Craig Lewis (HTC-Columbia) came oh-so-close to victory in Friday’s 13th stage at the Giro d’Italia.
The grand tour rookie uncorked a daring solo attack with 1700m to go, clicked into his 53×11 and put his head down. He only got reeled in with 200m to go and drifted across the line eighth behind winner Manuel Belletti (Colnago-CSF).
“It was a surreal moment. I had my director yelling in my ear. I had a good gap. If things would have played out differently, I would have had it, but that’s how it goes. Somebody closed the gap and the sprinters are faster than me,” Lewis told VeloNews at the line. “The legs were feeling increasingly painful the closer I got to the finish line. It’s a little rough by getting caught with 200 meters to go, but it’s better than not being up there at all.”
Lewis had an intuition that Friday’s stage, coming at the tail-end of the second week of the Giro, would be an ideal chance to sneak into a breakaway.
When the attacks came about 60km into the stage, Lewis spun into the group and helped drive the wedge to assure the break would make it to the line.
“When I went to sleep last night, I felt today would be a good day for the break,” Lewis said. ““It’s pretty sweet to be out there today because it’s my first grand tour. Things work out sometimes. The way the GC is shook up, the profile, how hard the race has been so far, it makes people want to get into a break and make it to the finish.”
Lewis rode like a veteran when the late-stage attacks started to come. Two moderate climbs came late in the stage, but not late enough for Lewis to try to attack the group.
Marco Manzano (Lampre) and Iban Mayoz (Footon-Servetto) were doing their best to try to shake dangerous sprinter Greg Henderson (Team Sky) by opening a gap in the closing 15km, but Lewis rode patiently and waited for the group to come back together.
“The attacks starting coming in the last 50km. We had a couple of fast sprinters in there and the climb came too far from the finish line to drop them for good, so you had to wait,” Lewis said. “I had to play the cards as late as possible. It’s the end of the second week of the race, people were getting tired, it was a good opportunity.”
Lewis hopes to continue to shine in the final week of the Giro as the race turns into his favored ground. He said he’s especially looking forward to test his legs on some of the mythic climbs such as the Mortirolo, the Gavia and Monte Zoncolan.
“I still feel good, fresh. Probably better than a lot of guys,” Lewis said. “I’ve had a good race so far.”