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Lithuanian escapes from a mammoth 20-rider breakaway to take a huge solo win on a day where the favourites took it easy

Photo: RCS Sport

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15.05.2013 @ 16:59 Posted by Jesper Johannesen

Ramunas Navardauskas (Garmin-Sharp) emerged as the strongest from a mammoth 20-rider breakaway in today's 11th stage of the Giro d'Italia which was the second consecutive in the mountains. Dropping his final companion Daniel Oss (BMC) on the final climb to the finish in Vajont he managed to solo off to take a win which put the Garmin team back on track after its woes earlier in the race.

 

When Ryder Hesjedal cracked in yesterday's tough mountain stage to Altopiano del Montasio, the Garmin team of the defending champion saw all their ambitions plans ruined. Just 24 hours later the team bounced back in the most beautiful way as one of Hesjedal's most trusted domestiques Ramunas Navardauskas took the biggest win of his career in the second mountain stage of this year's Giro.

 

The Lithuanian used a combination of his formidable rouleur qualities and strong climbing efforts to come out triumphant at the head of his companions in a big 20-rider move that went clear after 80km of constant attacking in the early part of the race. With all but three teams represented in the front and Astana keen to let the group stay clear and pick up the bonus seconds, it was always evident that the 20 riders would battle it out for the win.

 

Having taken it rather easy on the day's first climb, the group started to attack each other on the descent with Patrick Gretsch (Argos-Shimano) tackling the technical downhill section in an aggressive manner. For a short time Yaroslav Popovych (Radioshack) managed to clinch to his wheel but the Ukrainian could not keep up with the German time trial specialist who set off to build up a gap prior to the day's final climb.

 

The 19 chasers were unable to set up a cooperation and so Gretsch managed to build up a gap of almost 2 minutes on the flat stretch between the day's two climbs. Danilo Di Luca (Vini Fantini) had long marked this out as a good opportunity to take a stage win and so he was unwilling to see it slip away. With 23km to go he attacked, and that spelled the end of the break's cohesiveness.

 

Guillaume Bonnafond (Ag2r) tried a number of moves but was unable to get clear and instead it was Navardauskas and Daniel Oss (BMC) who went ahead with 21km to go. The duo was a dangerous one as both are known as strong time triallists and they would be very difficult to catch on the gradual descent towards the bottom of the final climb.

 

With 11km to go they caught Gretsch and despite the German only clinching himself to their rear wheels, they kept extending their lead. At the bottom of the climb they were almost three minutes ahead of the chase group which kept attacking each other.

 

As soon as the road started to point upwards it was all over for Gretsch who was dropped. Behind Leonardo Duque (Colombia) set off on his own and he was chased from behind by Bonnafond while the remainders of the early break started to split up.

 

Oss had to dig really deep to stay in the wheel of Navardauskas and with 5km to go it was all over for the Italian who had to let the Lithuanian go. The Garmin rider soloed off and despite Oss' best efforts he kept losing time.

 

At the end Navardauskas finished 1.08 ahead of Oss while behind Stefano Pirazzi (Bardiani) had gone clear on his own in an attempt to take the remaining KOM points. He had caught Gretsch, Duque and Bonnafond and took 3rd despite being chased by Di Luca. The 2007 Giro winner was caught just before the line by a group of early escapees and had to settle for 6th behind Salvatore Puccio (Sky) and Paul Martens (Blanco).

 

In the peloton Astana had done most of the early pace-setting as Fredrik Kessiakoff and Alessandro Vanotti had safely negotiated the descent and most of the flat stretch between the two climbs. As the battle for position intensified on the approach to the final climb, both Blanco and Saxo-Tinkoff took over but as soon as they started to climb it was Paolo Tiralongo and Tanel Kangert who set a steady pace.

 

The gruppetto was immediately formed and one of the first to take his place in the group of dropped riders was Hesjedal. Up ahead the favourites seemed to be content to save their battles for later in the race and instead riders a little further down the rankings tried to attack.

 

Francis De Greef (Lotto) and Diego Rosa (Androni) were the first to try but they were quickly picked up. Instead, it was 11th-placed Benat Intxausti (Movistar) who had the most success as he managed to take back a few seconds by finishing on his own. A little later Robert Kiserlovski (Radioshack) was first to cross the line from a select 20-rider group of favourites.

