The Belgian is an impressive fifth overall after four days of racing.
One of the tallest active volcanoes in Europe, a feature at Il Giro since 1967 and the place where Zeus trapped the monster Typhon at the end of a cataclysmic battle after the latter tried to overthrow the ruler of Olympus, Mount Etna awaited the peloton on the first stage in Italy following last week’s Grande Partenza in Hungary.
Averaging 6% over 22.9 interminable kilometers, Etna didn’t bring any gaps between the GC contenders, but instead had a breakaway steal the show. The large group which zipped clear soon after the start had Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl’s Mauri Vansevenant in its ranks, and the young Belgian was one of the most prominent figures of the move that just one hour into the race built a ten-minute advantage over the peloton.
Despite the gap being halved and the breakaway losing some of its riders by the time it reached the bottom of the Etna, things were still looking good for the front group. Mauri continued to spare no effort, taking some long pulls and showing an impressive display of climbing strength, as the leading group was further thinned out with each kilometer ticked off. Seven kilometers from the top, only Mauri and four other men were still part at the front, and around that time, the concord between them went up in smoke.
Attacks began coming thick and fast, and Vansevenant was quick to react, as he tried to keep the gap under control. Four kilometers from the top, the 22-year-old from Oostende responded to another acceleration, as the group continued fragmenting. Two riders eventually went clear, with Lennard Kamna (Bora-hansgrohe) taking the win, but Mauri continued to dig deep and empty himself on the steep ramps to the top, claiming an impressive fifth place, a result which helped the Belgian make a gain of 15 places in the ranking.
“I did my best, but I came too short at the end. I was in a really good position to make something beautiful. I tried to save as much energy as possible until the foot of the Etna, which worked quite well, but I knew a couple of strong climbers were in the group, and I’m talking here of Kämna and Taaramäe. With them there, I was aware it would be really hard, especially on the toughest part of the ascent. It was my first time climbing the Etna, and I can say it was very difficult. I left everything out there, so tomorrow I’ll try to recover a bit and then we’ll see what will happen in the next stages”, Mauri – fifth overall now – said after the first summit finish of the Corsa Rosa.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele / Getty Images