This article was originally published on Cyclingnews.com.
Andrey Amador (Movistar) took the biggest win of his career by winning the first high mountain stage of the Giro d'Italia on Saturday as once again an escape group made it through to the end. Jan Barta (NetApp) continued the strong work of his small German wildcard team to claim second, with Androni Giacattoli's Alessandro De Marchi third.
"It is a dream to win in the Giro, especially when it is one of the mountain stages like this," said Amador. "I am proud. This victory shows that if you work, the results follow. This year I have done many things, mentally and physically."
"It was a long hard day. I tried to manage what little I had left, and I'm very happy for the victory."
The pink jersey changed shoulders again, passing back to Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Barracuda), who had jumped from the chasing field of favourites with about four kilometers to go. The Candian will go into the stage 15on Sunday with a nine-second lead over Katusha's Joaquim Rodriguez.
"I felt good. It felt easy when the guys were setting the tempo," Hesjedal said to TV cameras after finishing. "When some guys started to accelerate a bit, I knew it eased off after 3km, and I figured I'd give it a go and test myself. I wasn't really thinking of anything except putting in an effort and seeing how the other guys did."
The top favourites had hung together up the two very lengthy climbs, with the group getting continually smaller but holding on to most of the top names to the end. Things only fell apart near the end, with Hesjedal's successful attack. Rodriguez and Ivan Basso (Liquigas) both tried but failed, to follow.
Amador, 25, had previously finished third on the Giro's 12th stage. The Costa Rican, who is now in his fourth year with Movistar, has ridden the Giro once before, and was second-to-last overall in last year's Tour de France.
He was the victim of a brutal attack whilst training in Costa Rica in January of 2011. His bike was stolen and he was severely beaten and left for dead in a river bed. However, he recovered quickly enough to ride in the Mallorca Challenge the next month.
Amador wins it
Another successful break
The stage got off to a blazing fast start, covering 50.8km in the first hour. Four riders decided to spare themselves the mountains and were not at the start: Mark Renshaw (Rabobank), Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEdge), Brett Lancaster (Orica-GreenEdge) and Juan Jose Haedo (Saxo Bank).
The high initial speed meant that it took a while for the day's break to establish itself. But finally, with 60km behind them, Olivier Kaisen (Lotto Belisol), Jan Barta (NetApp), Andrey Amador (Movistar), Nelson Oliveira (RadioShack-Nissan), Matteo Montaguti (AG2R-La Mondiale), Nikolas Maes (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), Alessandro De Marchi (Androni Giocattoli) and Pierpaolo De Negri (Farnese Vini-Selle Italia) took off.
The field let them go, and the gap was over 12km as they approached the first climb of the day. The category 1 Col de Joux has an average gradient of 7 percent, but the climb is over 22km long.
The group took a 13-minute lead into the start of the first climb. Barta jumped from the group on the ascent in the rain on the wet road. The weather deteriorated rapidly as everyone ground his way up the long climb. As Barta stretched his lead out to over 40 seconds, the group behind him fell apart.
As expected, Mark Cavendish fell back on the climb, but less expectedly, so did King of the Mountains Michel Golas (Omega Pharma-QuickStep).
Barta continued his lead, crossing the top of the climb alone. Behind them, Jose Rujano (Androni Giacattoli) and Damiano Cunego (Lampre) shot out of the group, with Cunego eventually going on alone as Rujano was swept back into the field.
Barta's efforts came to naught, as he was caught and passed on his cautious way down the mountain. Amador was the first to catch him and went on to build up a lead on his not-so-cautious descent.
The sun actually came out on the final ascent. Amador continued in the lead, about 30 seconds ahead of Barta, Montaguti, De Negri and De Marchi. Cunego also continued on his solo chase, slowly building up a one-minute lead over the field. But that fell to about 30 seconds, and he was joined by Amets Txurruka (Euskaltel) and Marzio Bruseghin (Movistar). Txurruka pulled away and soon Liquigas pulled the peloton past Cunego.
Amador took a 1:25 lead under the 15km banner, with De Marchi and behind him Barta giving chase. The peloton was over seven and a half minutes down.
De Marchi's efforts were successful, and he caught the Costa Rican with just over 11km to go. The field was about 40 riders strong at that point, with all the favourites still there and the gap dropping to the six-minute mark.
There seemed to be some disunity between the two leaders, as Amador didn't seem to want to co-operate with his rival. Five and a half minutes back, the peloton slowly shredded.
With less than seven kilometers to go, Barta caught up again with the two leaders. But the Czech was clearly paying for his efforts on the day, and left the lead work to the other two.
The field had shrunk again, and the gap kept coming down, as the fog and rain returned. The three leaders took a 3:26 lead into the final 5km.
Rujano attacked into the fog, but the field, now about 25 riders, caught him again quickly. Dozens of running fans accompanied the now much smaller field, led by Ivan Basso (Liquigas), as one Astana rider struck out at an interfering fan. Surprisingly, Rujano and Cunego dropped off the back.
That was the cue for attacks to start out of the field. Mikel Nieve (Euskaltel) and Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Barracuda) built up a small lead, and the Canadian then continued on alone.
That was too much for Rodriguez, who jumped in pursuit, quickly catching the Basque rider, with the rest of the field following as the gap to the leaders sunk to 45 seconds with 4km to go.
Hesjedal held on to his lead over a chasing group of eight, from which Astana's Roman Kreuziger had been dropped. Domenico Pozzovivo (Colnago - CSF Inox) tried to get away, and was caught as the three leaders turned up the speed on a flatter section in an attempt to retain their lead.
The trio crossed the one kilometre to go marker with Hesjedal not far behind. Barta opened the sprint, but Amador came from behind him to take it.
Hesjedal sailed away from his rivals, crossing the finish line only 20 seconds behind the top three. Paolo Tiralongo of Astana led the small group of favourites, including Rodriguez, in to the finish 46 seconds down, more than enough time to give Hesjedal the overall lead.