Stage 12 and finally the Giro fizzed into excitement as the break went all the way and the GC riders came out to play. Cesare Benedetti‘s dogged persistence delivered his first, and BORA-hansgrohe’s third, victory on this jaunt around Italy. UAE-Team Emirates produced a masterclass in how to retain the maglia rosa by swapping it from the shoulders of Valerio Conti to Jan Polanc – and increased their advantage over Primoz Roglic (Lotto-Visma) to 4 minutes and seven seconds while doing so. All this and Mikel Landa (Movistar) attacked with Astana’s Miguel Angel Lopez to gain time on their rivals.
What a bobby-dazzler of stage!! Glory be the route included an actual category one climb and two ascents of a cobbled wall that maxed out at 20% – the final time just before the finish.
A massive break of 25 riders built up a lead of over 15 minutes and battled it out for victory. Behind them, tactical GC battles raged all over the ascent and descent and words were had when Primoz Roglic (Lotto-Visma) wouldn’t co-operate in the GC leaders break. Jersey’s changed hands at the finish faster than back stage at a Milan catwalk. You couldn’t take your eyes off the screen as the Giro returned to being, well, the Giro. Bravissima!!!
Rider of the Race
How could this award go to any one other than Cesare Benedetti?
There is (almost) nothing that makes me happier than watching a domestique get his chance at glory – and boy did he fight for his spell in the spotlight. Faced with some stiff competition over the climbs, the Italian rode at his own pace, Frequently dropped but always bombing the descents to catch back on. The skill and power it took to catch Eddie Dunbar (Team Ineos), Gianluca Brambilla (Trek-Segafredo) and Eros Capecchi (Deceuninck-Quickstep) on the run into Pinarolo, sublimely finished by the coolest surge for the line to outsprint Bahrain-Merida’s Damiano Caruso.
We’ve all seen him on the front at this Giro, putting in the kilometres to control the race for his team. It’s a job he’s performed with skill and class for a professional career spanning 10 years. Today, he climbed onto the top step for the first time, not just any podium, but one that comes complete with Prosecco and pink confetti canon. – I mean you might as well do it with style. I’m not sure if Cesare cried, but his post race interview had me reaching for tissues.
I’m not a talent, I’m not a winner. I would’ve been happy with a high placing and I wasn’t with the guys in the climb but I made it back on and I did the same on the final hill. I knew the three guys on the front would look at each other and hesitate a bit. I used everything I had to get back on and sat on the wheel and got the win.
In the pink
With the first serious mountain on the menu, much of the pre race discussion centred around how UAE- Team Emirates would defend Valerio Conti‘s pink jersey. I don’t think many people predicted they would put Jan Polanc, their next best placed rider at +5:24, in the break. Then sit back and play a game of chicken with the GC teams to see how far they would let the time gap balloon out to.
It turns out the magic limit was 15 minutes and by that time it didn’t matter that the Slovenian was dropped on the final ascent. He only had to finish with the breakaway to claim the lead and ensure the team starts with maglia rosa in their midst tomorrow. They will have a little more breathing space to mount their defence. Conti started the day holding 1:50mins on Roglic, Polanc ended it with +4:07.
All the jersey’s except the maglia ciclamino worn by Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ) changed hands – if not teams. With break at holding such a time advantage, the spoils were shared between those 25 riders. Hugh Carthy (EF-Education First) rode brilliantly to finish atop the best Young Rider podium – and thank goodness there was no appearance of ‘those hats’.
With 40 points available at the summit of the Montoso, whoever went over the top in first place would wear the maglia azzura at the end of the stage. Unfortunately the holder Giulio Ciccone (Trek- Segafredo) missed the move, but teammate Brambilla surged away from his break companions to ensure the jersey stayed with the team.
What did we learn from the solitary climb
After days of rolling and pan flat roads it was a relief for fans to see a climb on the stage profile. Hats off to Team Ineos young gun Eddie Dunbar. All day in break and so close to a stage win
As the attacks flew, the GC group was quickly split apart. Bob Jungels (Deceuninck Quickstep and Pello Bilbao (Astana) quickly went backwards. Landa and Lopez who broke clear, teamed up with a teammate apiece from the break, and came over the finish line nearly 40secs in front of their rivals.
Although Roglic finished in the main GC group, it was noticeable he was isolated early on. A fact that must be worrying with later stages in mind. On the other hand, while Simon Yates didn’t force any attacks it was great to see VeloVoices favourite Esteban Chaves riding in support.
Movistar finished the day with Richard Carapaz and Andrey Amador in the top ten and Landa looming just outside the top 20 – a huge advantage if it turns tactical. Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) looked ominously easy as he put in several digs to move up to 5th overall.
It was a fast day, hard to understand. There were some interesting things going on. We gave a bit of space to Lopez and Landa, but in the end it was OK because all the best riders were chasing together behind. Vincenzo Nibali
State of play: Polanc, Roglic (+4:07), Nibali (+5:51), Yates (+7:53), Lopez (+8:08), Landa (+8:31)
If I were a betting person I’d be looking at the odds for a shark on the podium in Verona
Stage Results – Top 5
1 Cesare Bendetti BORA-hansgrohe) 3:41:49
2 Damiano Caruso (Bahrain-Merida) same time
3 Eddie Dunbar (Ineos) s/t
4 Gianluca Brambilla (Trek-Segafredo) +0:02
5 Eros Capecchi (Deceuninck-Quickstep) +0:06
General Classification – Top 10Embed from Getty Images
1 Jan Polanc (UAE Team Emirates) 48:49:40
2 Primoz Roglic (Team Jumbo-Visma) +4:07
3 Valerio Conti (UAE Team Emirates) +4:51
4 Eros Capecchi (Deceuninck-Quickstep) +5:02
5 Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) +5:51
6 Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) +6:02
7 Rafal Majka (BORA-hansgrohe) +7:00
8 Richard Carapaz (Movistar) +7:23
9 Andrey Amador (Movistar) +7:30
10 Hugh Carthy (EF Education First) +7:33
All the jerseys
Maglia rosa – Jan Polanc (UAE-Team Emirates)
Maglia blanca – Hugh Carthy (AG2R-La Mondiale)
Maglia azzurra – Gianluca Brambilla (Trek-Segafredo)
Maglia ciclamino – Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ)
For full stage review and race results, go to cyclingnews.