Giro d’Italia 2017
Rivals Caleb Ewan (Orica-Scott) and Andre Greipel (Lotto Soudal) had days to forget, the Australian failing to leave his mark on the sprint while the German veteran stuttering to eighth place after losing touch with his lead-out man in the final kilometre.
Race leader Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) finished safely in the pack to retain his maglia rosa after a routine day in the saddle. The Dutchman leads Colombian Nairo Quintana (Movistar) by 2:23 in the general classification and compatriot Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) by 2:38.
Spaniard Omar Fraile, the winner of Wednesday’s eleventh stage, picked up enough points over the stage’s two lower category climbs to move into the lead of the maglia azzurra king of the mountains competition after a successful 24 hours for the Dimension Data rider.
Passing through Emilia-Romagna, the region fabled for balsamic vinegar, parmesan cheese and Lambrusco sparkling wine, the longest stage of the race was a gourmand’s paradise – but offered little for fans to feast their eyes over.
With the stage always destined for a bunch sprint, any breakaway would be onto a hiding for nothing. Nevertheless, two riders – Russia’s Sergey Firsanov (Gazprom-Rusvelo) and Italy’s Marco Marcato (UAE Team Emirates) – broke clear shortly after the gun, to be joined shortly after by a second Italian, Mirco Maestri of Bardiani-CSF.
The advantage of the three leaders swelled to a maximum six minutes after the second of two categorised climbs – by which point, Basque climber Fraile had done enough to leapfrog Slovenia’s Jan Polanc (UEA Team Emirates) in the battle for the blue jersey.
After Polanc attacked near the summit of the Cat.2 Cola di Casaglia, Fraile reacted fast to secure four extra points over the summit for fourth place – two more than his rival. Fraile added another point when leading the peloton over the Cat.3 Valico Appenninico to consolidate his lead in a climbers’ competition that he won at both previous two editions of the Vuelta a Espana.
With the uphill distractions out of the way, the focus shifted to the expected bunch sprint as the teams of the fast men came to the front of the pack to lead the chase.
Firsanov and Marcato were reeled in once the pack had passed through Modena while Maestri, who heralds from the nearby town of Guastalla, defied the returning pack in a bid to put on a good show for his local tifosi.
The 25-year-old Maestri was caught inside the final seven kilometres as the teams of the GC favourites came to the front in a bid to keep their men out of trouble. Once the magic three-kilometre marker was passed, the teams of the sprinters wrestled back control – only for Albanian Eugert Zhupa (Wilier-Selle Italia) to zip off the front in a bold bid to upset the apple cart.
Like Maestri, Zhupa was hoping to give something back to the local fans – the 27-year-old having moved to Reggio Emilia with his family as a child. Zhupa was reeled in, however, as the riders passed under the flamme rouge at a point when Bennett’s Bora-Hansgrohe seemed well in control.
But Gaviria – under the guidance of the excellent Richeze, who himself had fought back in contention after picking up a puncture with 18km remaining – zipped to the front before powering past his rivals.
Germany’s Phil Bauhaus (Team Sunweb) and that man Richeze – sitting up to celebrate Gaviria’s win – completed the top five on a day Quick-Step once again asserted their authority on the race.
Despite Orica-Scott’s hefty role in the chase, there was no sign of stage 7 winner Ewan in the final as the 22-year-old Australian came home six seconds down in 82nd place. It was an off-day for German national champion, too, after Greipel failed to hit top gear and came home behind Ryan Gibbons (Dimension Data) and Sacha Modolo (UAE Team Emirates).
Expect the sprinters to be back in action in the pizza-flat 167km Stage 13 from Reggio-Emilia to Tortona. Gaviria will be one of the favourites to make it four wins – but expect Greipel and Ewan to put up a decent fight ahead of their expected withdrawals from the race ahead of the mountains.
Stage 12 results
1) Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step) 5hr 18min 55sec. 2) Jakub Mareczko (Wilier Triestina) ST. 3) Sam Bennett (Bora). 4) Phil Bauhaus (Sunweb). 5) Maximiliano Richeze (Quick-Step). 6) Ryan Gibbons (Dimension Data). 7) Sacha Modolo (UAE Team Emirates). 8) André Greipel (Lotto). 9) Jasper Stuyven (Trek). 10) Roberto Ferrari (UAE Team Emirates).
1) Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) 52hr 41min 8sec. 2) Nairo Quintana (Movistar) +2:23”. 3) Bauke Mollema (Trek) +2:38”. 4) Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) +2:40”. 5) Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain) +2:47”. 6) Andrey Amador (Movistar) +3:05”. 7) Bob Jungels (Quick-Step) +3:56”. 8) Domenico Pozzovivo (AG2R) +3:59”. 9) Tanel Kangert (Astana). 10) Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha) +4:17”.