GORIZIA, Italy (AP) — Belgian rider Victor Campenaerts won the 15th stage of the Giro d’Italia on Sunday for his first victory in a Grand Tour, and Egan Bernal kept the leader’s pink jersey after a day that was marked by a large crash at the beginning of the route.
Campenaerts, who rides for Team Qhubeka Assos, edged out Oscar Riesebeek at the end of the 147-kilometer (91-mile) route from Grado to Gorizia that crossed into Slovenia and covered the fourth-category climb to Gornje Cerovo three times.
“As we don’t have climbers for the next few stages in the mountains, we decided to go all in today,” Campenaerts said. “Now we have three victories in the Giro, which is simply fantastic … We’re making an important statement as we are racing for the greater purpose of changing lives with bicycles: to provide bicycles in Africa for better education and better lives.”
The duo had attacked from a breakaway approaching the final climb, with the rain falling heavily.
Nikias Arndt won a sprint for third, seven seconds behind Campenaerts.
“I’ve missed an opportunity, perhaps the opportunity of a lifetime,” Riesebeek said. “I just made a mistake, I don’t know if I made a mistake or … of course, he was really strong. It’s hard after 15 days to find something good about it. At the minute I am very disappointed.”
Bernal crossed the line in the peloton, more than 17 minutes behind. The 2019 Tour de France champion maintained his lead of 1 minute, 33 seconds over Simon Yates and is 1:51 ahead of third-place Damiano Caruso.
The stage was halted for about half an hour shortly after the start following a mass crash. Several riders had to get medical attention at the side of the road and there were numerous bicycle changes.
Emanuel Buchmann, who had hopes of a podium finish, was one of the riders forced to retire from the race because of his injuries. The German cyclist was sixth overall, 2:36 behind Bernal.
Natnael Berhane and Jos Van Emden also had to abandon. Ruben Guerreiro rode on for a while before also quitting.
Monday’s 16th stage is the Giro’s toughest leg. The so-called queen stage includes nearly 6,000 meters of climbing over the Passo Fedaia, the Passo Pordoi and the Passo Giau in the Dolomites before the descent to the finish in Cortina d’Ampezzo.
At 2,239 meters, the Passo Pordoi is also the race’s highest point.