The gates at the start of the iconic Monte Zoncolan climb welcome the riders "to hell", and George Bennett will feel like he's been there and back again after stage 14 of the Giro d'Italia.

Bennett's cruel luck in Grand Tours has continued, with a mechanical problem at the worst possible time on the final climb of Zoncolan sending him down the general classification.

Bennett was just beginning to ascend the most feared climb at the Giro - a 10 kilometre brute at an average gradient of 10 per cent - when disaster struck.

As he went underneath the famous gates, Bennett soon found himself in an evil position, with a mechanical issue stalling him in his tracks and seeing all of his rivals leave him behind.


Bennett's problem - believed to be a chain issue - made him have to change his bike, and then try to make up a severe deficit with eight kilometres of the most brutal climbing still to come.

With that in mind, it's remarkable how well he recovered. Bennett battled back on the double-digit gradients, passing scores of riders to finish in 12th place, losing one minute and 55 seconds to stage winner Chris Froome. As a result, he somewhat limited his losses, falling only two spots to eighth overall, 4.04 behind leader Simon Yates.

The mechanical issue cost him at least a minute - and a spot in the top five overall - a devastating blow on a day which could have vaulted him to new heights. But, considering that lesser riders would have - and did - tumble out of the top 10, to remain in eighth overall is a superb fightback, and still provides something to fight for in the Giro's third week.

Bennett's horror luck continues an unfortunate trend for the Kiwi climber, who was sick and forced to abandon at last year's Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana, and was hit by a car before the Tour of the Alps. Add this mechanical issue at arguably the worst time in the entire Giro, and the brutal luck is racking up for the 28-year-old.

Still, to have a rosier perspective, Bennett maintains a strong chance at history. No Kiwi has ever finished in the top 10 at the Giro, nor has a New Zealander rider finished higher than tenth at a Grand Tour. Those conquests are still very much in play after this morning's recovery effort, while he could be in the mix for a stage win now that he's no longer a threat to Yates' overall lead.

That lead was extended on Zoncolan, where Yates attacked with three kilometres to go and distanced his closest rivals. He crossed the line in second, six seconds behind Froome, but most crucially gained another 37 seconds on Tom Dumoulin to increase his overall lead to one minute and 24 seconds.

That wasn't the worst result for Dumoulin, who sits 13 seconds ahead of third-placed Domenico Pozzovivo and a further nine ahead of Thibaut Pinot. The world time trial champion can take back over two minutes on the stage 16 time trial, as can Froome, who was the star attraction in front of an estimated 100,000 fans on the mountain.

Froome attacked with four kilometres to go, and motored up the mountain to claim a much-needed victory after a horror opening fortnight. He jumped past Bennett in the process, sitting in fifth, 3.10 down on Yates, and sending a reminder that he is still a contender for the title.


The same can't be said for Bennett, with the luckless Kiwi's eventually strong showing being wasted at the worst moment. His first chance for revenge comes tomorrow, with stage 15 featuring five climbs - none as tough as Zoncolan - but still enough to create time gaps for the contenders.

Bennett will be hoping to - for once - avoid any issues and come out on the right side of the gap.

Niall Anderson is covering every stage of the Giro d'Italia live for the Herald. He battled with this piece as much as the grupetto did on the climb.
Niall's Giro d'Italia wraps
Stage thirteen
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Stage ten
Stage nine
Stage eight
Stage seven
Stage six
Stage five
Stage four
Stage three
Stage two
Stage one