Laurens De Plus lights up Giro d’Italia stage 11
The 21-year-old, a Grand Tour debutant, finished in the top 10, while teammates Bob Jungels and Fernando Gaviria retained the white, respectively the ciclamino jersey.
Wednesday's Giro d'Italia stage 11 was a hilly one, taking the peloton through Emilia-Romagna, where five centuries ago Cesare Borgia, Leonardo Da Vinci and Niccolo Machiavelli embarked on a short and unforeseen but remarkable campaign, which had a big influence on their future. Borgia continued his dream of uniting Italy, Da Vinci later used the landscape he discovered during those months as backdrop for his famous Mona Lisa, while Machiavelli, inspired by Borgia's actions and personality, wrote his most important work, "Il Principe".
Under a blue and sunny sky, the peloton rolled out from Ponte a Ema, the birthplace of three-time Giro d'Italia winner and double Tour de France champion Gino Bartali, and as soon as they covered the neutral kilometers, attacks began coming from all over the place, splitting the bunch to pieces. The one to ignite the day's breakaway, which went all the way to the line in Bagno di Romagna, was none other than Grand Tour debutant Laurens De Plus.
On this stage packed with four climbs, which took the riders across the Apeninnes, the 21-year-old Belgian, who was joined by Igor Anton (Dimension Data), took maximum points on Passo della Consuma, before the duo were joined by 23 other riders who in the meantime took off from the bunch. Despite the maximum gap not going north of five minutes, the large group couldn't be reeled in by the severely reduced peloton led by FDJ and Team Sunweb.
Fireworks continued to came from the lead group, and Laurens was one of the protagonists once again, upping the pace and launching a big attack on the double-digit gradients of Monte Fumaiolo, to which only Rui Costa (UAE Team Emirates) and Pierre Rolland (Cannondale-Drapac) could respond. A man with a plan, the Quick-Step Floors rider dug deep when the two went clear before the summit and led the chase behind on the fast descent to Bagno di Romagna.
Last part of the stage had attacks galore, but it eventually came down to a reduced sprint, won by Omar Fraile (Dimension Data), who beat Costa and Rolland. Despite not possessing that extra kick which can help on a flat finish, Laurens De Plus still concluded the day inside the top 10 after taking some long pulls on the descent to bring the attackers back, notching his best ever result in a Grand Tour stage.
His teammate, Bob Jungels, came home with the other GC favourites, 1:37 down on the escapees, successfully defending the white jersey he claimed at the end of Tuesday's individual time trial, while Fernando Gaviria held onto his maglia ciclamino, which he is keen on taking to Milan.
"The stage was super hard and it was difficult to make it into the breakaway, as we rode full gas from the start. I had strong legs, had good feelings on the climb, and even though I didn't get the victory, I am happy with my ride. I'm only 21, I still need to get experience and with time I will learn how to win races, I'm sure of that", said the Belgian after earning a lot of plaudits with his aggressive ride on the tough, action-packed and exciting stage 11.
Laurens De Plus, one of the most talented riders of the new wave, explained at the finish that it was more behind his impressive move than riding for a good result: "All day today I was thinking of Igor Decraene. Four years ago, when I was last time in Firenze, we shared the room during the World Championships, where he won gold in the Junior time trial race. We were good friends and I will never forget him, that's why I wanted to do something special for him today."
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele