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Battaglin makes it two in a row for Bardiani, Quintana warns his rivals

Battaglin makes a fantastic comeback inside the final kilometer of the climb to win the stage from an early breakaway while Quintana emerges as the strongest of the favourites; Uran shows signs of weakness

BARDIANI CSF

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DARIO CATALDO

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DECEUNINCK - QUICK-STEP

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ENRICO BATTAGLIN

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GIRO D'ITALIA

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RIGOBERTO URAN

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24.05.2014 @ 18:20 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

One day after Marco Canola’s surprise win, Enrico Battaglin continued the fantastic Giro d’Italia for Bardiani when he emerged as the strongest of the early 21-rider breakaway in today’s first big stage in the Alps. Behind the stage winner, the favourites were involved in a huge battle that saw Nairo Quintana (Movistar) ride away from all his rivals while Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) clearly struggled and lost significant time to most of the GC contenders.

 

Two days ago Bardiani hadn’t had a lot of success in the Giro d’Italia and they seemed to be running out of options to take that elusive stage win. Two days, however, can make an awful lot of a difference and after yesterday’s surprise win for Marco Canola, they made it two in a row in the big Alpine stage to Oropa.

 

The rider to come away with the goods was Enrico Battaglin who again showed the potential that allowed him to also win a stage 12 months ago. While last year’s victory was taken in a uphill sprint, however, this one was based on his participation in an early breakaway.

 

Early on a big 21-rider group took off and Battaglin was the only rider from the green-clad team to make it into the move. Being up against riders like Dario Cataldo (Sky), Nicolas Roche (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Tim Wellens (Lotto Belisol), however, the odds were not on the puncheur to take the win.

 

The peloton showed no interest in reeling them in and it soon became apparent that the stage winner would be one of the early escapees. For a brief moment, it seemed that a big surprise was in store as Albert Timmer (Giant-Shimano) made a strong attack on the descent to the bottom of the final climb and still had a 40-second gap with 5km to go.

 

Behind, several attacks from Cataldo whittled the chase group down to just the Italian and Jarlinson Pantano (Colombia) and when they passed Timmer, it seemed that the stage winner would be one of those two. Jan Polanc (Lampre-Merida) joined them though and it was a trio that passed the flame rouge.

 

The cameras turned around and showed a fighting Battaglin trying to bridge across and he made the junction inside the final 500m. When Cataldo launched a hard attack just before the final turn, however, he again got dropped and seemed to be out of the running.

 

Pantano launched a long sprint but was quickly passed by Cataldo. As the Italian seemed to have locked up his victory, however, Battaglin made an impressive comeback and passed his compatriot a few metres before the line to take a huge solo victory.

 

Behind, the battle between the overall contenders was on and it was Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r) who fired the opening shot. Only Rafal Majka (Tinkoff), Wilco Kelderman (Belkin), Rigoberto Uran and Nairo Quintana could keep up with him but when Majka blew up and opened a gap, only Quintana managed to bridge across.

 

The two tiny climbers pressed on while Kelderman spent most of the final climb in lone pursuit. Majka and Uran had fallen back to Cadel Evans (BMC), Fabio Aru (Astana) and Wout Poels (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) but they continued to lose time.

 

With Pozzovivo doing most of the work, Quintana attacked on the finishing straight to cross the line as the first GC rider. Aru made an impressive comeback to catch Pozzovivo just before the line while Kelderman and Majka followed a few seconds later.

 

On the finishing straight, Uran couldn’t even keep up with Poels and Evans and he crossed the line as a big loser. He still has a healthy 32-second advantage over Evans but the stage proved that he is certainly not unbeatable.

 

Uran faces another big test tomorrow in the second Alpine stage that brings the riders over 225km to the top of the feared Plan di Montecampione climb. The stage is almost completely flat but comes to a dramatic conclusion on the 19.4km climb to the finish.

