The rain came down again at the Giro but that didn’t dampen the action one bit. The final 800 metres, at a leg-breaking 10% to the top of Monte Berico, saw a rejuvenated Philippe Gilbert hunt down Astana’s Tanel Kangert in the closing metres to take the stage win. Behind him Alberto Contador accelerated away from Fabio Aru to take second place, and now holds the pink jersey by 17 seconds.
Rider of the day
I do so love a winning Philippe Gilbert, and to be frank we haven’t seen enough of one lately. The Belgian has not had the season he would have wished for, crashes and the emergence of younger riders meant he came away from his favoured Ardennes campaign without a win. He came to the Giro in stage hunting mode and had already targeted stages 11 and 12 as ones that suited him. Indeed he had scouted out today’s finish after Milan-San Remo. BMC worked hard for him yesterday and he was upset not to be able to reward them at the finish. But today they kept their powder dry, coming to the front in the final 3km to position their leader perfectly for the nasty little uphill kicker. This time no one could go with his powerful surge, and it was enough to take him past a despairing Kangert in the last 200 metres. At last we saw the Phil Gil smile on the podium, and he was so happy to finally be able to repay his team.
I was scared that the team might have lost confidence in me, but we had a big meeting this morning, the sports directors gave us our confidence back, and we decided to go for it again. The difference today was that we decided to do no work at the beginning and save ourselves for the final. That was certainly the right decision.
Three things we noticed
1. Climb every mountain. The fight for the maglia azzurra (mountains jersey) is no less absorbing than that for the overall lead. As the peloton rolled out of Imola this morning it rested on the slim shoulders of Movistar’s Benat Intxausti, but only by two points from the somewhat bulkier Simon Geschke (Giant-Alpecin). 13 points were available today and they were fiercely fought over. Geschke drew first blood on the Castelnuovo climb claiming the maximum three points. However, the 17% ramps on the Crosara were too much for the German, and Intxausti’s attack on the ascent saw him claim the full seven points and tighten his grip on the competition. The blue mountain guys get a day off tomorrow as there are no categorised climbs on the parcours.
2. Steady Geniez. Alexandre Geniez (FDJ) decided to attack on the nasty, tricky descent from the summit of the Crosara. He was fearless on switchbacks, often unclipping to balance himself, in a way I haven’t seen since Daniele Ratto at the 2013 Vuelta. However he pushed slightly too hard, got his line completely wrong into a corner and how he didn’t crash I will never know. As always I am amazed at the bike handling skills of the professionals. Watch for yourself in this video.
3. Warning shots. El Pistolero looked on top of his game again today. The cheeky little attack to test his rivals yesterday was just a precursor to a more serious one today. Tinkoff-Saxo pulled hard on the front again and Contador finished the work with a smooth acceleration on Monte Berico to finish in second place and crucially eight seconds ahead of Aru.
Stage 12 result
1. Philippe Gilbert (BMC) 4:22:50
2. Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) +0:03
3. Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) same time
4. Simon Geschke (Giant-Alpecin) s/t
5. Enrico Battaglin (Bardiani-CSF) s/t
1. Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) 51:17:06
2. Fabio Aru (Astana) +0:17
3. Mikel Landa (Astana) +0:55
4. Dario Cataldo (Astana) +1:30
5. Roman Kreuziger (Tinkoff-Saxo) +1:55
6. Rigoberto Uran (Etixx-Quick Step) +2:19
7. Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) +2:21
8. Damiano Caruso (BMC) +2:29
9. Andrey Amador (Movistar) +2:38
10. Leopold Konig (Sky) +2:44
Points leader: Nicola Boem (Bardiani CSF).
King of the Mountains leader: Benat Intxausti (Movistar).
Best young rider: Fabio Aru (Astana).
Team classification: Astana.
Link: Official race website