Giulio Ciccone broke down in tears after claiming his "most beautiful victory" on stage 15 of the Giro d'Italia, as Richard Carapaz retained the pink jersey ahead of Jai Hindley. 
 
Ciccone, who has suffered an injury-blighted two years, made his decisive move with 19km remaining, breaking clear of Hugh Carthy and Santiago Buitrago on the final uphill stretch towards Cogne, as he recorded his third Giro stage win.
 
The triumph represents his first since 2019, when he also won the race's mountains classification, and the 27-year-old declared it his finest moment after crossing the line in Northern Italy.
 
"This was my most beautiful victory," said Ciccone. "It's even better than the yellow jersey in the Tour de France or my first stage win at the Giro.
 
"It's been a really difficult period. When you try and win and nothing happens, it's always more difficult and it really tries your mental strength. I didn't feel like myself again, but I kept waiting and waiting and I found it today."

Buitrago took second at 1 minute 31 seconds behind the Trek-Segafredo rider, while Antonio Pedrero was third at 2:19 behind the Italian, with Carthy in fourth.

Meanwhile, Carapaz retained the overall lead despite crashing with 171km remaining, being one of around a dozen riders to be brought down when the back of the peloton came to a standstill after a collision, with Saturday's stage 14 winner Simon Yates also hitting the deck.

But the 2019 Giro winner recovered to finish the stage and retain a seven-second advantage over Hindley, with Joao Almeida 30 seconds behind the Ecuadorian, while Koen Bouwman edged ahead of Diego Rosa in the mountain classifications. 

Ciccone's finest hour

Ciccone has experienced success at the Giro d'Italia before, claiming a stage-10 win back in 2016 and a stage-16 victory during an impressive showing back in 2019. But the Italian missed the 2020 edition of the race after testing positive for COVID-19 before withdrawing after a crash the following year, and was overcome with emotion after ending two frustrating years by claiming an impressive triumph.

STAGE RESULT 

1. Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) 4:37:41
2. Santiago Buitrago (Bahrain Victorious) + 1:31
3. Antonio Pedrero (Spa/Movistar) +2:19 
4. Hugh Carthy (EF Education-EasyPost) +3:09
5. Martijn Tusveld (Team DSM) +4:36

CLASSIFICATION STANDINGS

General Classification

1. Richard Carapaz (INEOS Grenadiers) 63:06:57
2. Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe) +0:07
3. Joao Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) +0:30

Points Classification

1. Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ) 238 
2. Mark Cavendish (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) 121
3. Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) 171

King of the Mountains

1. Koen Bouwman (Jumbo-Visma) 109
2. Diego Rosa (EOLO-Kometa) 92
3. Jai Hindly (Bora-Hansgrohe) 62