 

The first stage in the Alps

For the first time in this year’s Giro d’Italia, the riders faced a really big mountain stage when they took on today’s 164km from Agliè to Oropa. After a rolling opening with only a smaller climb, the stage came to an exciting conclusion as the riders passed three big climbs in the second part. First up was the very steep Alpe Noveis climb and then the riders climbed the long, gradual Bielmonte before taking on the 11km climb to the finish.

 

After yesterday’s cold stage, the riders were pleased to take the start under a beautiful sunny sky. Two riders didn’t make it though as Dennis Vanendert (Lotto Belisol) who suffered from a sore thigh, and Manuel Belletti (Androni) who had crashed several times, needed to recover from their injuries.

 

The break takes off

As expected, the stage was off to a very fast start as many riders wanted to be part of the early break. Soon after the start, however, Valerio Agnoli (Astana), Axel Domont (Ag2r), Marco Frapporti (Androni), Battaglin, Paolo Longo Borghini (Cannondale), Yonathan Monsalve (Neri Sottoli), Perrig Quemenur (Europcar), Timmer, and Cataldo got a gap and they battled hard to stay away.

 

Emanuele Sella (Androni), Martijn Keizer (Belkin), Manuel Quinziato (BMC), Pantano, Mattia Cattaneo, Jan Polanc (both Lampre-Merida), Wellens, Julien Vermote (OPQS), Ivan Santaromita (Orica-GreenEDGE), Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky), Roche, and Danilo Hondo (Trek) joined them to make it a 21-rider group. The peloton seemed to be content with the situation and quickly slowed down to let the gap grow.

 

A slow pace

While Alessandro Petacchi and Iljo Keisse set a steady pace for OPQS, the gap was constantly on the rise. With 114km to go, it was 5.40 and they got an even bigger advantage when a crash slowed down the peloton. Kanstantsin Siutsou (Sky) was one of the riders to go down and unfortunately, he had to abandon the race.

 

Longo Borghini accelerated to win the day’s intermediate sprint ahead of Battaglin and at that point the gap had exploded to 8.40. It even reached 10.40 as the peloton rolled along flat roads but as the battle for position for the first climb started, the peloton upped the pace and they hit the climb with an advantage of 8.55.

 

No action on the first climb

While Frapporti did a lot of work for his teammate Sella in the break, Keisse set the pace on the lower slopes in the peloton. As they hit the steep middle section, Petacchi took over and later left it to Thomas De Gendt to lead the chase in the final part.

 

In the front group, Hondo was briefly dropped but as they took it very gently, the German made it back to the front and by the time Wellens beat Monsalve in the sprint at the top, the 21 riders were still together. To get the best possible position for the tricky descent, Michael Rogers (Tinkoff-Saxo) hit the front with Majka on his wheel as they crested the summit but it was Serge Pauwels who led the main group down the technical slope.

 

More slow riding

At this point the gap was 7.25 but the peloton had set a very modest pace on the climb, with Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ) still being comfortably positioned in the middle of the group. Meanwhile, the front group had split on the descent but on the lower slopes of the second climb, they found back together.

 

De Gendt went back to work on the lower slopes of the climb and surprisingly, no one wanted to take any initiative. Due to the slow pace, the gap went back up to 8 minutes while Monsalve made a small attack in the front group that left Frapporti behind.

 

Rolland and Hesjedal attack

With 48km to go, the action finally started when the Europcar pair of Bjorn Thurau and Pierre Rolland took off. Riccardo Zoidl (Trek) joined them while Andrey Amador (Movistar) made an ill-fated attempt to do the same.

 

Francisco Ventoso (Movistar) was the next to try but it was the Garmin-Sharp dup of Nathan Haas and Ryder Hesjedal that opened a gap. Gorka Izagirre (Movistar) and Pirazzi joined them but the latter soon fell off the pace. Matteo Rabottini (Neri ) also tried to make the junction but failed.

 

Pirazzi makes a move

Haas sacrificed himself for Hesjedal before dropping back to Rabottini while Pirazzi was caught by the peloton. Hesjedal and Izagirre caught Rolland, Thurau and Zoidl in a group where Thurau was doing a lot of work.

