Trek-Segafredo tolerated much more than a punishing parcours in stage 11 at the Giro d'Italia Wednesday when Giacomo Nizzolo did not take the start after days of suffering from allergies, and Laurent Didier cashed hard on a descent after hitting a wooden roadside barrier with his left leg.
Despite being down two men, the team rallied around Bauke Mollema to see him safely through a challenging 161-kilometer stage with hardly a meter of flat and four significant climbs to cover until the final 20-kilometer predominantly downhill run-in.
"It was a hard stage, and we lost two guys today, so it was not a good day for the team; that's disappointing," said Mollema. "We did not make the breakaway so it was all for me today and the guys supported me well."
A large, strong 25-man breakaway formed over the day's first climb, forcing Trek-Segafredo to lend a set of legs to the chase and keep things from getting out of hand. Julien Bernard rose to the task, assisting FDJ and Sunweb in minimalizing the gap.
Julien Bernard heads the chase.
"The plan was to try and go in the break," explained Bernard. "I tried, but I didn't have good sensations at the start of the first climb. Later we decided to help with the chase before the last climb, so I tried to do my best. I pulled until I had nothing left in my legs."
With the leading group still stocking a lead of nearly three minutes on the final category-two climb, the attacks ignited in the peloton. It spelled the end for the hard-working Bernard and quickly whittled down the bunch to the GC favorites.
"In the end, Julien Bernard was pulling just to not give the break too much time," continued Mollema. "The last climb was pretty hard, especially the last steep part, but I was there with all the favorites. The last 20kms was quite easy to the finish."
The breakaway easily had enough time to contest the finish and Omar Fraile (Dimension Data) grabbed his first Grand Tour victory. Mollema arrived with the rest of the favorites 1 minute and 37 seconds later, and the top of the GC remained unchanged.
Bauke Mollema reacts to Vincenzo Nibali's attack on the final climb.
X-rays revealed no broken bones for Didier after his high-speed tumble, but plenty of cuts and bruises and a heavy impact injury to the vastus lateralis on the outside of the left thigh will take time to heal.
"Someone touched my back wheel on a corner and I lost control and I hit the barrier with my left side," explained Didier. "I went over the barrier and hit the ground with my head, and the bike also broke in two. I have a lot of pain where I made impact with my left leg on the barrier."
It's a big blow to Trek-Segafredo who will miss his experience, leadership, and strong climbing legs just as the race begins to head into its most decisive part.
Laurent Didier with countryman Bob Jungels ahead of the stage 11 start.
Giacomo Nizzolo did not take the start of stage 11 as the persistent allergies he has been fighting became too much. It was not an easy decision for the Italian Champion in his country's biggest race, but it was the right choice he explained.
"Of course I'm unhappy to have to leave the Giro," said Nizzolo. "I can tell you it was definitely the hardest race I've ever done because of my illness; I was struggling every day. I tried my best to take the Italian champion's jersey around Italy. Every day I was there, suffering, to honor the jersey and the Giro.
"I did my best, believe me, but now it's time to go home and rest. I'm optimistic: I want to go home, recover, and focus on the second part of the season. That's why we've taken this decision. Physically and technically it is the right choice."
All photos ©Bettiniphoto