Heartbreak for Gianluca Brambilla who narrowly misses the win in Occitanie's final stage
Gianluca Brambilla passed under the red kite. He was alone at the head of the race after countering his two breakaway companions with three kilometers remaining. The trio, all who remained from a seven-rider breakaway, were fighting it out for the stage win, and it was a thrilling ending to the four-day Route d’Occitanie.
Brambi’s attack looked good. He had opened up 25 seconds and seemingly was on he was to take another exciting solo win after a similar move in Tour des Alpes Maritimes et du Var earlier this year.
Behind Tony Gallopin (AG2R Citroën) and Magnus Cort (EF Education-Nippo) fought to keep the Italian climber close. Gallopin was on the limit, but Cort still had something in the tank and set off after Brambilla.
It's a second place that leaves disappointment and sorrow. I had the victory within reach, and I thought I had made it. I feel I have nothing to reproach myself with, honestly. I rode well but Cort Nielsen was simply stronger today.
At 500 meters to go, Brambi was still leading. So close to victory, he could taste it. And then everything unraveled.
“It’s a second place that leaves disappointment and sorrow. I had the victory within reach, and I thought I had made it. I feel I have nothing to reproach myself with, honestly. I rode well but Cort Nielsen was simply stronger today,” said Brambilla.
In the final phases of the race, Gallopin seemed to be the most brilliant of the group, and when he attacked I followed him. As soon as he slowed down I took off and immediately gained a good lead. The last 3 kilometers were very hard with a strong headwind. I climbed hard and Gallopin did the same.
It seemed to be a challenge between me and him because Cort Nielsen was always on his wheel. In the last kilometer, the easiest one, I felt the fatigue of the day, most of all the heat. I thought I could manage the lead, which was still over 20 seconds, confident that the most was done. But Cort Nielsen came back in a great way. I tried to keep up with him but at that moment I was already riding low on fuel.
I'm sorry, but if I look to take something positive, I know that the condition is there. At the Ventoux Challenge, I suffered some stomach problems. It's good that I managed to put them behind me and now I can refine my form in view of the Italian Championship.
Giulio Ciccone finished in 13th place for the stage and ended in 5th place overall.
It was a solid four days for the team in France, with Jacopo Mosca also adding two podium finishes and led the points competition for two days.