 

With his efforts Intxausti moves into 9th to push Rafal Majka (Saxo-Tinkoff) out of the top 10 but otherwise there were no changes to the top of the leaderboard. Vincenzo Nibali is still 41 seconds ahead of Cadel Evans (BMC) with a flat stage to Treviso coming up tomorrow.

 

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

 

An extremely fast start

Despite two climbs on the course between Tarvisio and Vajont, the modest slopes made it unlikely that this would be a day for the favourites and so almost all teams had marked this stage out as one for a breakaway. Hence, the start was extremely fast and the riders covered no less than 53km in the first hour as many riders tried to escape.

 

After 80km 20 riders finally got clear. Egoi Martínez (Euskaltel), Leonardo Duque (Colombia), Juan Jose Cobo (Movistar),  Ramunas  Navardauskas (Garmin-Sharp), Guillaume Bonnafond (AG2R), Jackson Rodríguez (Androni Giacattoli), Stafano Pirazzi (Bardiani Valvole), Paul Martens (Blanco), Daniel Oss (BMC), Cayetano Sarmiento (Cannondale), Johan Le Bon (FdJ), Vladimir Gusev (Katusha), Serge Pauwels (OPQS), Jens Keukeleire (Orica-GreenEdge), Yaroslav Popovych (RadioShack-Leopard), Salvatore Puccio (Sky) Patrick Gretsch (Argos-Shimano), Evgeni Petrov (Saxo-Tinkoff), Frederik Veuchelen (Vacansoleil) and Danilo Di Luca (Vini Fantini) were allowed to build up a gap of more than 5 minutes while the peloton eased somewhat off after the hectic start.

 

As they approached the day's first climb, Astana started to chase and Andrey Zeits was responsible for the early pace-making on the ascent. The gap was always kept stable between 5 and 6 minutes as both the break and the peloton took it easy on the slopes. The only action came from Robert Vrecer (Euskaltel) who made a short-lived attempt but otherwise not much happened on the climb and not even a single rider was dropped from the peloton.

 

Near the top Pirazzi attacked to pick up KOM points and he was joined by Sarmiento. However, the other riders were unwilling to let him go and so it was all back together a few hundred meters from the top of the climb. Rodriguez beat Pirazzi and Bonnafond in the sprint before they started the long descent into the valley.

 

That was when Gretsch kicked into action and for a long time he appeared to have a good chance to keep the remainders of the break at bay. That was, however, only until Oss and Navardauskas set off which started a move that put Garmin back on track after a bad start to the race.

 

Result:

1 Ramunas Navardauskas - Garmin-Sharp 4.23.14
2 Daniel Oss - BMC Racing Team 1.07
3 Stafano Pirazzi - Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox 2.59
4 Salvatore Puccio - Sky 3.07
5 Paul Martens - Blanco
6 Danilo Di Luca - Vini Fantini-Selle Italia
7 Egoi Martinez - Euskaltel-Euskadi
8 Serge Pauwels - Omega Pharma-QuickStep 3.10
9 Evgeni Petrov - Saxo-Tinkoff 3.11
10 Jackson Rodríguez - Androni Giacattoli-Venezuela 3.25

 

General classification:

1 Vincenzo Nibali - Astana Pro Team
2 Cadel Evans - BMC Racing Team 0.41
3 Rigoberto Uran Uran - Sky Procycling 2.04
4 Bradley Wiggins - Sky Procycling 2.05
5 Robert Gesink - Blanco Pro Cycling Team 2.12
6 Michele Scarponi - Lampre-Merida 2.13
7 Mauro Santambrogio - Vini Fantini-Selle Italia 2.55
8 Przemyslaw Niemiec - Lampre-Merida 3.35
9 Benat Intxausti Elorriaga - Movistar Team 4.23
10 Domenico Pozzovivo - Ag2R La Mondiale 4.17

 

Points classification:

1. Cadel Evans 73

2. Elia Viviani 60

3. Mark Cavendish 58

4. Rigoberto Uran 53

5. Mauro Santambrogio 52

 

Mountains classification:

1. Stefano Pirazzi 46

2. Jackson Rodriguez 26

3. Robinson Chalapud 23

4. Giovanni Visconti 16

5. Rigoberto Uran 15

 

Youth classification:

1. Rafal Majka 43.30.48

2. Carlos Betancur +1.05

3. Wilco Kelderman +4.34

4. Darwin Atapuma +8.31

5. Diego Rosa +24.09

 

Teams classification:

1. Sky 129.41.15

2. Blanco +5.29

3. Lampre +13.01

4. Movistar +13.52

5. Astana +15.00

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