Dramatic finish: Strong Milan beats Merlier on the Adriatic coast, Jakobsen crashes hard Cycling

Dramatic finish: Strong Milan beats Merlier on the Adriatic coast, Jakobsen crashes hard

Dramatic finish: Strong Milan beats Merlier on the Adriatic coast, Jakobsen crashes hard

Jonathan Milan clinched the eleventh stage of the Giro d'Italia. The sprinter from Lidl-Trek outpaced Tim Merlier, who finished second, in a stunning sprint. Tadej Pogacar's pink jersey was never in jeopardy.

Cian Uijtdebroeks was notably absent from the more than 200-kilometer journey between Foiano di Valfortore and Francavilla al Mare. This was arguably the biggest news of Wednesday. The Flemish rider from Visma | Lease a Bike initially thought he was recovering after a rough rest day but became even sicker on Tuesday night at the hotel, leading to the withdrawal of the peloton's perhaps most cheerful rider. Stefano Oldani (Cofidis) also did not start the stage, which had no significant obstacles, the same was true for Louis Barré from Arkéa-B&B Hotels.

Visma | Lease a Bike shows resilience: Van Dijke and Affini join the breakaway

But 'few' doesn't mean 'none'. Right from the start, the route gradually ascended towards San Bartolomeo in Galdo, accessible via a road that climbs gently for 6.5 kilometers. Here, the day's breakaway group quickly formed, consisting of three riders: two from Visma | Lease a Bike – the team indeed kept its 'promise' to attack as much as possible with the depleted squad – and one from Cofidis. The names? Tim van Dijke, Edoardo Affini, and Thomas Champion. The rest of the peloton made little effort to catch the trio, and they were off.

Soon after, we saw the sprinters' teams quickly take control. There wasn't really a tight pace on the climb to Pietracatella (7.8 km at 5.7%) - the only truly tough climb of the day - which allowed riders like Fabio Jakobsen (read: the less adept climbing sprinters in the peloton) to breathe a sigh of relief.

Thomas snags two bonus seconds, UAE's Großschartner crashes

What followed was a drowsy stage where the sprinters' teams - including Lidl-Trek (Milan), Soudal Quick-Step (Merlier), and Jayco-AlUla (Ewan) - led the chase and ensured that the leading trio didn't get too far ahead.

After a long and predominantly boring day in the saddle, the breakaway was doomed about forty kilometers from the finish, just before the sprint where bonus seconds were up for grabs. Geraint Thomas (INEOS Grenadiers) managed to quickly sprint ahead to snatch two bonus seconds. Then, all attention could shift to a bunch sprint in the streets of Francavilla al Mare, a town on the Adriatic Sea.

Counterattacks neutralized: Jakobsen crashes hard, Milan beats Merlier

Andrea Piccolo (EF Education-EasyPost) tried to put a stop to it by attacking about eighteen kilometers from the finish, although his move appeared to be nothing more than a bluff: he was caught just 500 meters later. At about the same time, there was also a hefty crash, with Pogacar's helper Felix Großschartner being the main victim.

The final could be described as somewhat unusual since it involved navigating through two sharp U-turns. Despite the chaos, everything went surprisingly smoothly, allowing the sprint to proceed unimpeded. There was a strong headwind, which resulted in everyone wanting to wait as long as possible before launching their sprint. Waiting too long, on the other hand, increased the risk of getting boxed in. This led to some interesting pre-sprint dynamics. With 500 meters to go, a few riders crashed, including DSM-Firmenich PostNL's Tobias Lund Andresen and Fabio Jakobsen.

Then, Merlier started his sprint from a bit far out, which remained a reasonable choice. The Flemish rider seemed to be powering ahead with strong pedal strokes, but was ultimately overtaken by a very strong Milan, who once again added a victory to his record. Merlier finished second, although Juan Sebastian Molano was visibly upset with the Flemish rider. The UAE sprinter made a hand gesture, which turned out to be justified as Merlier was disqualified and relegated in the results.

Results of stage 11 Giro d'Italia 2024

Results powered by FirstCycling.com

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