Carapaz shakes off early crash to keep Giro lead in Stage 15

COGNE, Italy (AP) — Escorted up three long climbs by his powerful Ineos Grenadiers team, Richard Carapaz shook off an early crash to hold onto the Giro d’Italia overall lead during his first day wearing the pink jersey.

Italian rider Giulio Ciccone got into an early breakaway then launched a solo attack on the finishing climb to win the 15th stage on Sunday.

Carapaz, the Ecuadorian who took the lead a day earlier, remained seven seconds ahead of Jai Hindley and 30 seconds ahead of João Almeida.

Carapaz, the 2019 Giro champion and an Olympic gold medalist last year, was involved in a mass crash early on when he fell off of his bike onto the grass lining a flat road.

Carapaz said there was “no consequence at all” from the crash.

“I just had to change bikes,” he said. “Then it went smoothly. The scenario of the race was pretty good. The first part was hard. Then we had it under control.”

For his third career Giro victory after also winning stages in 2016 and 2019, Ciccone was cheered on by large crowds lining the cobblestoned streets in the finale. As is his tradition, Ciccone — who wore the yellow jersey for two stages during the 2019 Tour de France — threw his sunglasses into the crowd just before crossing the finish line.

“This is my most beautiful win. It’s better than the yellow jersey at the Tour de France, better than my first wins at the Giro because I went through difficult times in the past two years, with crashes, illnesses and COVID,” Ciccone said.

Ciccone, who rides for the Trek-Segafredo team, clocked 4 hours, 37 minutes over the 178-kilometer (111-mile) leg from Rivarolo Canavese to Cogne in the northwestern Valle d’Aosta region.

The final climb to Cogne was a lengthy 22.2 kilometers (14 miles) but was steep only at the start and had an average gradient of just 4.3%. Requiring about an hour of climbing, it was still a challenge and when Ciccone attacked with 18.8 kilometers (12 miles) to go, his breakaway companions had no answer.

Santiago Buitrago crossed second, 1:31 behind, and Antonio Pedrero was third, 2:19 behind.

Carapaz crossed nearly eight minutes behind.

“I chose to attack solo with 19 kilometers to go because it was the steepest part of the climb and I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to drop everyone later on,” Ciccone said.

After the race’s final rest day on Monday, the Giro resumes Tuesday with one of the sport’s toughest climbs up the Mortirolo along the 202-kilometer (126-mile) leg from Salo to Aprica. The annual wine stage is dedicated to the Sforzato variety of the Valtellina area.

The race ends next Sunday in Verona.

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