After a sprinter’s finish in Stupinigi in 2018, the 2019 GranPiemonte was a climber’s thing, instead.
Piedmont is home to many of the climbs that have made the history of cycling, and the choice was made to pick an iconic ascent that will always be remembered for Pantani’s incredible achievement at the 1999 Giro d’Italia – the climb to the Oropa Sanctuary. The Pirate had lost a bunch of seconds due to a mechanical incident at the foot of the climb. Ahead of him, the fight was on among his opponents.
He did not flinch, though. He set off in pursuit of his opponents, supported by his team-mates at first, but then kicked clear alone, making one of the most memorable and thrilling comebacks ever.
At the 2019 GranPiemonte, the expectations were just as high as the level of participants.
The field of contestants included big names such as Vlasov, Landa, Martin, Rolland, the Giro d’Italia winner Richard Carapaz and, most importantly, the Tour de France champion Egan Bernal.
Starting in Agliè, the route was a long flat ride through the Canavese and the Biella province in the approach to the two closing climbs. One would take the peloton to Nelva, and the decisive one would rise to 1,142 metres all the way to the Sanctuary.
Bernal’s opponents would not have an easy time. Ineos had made it clear from the first ramps of the Nelva ascent, when they took the lead, forcing the first major selection.
Everybody was working for the benefit of their captain, except for Ganna, who had been pushing along the flat stretch.
When the peloton reached the base of the Oropa ascent, approximately at the same place where the Pirate had dropped his chain, it must have felt like déjà vu. The entire Team Ineos working out front for Bernal really looked like Mercatone Uno in 1999, bunching up around Pantani, preparing to lead him out.
And that’s what happened, indeed.
After his fellow Colombian Sosa went for one last push, Bernal pulled off at the -2 km marker and took a memorable solo win at the Oropa Sanctuary, repeating that momentous achievement which had occurred in that same place twenty years before.