Ciccone crowned king of climbers in 'The Challenge Of Stars' virtual cycling race

Froome and Nibali beaten in quarter-finals, as Italian beats De Gendt in lockdown event streamed on Olympic Channel.

Italian rider Giulio Ciccone claimed the climbers challenge title in the first 'The Challenge of Stars' virtual road cycling race.

The Trek-Segafredo man beat Thomas De Gendt of Lotto Soudal in the final, streamed on Olympic Channel.

Eight of the top male climbing specialists took part in the straight knockout event on Sunday (24th May), using stationary bikes connecting over the internet from their own homes for the 8-minute races.

The route chosen was a 2.9km ascent on the long Stelvio climb that features in the Giro d'Italia, with an average gradient of 8.69% that peaks at 12.75%.

Won at the last

Ciccone's Trek-Segafredo Team manager gave his rider a pep talk ahead of the final, telling the rider to "consider it as big as a stage of the Giro or Tour de France".

The Italian did just that, overtaking De Gendt in the final kilometer, as the Belgian ran out of energy.

"I lost to somebody who was better today" - Thomas de Gendt

De Gendt also suggested the lockdown conditions in the different countries may have had a part to play in the result.

In Belgium, he has been able to ride outside on the road, so has had less time on the turbo trainer than Ciccone, who has been under more restrictive lockdown conditions in Italy during the COVID coronavirus pandemic, and therefore had more practice on the rollers.

Froome and Nibali miss out

Two big other names were beaten in their opening rides.

Four-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome was given a time penalty in his quarter-final defeat to Warren Barguil for pedaling too hard in the lead-up to the start of his race.

The British rider said afterwards, "I managed to catch him, just in the last kilometer, but I was dead, and he came flying past me for the finish."

"The form is feeling better and better as I'm training more." added the two-time Olympic bronze medallist, who is returning from injury.

"It's definitely a love/hate relationship with my home trainer" - Chris Froome

Froome also praised the format, saying "It was a fantastic experience, especially at the moment when we can't really ride with any other riders, it's nice to be able to challenge someone personally like this, and have a race.

Fellow Tour de France winner Vincenzo Nibali was also beaten in his quarter-final, losing out to Simon Geschke.

Their conquerors of those two grand tour champions were both beaten in their semi-final races.

The eight climbers of 'The Challenge of Stars'
The eight climbers of 'The Challenge of Stars'The eight climbers of 'The Challenge of Stars'

Climbers results - Quarter-finals:

Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) beat Jakob Fuglsang (Astana Pro Team).

Simon Geschke (CCC Team) beat Vincenzo Nibali (Trek-Segafredo).

Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) beat Rafał Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe).

Warren Barguil (Team Arkéa-Samsic) beat Chris Froome (Team Ineos).

Climbers results - Semi-finals:

Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) beat Simon Geschke (CCC Team).

Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) beat Warren Barguil (Team Arkéa-Samsic).

Climbers results - Final:

Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) beat Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal).

Jakobsen claims sprint honours

It came a day after Team Arkéa-Samsic rider Fabio Jakobsen claimed victory in the sprinters event.

Dutchman Jakobsen recorded an output of 1000 watts in his victory.

You can watch the full replay of the action on Olympic Channel, by clicking on this link (geo-restrictions may apply).

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