 

The Bardiani duo of Edoardo Zardini and Pirazzi made the next attack to join Rabottini and Haas while it was now Pieter Serry and later Serge Pauwels that set the pace for OPQS.

 

Roche attacks

Near the top, Nicolas Roche attacked and he crested the summit 11 seconds ahead of Wellens who again beat Monsalve in the sprint. The increased pace, however, had left Hondo, Longo, Quemeneur and Frapporti behind.

 

At the top, the Hesjedal group was 4.25 behind Roche while the Rabottini group was at 5.04. The peloton was 5.48 behind, with Cannondale now hitting the front to bring back Rolland and Hesjedal that were threats for Ivan Basso.

 

Timmer and Quinziato get clear

Longo fell back to the peloton to assist in the chase while Hondo, Quemeneur and Frapporti were caught by the Hesjedal group. Quemeneur and Thurau sacrificed themselves completely for their leader Rolland but they didn’t get closer to the leaders that had now caught Roche.

 

Timmer got a small gap on the descent but was quickly brought back. Moments later Quinziato launched an attack and Timmer was the only one to respond. The pair quickly opened a big gap while Cannondale continued to lead the chase in the peloton.

 

Bad luck for Quinziato

As they hit the bottom of the final climb, Domont and Cattaneo attacked from the chase group. Boasson Hagen and Wellens joined them but the group soon came back together. Meanwhile, Quinziato had extremely bad luck to puncture and so got dropped by Timmer.

 

Thurau, Frapporti, Quemeneur and Hondo all got dropped by the Hesjedal group. Later they also left Izagirre and finally Zoidl behind, with Rolland and Hesjedal being the only left to press on.

 

Trek take control

In the peloton, Ag2r led the peloton onto the climb but it was Julian Arredondo who worked on the lower slopes for his captain Robert Kiserlovski. Hondo took a brief turn on the front when he was caught but it was Arredondo who did the majority of the work.

 

When he swung off, Ag2r took over with Hubert Dupont and later Alexis Vuillermoz setting the pace. At this point the front group was down to just Vuillernoz, Pozzovivo, Kiserlovski, Majka, Evans, Poels, Anton, Aru, Kelderman, Uran, Quintana and Landa.

 

The chase group splits up

Cataldo made a first attack from the chase group and this whittled the group down to just himself, Cattaneo, Wellens and Pantano. More riders rejoined the group but when he kicked again, only Cattaneo could follow him.

 

Pantano, Roche and Wellens rejoined them and soon it was down to just Cataldo and Pantano. With less than 3km to go, they caught the lone Timmer and quickly left him behind.

 

Pozzovivo attacks

Meanwhile, Pozzovivo had launched an attack from the group of favourites. Initially, only Majka, Kelderman, Quintana and Uran could follow him but when Majka blew up, Quintana was the only one to close the small gap.

 

The two riders pressed on and made use of both Izagirre and Domont along the way. At one point Kelderman was close to joining them but the Dutchman never made it fully. Behind, Poels was working hard for Uran, with Aru, Evans and Majka also in that group.

 

Battaglin makes a comeback

Up ahead, Polanc and Timmer rejoined Cataldo and Pantano and Polanc went straight to the front. Timmer blew up inside the final kilometer and when Cataldo launched his attack, Polanc also fell off the pace.

 

Behind, Battaglin was suddenly getting close and made the junction just before the final turn. Cataldo made an attack just before the final corner and again Battaglin fell off.

 

Stage win for Battaglin

Pantano did a long sprint but was quickly passed by Cataldo. Impressively, Battaglin made a great comeback to pass them both and take the stage win. The rest of the break rolled across the line one by one before Hesjedal was the first GC rider to cross the line, having dropped Rolland on the finishing straight.

 

Quintana accelerated on the finishing straight and dropped Pozzovivo who fell back to Aru who had made a great comeback. Next across the line were Kelderman and Majka while Evans attacked on the finishing straight to drop Uran who got the consolation of defending his leader’s jersey.

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