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“He’s a good rider. He was in the breakaway, so he clearly had good legs. I didn’t know how strong he was going to be on the last climb. We worked together until the climb began. While he was leading, I tried to see how he...

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15.05.2013 @ 19:55 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

After some hard days Garmin-Sharp bounced back in today's 11th stage of the Giro d'Italia as Ramunas Navardauskas emerged as the strongest from a 20-rider breakaway. Going clear with Daniel Oss (BMC) in the run-in to the day's final climb, the Lithuanian felt strong but had some uncertainty regarding the strength of his Italian companion.

 

When Ryder Hesjedal collapsed in yesterday's first mountain stage in the Giro d'Italia and lost more than 20 minutes to his rivals, the lofty ambitions of the Garmin-Sharp team unravelled. The American squad had marked the Italian grand tour out as its most important objective of the season and they were now left with little chances of success.

 

Their fortunes changed just 24 hours later when loyal domestique Ramunas Navardauskas - who was a late inclusion in the line-up - powered clear from the day's early break with Daniel Oss and the duo set off to chase down Patrick Gretsch (Argos-Shimano) who had escaped a little earlier. The two strong rouleurs caught the lone German, dropped him as the road started to point upwards and quickly opened a huge gap to their former companions behind.

 

With 5km to go Navardauskas proved that he - despite being mostly known for his abilities on the flat roads - is also a rather solid climber as he accelerated a number of times to finally drop Oss. Being a similar kind of rider Oss seemed to be on equal terms with the Lithuanian and so the eventual winner was uncertain as to whether he would be able to come out triumphant.

 

“He’s a good rider," Navardauskas said. "He was in the breakaway, so he clearly had good legs. I didn’t know how strong he was going to be on the last climb. We worked together until the climb began. While he was leading, I tried to see how he was feeling. I accelerated a couple of times to see how he would respond, and I saw that I had better legs. I made one attack, then a harder one, and then I saw I was alone. Then I tried to pace myself. The gap was never huge and right until the end I hoped he would get a second wind.”

 

The stage had started off at a furious pace with the riders covering no less than 53km during the first hour of racing, and the 20-rider break only managed to get clear after 80km. With the day's climbs lacking the toughness of the previous day's ascents, the race always looked like one for the opportunists and that was the main reason for the hectic start to the stage.

 

Everyone could see that there was a good chance of a breakaway forming today, " Navardauskas said. "That’s why it took so long for the breakaway to form. The first part of the stage was on a descent and into a headwind, so it was difficult to open a gap. When we hit the long climb, the racing changed. The breakaway formed and everyone knew it would get away. The best guy in the General Classification was 10 minutes down, so the contenders could took it easy in view of the big stages that are approaching.”

 

The success shows that Navardauskas has good fortunes in the Italian grand tour. Last year he used a good prologue and a Garmin victory in the team time trial to take over the leader's jersey and later played an integral part in Hesjedal's overall win. However, last year's success is not comparable to the feeling of winning a stage according to the Lithuanian winner.

 

Last year was really special and I really enjoyed it, but today I won for myself," he said. "A win is a win, and to get your name in the palmares of the GIro is an honour. But you can’t compare wearing the Maglia Rosa with a stage win. I’m very happy with my win today. It’s totally different.”

 

Navardauskas will be back in his domestique role tomorrow where the 12th stage is expected to finish in a mass sprint. With Hesjedal out of GC contention, the team will probably put in some effort to support Robert Hunter and Navardauskas could be a key player in that strategy.

 

Starting at 14.15 you can follow the stage on CyclingQuotes.com/live.

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