Between cross-country skiing, ski jumping, and Nordic combined, Val di Fiemme is used to seeing Austrian athletes excel. Perhaps it was destiny that the Tour of the Alps and the home of the Marcialonga would end with a victory for Austrian athlete Gregor Mühlberger.
The Movistar Team rider took the victory with strong legs and courage that lasted until the final metres of a breakaway that started on the approach to the Passo Sommo at kilometre 16 of the 152.9 kms from Rovereto to Predazzo. The Trentino stage, which took place on Thursday 20 April 2023, confirmed Tao Geoghegan Hart’s lead for the fourth consecutive day, in which he was able to control the race from start to finish with his INEOS Grenadiers. In fact, Hart allowed the break to go all the way to the finish line, thus postponing the final battle for the Melinda green jersey until tomorrow.
Mühlberger's victory came at the end of a narrow sprint with Torstein Træen (Uno-X Pro Cycling Team) and the 19-year-old Italian racer of Green Project-Bardiani CSF-Faizanè, Giulio Pellizzari, in tow. The latter had taken the lead at the Passo Pramadiccio GPM but a mistake on a curve at the beginning of the descent caused him to squander the advantage he had over his two closest pursuers.
The three-way finish ended with a sprint for victory, which the Austrian had been missing for 995 days, when he won the general classification at the Sibiu Cycling Tour.
At tomorrow’s start in Cavalese, Friday 21 April 2023, Tao Geoghegan Hart will be 22" ahead of compatriot, Hugh Carthy (EF Education-Easypost) and 28" up from Jack Haig (Bahrain Victorious). Same as last year, the Tour of the Alps will be decided in the final stage, 144.5 km from Cavalese to Bruneck/Brunico. Anything can happen tomorrow because the top nine in the general classification are within 58".
THE LUCK OF THE BOLD AND DARING
After three stages raced at high speed, the peloton experienced a quieter day from Rovereto to Predazzo, but that didn’t mean that the pacers yielded to a chance at a prestigious win. The day’s break took shape at kilometre 16 and later expanded to thirteen riders: Simon Carr and Stefan De Bond (EF Education-Easypost), Gregor Mühlberger, Antonio Lopez Pedrero, Oscar Rodriguez and Sergio Samitier (Movistar Team), Geoffrey Bouchard (AG2R-Citroën), Marco Frigo (Israel-Premier Tech), Giulio Pellizzari and Henok Mulueberhan (Green Project-Bardiani CSF-Faizanè), Torstein Træen (Uno-X Pro Cycling Team), Damien Howson (Q36. 5 Pro Cycling Team), and Patrick Konrad (Bora-hansroghe).
Mark Donovan (Q36.5 Pro Cycling Team) joined the breakaway at kilometre 50 and, once they reached the Lago di Santa Colomba climb, the escapees found themselves with a 4-minute lead over the peloton. The gap didn’t change in the following kilometres after passing through Palù di Giovo, home to cycling champions like Francesco Moser and Gilberto Simoni, and on the Salita della Cascata, made famous by the Marcialonga.
The lead group entered the Passo Pramadiccio with a lead of 4'40", thus increasing their chances of gunning for the stage victory. The group crumbled on the climb, with Mühlberger and Pellizzari showing that they had something more in the tank. They were joined by Træen, but both he and the eventual stage winner were unable to keep up with the young Italian rider from Green Project in the climb’s final metres.
On the descent toward Tesero, however, a mistake on the first curve immediately thwarted efforts by Pellizzari, who was forced to fall in line with Træen and Mühlberger. The three then had to go for broke in the finishing sprint to Predazzo, where the Austrian racer from the Movistar Team got the better of both the Norwegian, who was the best climber at the 2022 Tour of the Alps, and the young Italian pro.
40" down from the race leaders, Patrick Konrad controlled a small group of the day’s other escapees, including Stefan De Bod, Oscar Rodriguez, and Marco Frigo. Eighth place went to the 2022 Tour of the Alps Stage 1 winner, Geoffrey Bouchard, with Mark Donovan and Antonio Pedrero completing the top ten.
The men higher up in the GC took a rest day, while they prepare to compete again tomorrow in the final and decisive stage with finish in Brunico. With the support of his INEOS Grenadiers, Tao Geoghegan Hart managed to hang tight to the Melinda green jersey throughout the day. Behind him three pairs of racers will try to challenge him tomorrow: that of EF Education-Easypost (Carthy 2nd at 22", Cepeda 4th at 36"), the duo of Bahrain Victorious with Jack Haig (3rd at 28") and Santiago Buitrago (9th at 58"), and the pair of Bora-hansroghe racers, Lennard Kämna and Aleksandr Vlasov, 6th and 7th respectively in the GC at 45 and 49 seconds. Lorenzo Fortunato (Eolo Kometa), who remains in fifth at 38" from the leader, will also try to have his say.
The situation of the other race jerseys is also unchanged. Tao Geoghegan Hart continues to wear the Manila Grace red jersey for the points classification in addition to the Melinda green jersey. Jefferson Cepeda also retains the Gruppo Cassa Centrale blue jersey for the Best Climber, while Max Poole is in the Würth white jersey for the Best Young Rider.
It was a maintenance day for Team INEOS Grenadiers and Tao Geoghegan Hart, who retained the Melinda green jersey with only one stage to go in this Tour of the Alps.
"Today we were lucky with the weather because despite the forecast, it only rained at the end. I am happy for Gregor, who hasn't won in almost 1000 days; he deserves this satisfaction."
"The race was decided in the first 15 km, with the uphill start, which we administrated thanks to the strength of our team, which once again proved its form. When a team puts itself at the disposal of a leader who shows he has the legs to win, it brings out resources that sometimes he doesn't even know he has. Having a quality relationship with your teammates gives you something extra."
"Tomorrow we will race using the same approach that’s proven successful so far. We know that there will be opponents who will leave everything on the road, and we’ll try to stay united and not let the pressure get to us, with the aim to punctuate this wonderful week in the best possible way."
THE GRAND FINALE IN BRUNECK/BRUNICO
With the GC still up for grabs, the last stage of the 2023 edition will also be in full Tour of the Alps style: 144.5 km from Cavalese to Bruneck/Brunico, with 2,910 metres of climbing and a finale full of pitfalls.
The fifth stage (scheduled to start at 11:25 a.m. local time) launches immediately uphill with 11 km that will take the athletes from Cavalese to the Lavazè Pass, the highest peak in this edition at 1,808 metres above sea level. After a quick descent, the racers will enter Südtirol/Alto Adige, first by climbing the Eisacktal/Valle Isarco and then the Pustertal/Val Pusteria.
Once in Kiens/Chienes, the race will get down to business with a first pass over the finish line and the start of a final circuit centred on the Muhlbach/Riomolino climb (Category 2 GPM of 7.8 km with an average grade of 8.2 percent). The toughest section will be the first six kms with grades rising up to more than 10 with spikes of 18 percent.
Heading toward the finish line, there will be 19 kms of rollers at elevation, a steep descent, and the last flat six kms before reaching the finish line, with a slight but steady climb on the finishing straight.
THE TOUR OF THE ALPS ON TV
Tomorrow, Friday, the Tour of the Alps will be broadcast live from 13:30 local time on RaiSport, Eurosport, and L'Equipe TV (France).