rein Taaramae (Katusha), who defeated breakaway companions Darwin Atapuma (BMC) and Joe Dombrowski (Cannondale), while Vincenzo Nibali took the pink jersey off the shoulders of Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEdge), 52 seconds separating the two before the final stage of the race, a pan-flat one between Cuneo and Torino, the capital of the Piedmont region.
Further behind, once Gianluca - the first Italian rider to wear the maglia rosa at this edition – concluded his work for Bob, the 23-year-old had another strong and steady ride on the third-category ascent which basically put an end to the GC fight, coming home 11th, a result which has all but sealed his win in the white jersey standings, where he holds a 30-minute lead over second-placed Sebastian Henao (Team Sky). In the overall rankings, Jungels is sixth, an impressive performance which makes him the youngest rider since 2014 to finish in the top 10.
"In the past two days I got better and better and it was a great feeling to see that I could stay with the main contenders. I recovered very well during this race and this played out in my advantage. As I previously said, this was my first Grand Tour in which I started with the clear goal of going for the GC. It wasn't easy against this field, but to finish 6th, wear the the maglia rosa for three days and claim the U25 classification it's something that makes me very proud", said Bob as soon as he climbed off the podium after collecting his 16th white jersey at the Corsa Rosa, on a day which saw our squad win also the Super Team classification, with a healthy advantage over the next outfit.
Bob, who's in his fourth season as a pro and his first with Etixx – Quick-Step, credited the fantastic support he received from his teammates as one of the keys behind his successful campaign at the Corsa Rosa, a race which he discovered for the first time: "The team did an incredible job, you could see that in every stage I had somebody around me."
This team spirit brought me so far in the Giro and I have to thank the guys for their help and for how they protected me in the stressful and difficult situations.
"The last three weeks were very important also because I got a confirmation of my riding style: I can gain time in the ITT and ride a steady pace in the mountains, and this is something that I can develop in the future."
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele