Giro d’Italia 2020
Fresh in the tyre tracks of teammate Richard Carapaz, the winner of last year’s Giro, and compatriot Jonathan Caicedo, winner of Stage 3 to Mount Etna earlier this month, 23-year-old Narvaez became the third Ecuadorian to win a stage of La Corsa Rosa after an epic ride over the undulating training roads of the late Marco Pantani around Cesenatico.
Narvaez’s win was helped by an untimely mechanical sustained by his fellow escapee Mark Padun of Bahrain-McLaran, the Ukrainian requiring a bike change with 25km remaining of the 204km stage following a broken front wheel on the descent of the fifth and final categorised climb.
The determined Padun time-trialled himself to within nine seconds of the lone leader on the flat run back towards the Adriatic coast – but once the elastic snapped, Narvaez was able to ride clear to win by a yawning gap of just over a minute.
Padun cut a lonely figure as he waved to the crowd to secure a cruel second place, while third went to Australia’s Simon Clarke almost seven minutes behind on a day his EF Pro Cycling team called for the Giro to be stopped early after 11 positive Covid-19 tests across four teams on the first rest day.
Victory for Narzaez was a third for Ineos Grenadiers following a brace by the Italian Filippo Ganna as the British team continued their positive response to the disappointment of losing team leader Geraint Thomas to injury in the opening week.
“I’m really happy. In the last days I tried to get into the breakaway but it was too difficult and the peloton was too strong. Today it was again the same but I was able to get up the road and I’m so happy to win from the break,” said Narvaez.
“After what happened with Geraint it was difficult for everyone. But the spirit is there every day and I know I have been happy with my spirit. We’ve been fighting every day and finally today I did it!”
Today’s classics-style slugfest took place over a succession of spiky climbs in Emilia-Romagna with horrendous weather conditions putting a dampener on the battle for pink despite a promising showing from the NTT Pro Cycling team of Domenico Pozzovivo.
As the GC fight fizzled out in the rain, Joao Almeida (Deceuninck Quick-Step) was able to keep out of trouble and finish safely in a small group of around 20 race favourites to retain his maglia rosa for a ninth day of a race that could be called off at any given moment.
Almeida and his rivals crossed the line almost eight and a half minutes down on the stage winner Narvaez, having swept up all but five of the escapees from an initial 14-man break which animated the stage.
The only change in the top 10 saw Denmark’s Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) return to tenth place at the expense of the Austrian Hermann Pernsteiner (Bahrain-McLaren), who conceded three minutes after losing touch on the final climb.
But it was a bad day for Russia’s Ilnur Zakarin of CCC, who finished 13 minutes behind the favourites to sink from 12th to 17th in the general classification.
Following the route of the historic Gran Fondo Nove Colli, Stage 12 took in nine climbs and close to 3,700 metres of climbing over the training roads of fallen champion, Marco Pantani.
Thirteen riders from 13 different teams formed the day’s break, the backbone of which was made up of five riders who had been involved in an earlier, thwarted move.
Albert Torres (Movistar), Victor Campenaerts (NTT Pro Cycling), Maximilano Richeze (UAE-Team Emirates), Etienne van Empel (Vini Zabu-KTM) and Padun were joined by Francois Billard (Ag2R-La Mondiale), Simon Pellaud (Androni Giocattoli), Manuele Boaro (Astana), Cesare Benedetti (Bora-Hansgrohe), Joey Rosskopf (CCC Team), Jesper Hansen (Cofidis), Clarke and Narvaez on an early climb to open up a maximum lead of 13 minutes over the peloton.
Spaniard Hector Carretero rode clear of the peloton in pursuit in a bid to give Movistar the numerical advantage in the move – and after 30km of pursuit, and a little help from a water bottle and his sporting director, he managed to bridge over to make it 14 riders clear.
Switzerland’s Pellaud took maximum points over the first four categorised climbs to rise up to sixth place in the blue jersey standings currently led by Portugual’s Ruben Guerreiro (EF Pro Cycling).
With some of the climbs hitting punchy double-digit gradients, most notably Pantani’s favourite climb of Barbotto, some of the weaker climbers of the break has to resort to innovative methods to stay in touch – most notably, the track specialist Torres, who underwent some uphill slaloming on the back.
With Pozzovivo’s NTT team paving the way for a possible attack from the Italian veteran behind, the advantage of the break quickly came down to nine minutes as the American Rosskopf took matters into his own hands with an acceleration off the front.
The shake-up meant just seven riders remained ahead after the Madonna di Pugliano climb before Clarke rode clear on the descent as the rain continued to lash down.
Narvaez and Padun rode clear in pursuit, dropping the Australian on the Passo delle Siepi before extending the lead after the Australian was held up with a mechanical.
The leading duo went over the top of the final climb of Gorolo with a gap of two minutes on Clarke and four minutes on a six-man chase group being driven by Pellaud and Rosskopf.
But what promised to be an intriguing battle for the stage was cut short when Padun swung to the side of the road for a bike change, his front wheel broken by the unforgiving corrugated tarmac.
Trailing by 30 seconds, Padun managed to bring this down to just 10 seconds going under the 10km banner. But his effort finally caught up with him, and Narvaez kept his cool to take the biggest victory of his career.
Padun, Clarke, Rosskopf and Pellaud came home in dribs and drabs before the American Brandon McNulty (UAE-Team Emirates) led the select group of race favourites home 8’25” in arrears.
Pozzovivo’s NTT team had successfully managed to isolate all the Italian’s rivals in the pouring rain, but when Ben O’Connor finally peeled off and the 37-year-old Pozzovivo finally rolled the dice on the final climb, it was a case of too little, too late.
A stalemate ensued as the rivals for pink combined to combat the foul weather, easing up to put on rain capes and stay out of trouble on the long ride into Cesenatico.
There were no change in the time gaps as Almeida stayed 34 seconds clear of his principal rival, the Dutchman Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb), ahead of tomorrow’s 192km Stage 13 from Cervia to Monselice. A pan-flat affair save for two late Cat.4 climbs, the day could suit a breakaway or play into the hands of Frenchman Arnaud Démare and his quest for a fifth stage win.