This article was originally published on Cyclingnews.com.
Rigoberto Uran of Team Sky won the first mountaintop finish of the Giro d'Italia, crowning an eight kilometer solo effort. The Colombian jumped from the group of favourites to put pressure on maglia rosa Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), and just kept going – but unfortunately, Uran's captain Bradley Wiggins was forced to drop back on the final climb.
Carlos Betancur (AG2R) finished alone in second place at 20 seconds, with Nibali sprinting in for third at 31 seconds from a five-rider group.
The chaotic climbs again jumbled up the GC, although Nibali kept his overall lead. Evans remained in second at 41 seconds. Uran jumped to third at 2:04 down, one second ahead of Wiggins, who remained in fourth, although losing time. Robert Gesink (Blanco) rounded out the top five at 2:12.
It was an impressive showing by Sky, which came out of the rest day up for the challenge, but it didn't turn out as the British team had planned. Wiggins was unable to stay up with the other favourites on the brutal final climb, and lost 40 seconds on Nibali.
Defending Giro champion Ryder Hesjedal was the main victim of the day, being dropped on the first climb of the day. The Canadian riding for Garmin-Sharp continue to show the weaknesses first exposed on Sunday's stage, and faded quietly out of the ranks of favourites.
Danilo Di Luca had hoped to shine in this race, but he too, cracked on the final climb. He tried desperately to stay up with the Wiggins group, but was unable to hold the pace.
Rest day over
The riders were happy to start out under sunshine again after the first rest day. Two riders, however, were missing from the peloton: stage 5 winner John Degenkolb (Argos-Shimano) due to exhaustion, and Katusha's Angel Vicioso because of multiple fractures suffered in the ninth stage.
On a day full of climbing a 13-man lead group formed after just 20km of racing: Daniele Bennati (Team Saxo-Tinkoff), Kenny Dehaes (Lotto Belisol), Elia Viviani (Cannondale Pro Cycling), Tiago Machado and Yaroslav Popovych (RadioShack Leopard), David Millar and Thomas Dekker (Garmin-Sharp), Maarten Tjallingii (Blanco Pro Cycling Team), Jackson Rodriguez (Androni Giocattoli), Serge Pauwels (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), Oscar Gatto (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia), Pim Ligthart (Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team) and Pavel Brutt (Katusha). By the time they hit the feed zone at kilometre 81 they had built up a 6:50 lead.
The gap had grown to just over nine minutes, and was down to just over eight when Viviani jumped to take the intermediate sprint at kilometre 102.6. Astana doggedly led the chase, ably supported by Sky.
Roughly the first half of the course was slowly inclining, but the first “real” climb came shortly thereafter, the category one Passo Cason di Lanza. Sky jumped to the front as the serious climbing started, while the lead group started shedding its non-climbers. The gap dropped as well, second by second.
Nor was the lead group the only one to become smaller. Team Sky set such a blistering pace that the peloton started shredding, as well. Maglia rosa Vincenzo Niibali (Astana) dropped his chain on the way up, losing precious seconds, but making it back. Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) was hanging grimly on to the back of the field, but was again unable to keep up with the other favourites and was dropped.
Rodriguez took off alone on the climb, as the gradient increased and both the group and the gap decreased. The Venezuelan pulled easily away. Behind him, his teammates Franco Pellizotti and Diego Rosa attacked out of the greatly-reduced main field. Italian national champion Pellizotti soon dropped his teammate and continued onwards alone.
Garmin-Sharp's Tom Danielson dropped back to help pull his captain up to the favourites' group again. It was in vain, though, as the group continued to fall apart.
Rodriguez took the mountain points, with second going to Machado, who had jumped from the group in chase. Astana moved to the head of the favourites' group as they neared the top, crossing over the summit about three and a half minutes after Rodriguez.
It was a long, twisting, technical descent on roads which are very, very narrow and steep. The race leader negotiated the descent easily, surprisingly not joined by Machado. There were very few problems on the descent, although Pellizotti missed one of the many curves. He eventually caught Dekker and Viviani in the chase.
The favourites' group got slightly larger again, as it neared the bottom of the descent, and included all the top riders except for Hesjedal. Rodriguez had meanwhile managed to build his lead back up to nearly four and a half minutes with 30km to go.
Rodriguez had been struggling with gear problems for many kilometres, and with 26.4km to go, he finally had to change bikes. It didn't help his morale any to require numerous further adjustments to the new bike, and at the 25km marker the Androni Giocattoli rider was joined by Pauwels.
Sky had taken control of the chase again, and the gap started dropping dramatically. Pellizotti was unable to stay away, and disgustedly fell back into the field.
Showdown on Altopiano del Montasio
The two leaders, Rodriguez and Pauwels, took a 2:19 lead with them as they started up the closing climb, the Altopiano del Montasio (1,519m). It started out with a constant 7.8 percent gradient for the first 6.5km, but the gradient later kicked up to an average of 12 percent for two kilometres with one section at 20 percent, before easing back to 6 percent in the final two kilometers.
Rodriguez changed bikes yet again, as the gap dropped on the climb to 1:40. The chasing group had once more grown larger with Robert Gesink (Blanco), Wiggins, Nibali and Evans all safely in the bunch.
The gap to Rodriguez and Pauwels had dropped to only 24 seconds as Sky led the chasers under the 10km marker. The leading duo fought hard, but with just over 9km to go it was over. Neither Nibali nor Wiggins showed signs of problems but Nibali had lost his only helper, Estonian champion Tanel Kangert, while Wiggins still had several teammates in the group.
Uran took off on a solo effort with 8km to go, with Sky sticking it to Nibali who had by now gained a teammate in Valerio Agnoli. The Sky Colombian was only 2:49 down on GC, so was a threat for the overall lead.
His hair fluttering in the wind, Uran rode smoothly away, easing things for his captain Wiggins and increasing the pressure on Nibali and the other favourites. He took the bonus seconds by winning the last intermediate sprint, but Nibali jumped from the group to take second there, getting back a tiny bit of time.
Wiggins once again ran into difficulties near the end as the climb hit its steepest gradient. He was unable to stay up with the rest of the now-small group. Up ahead of him, Evans and Nibali hung together, with Domenico Pozzovivo (AG2R La Mondiale) jumping and taking the lead in the chase of Uran. The gap to Uran had dropped to less than half a minute with 2.5km to go.
It looked as if Pozzovivo would catch Uran, but Evans led the chase to catch the diminutive Italian. The Australian pushed the speed to extend his lead over Wiggins as much as possible, pulling together with Nibali.
The last two kilometres had an easier gradient, holding up the chance for Wiggins to make up lost ground. The Briton was joined by Benat Intxausti (Movistar), and the two struggled their way up.
Betancur jumped from the Evans-Nibali group, but the Colombian was soon brought back. As Uran cruised in for the stage win, the small group behind him exploded in an attempt to grab the bonus seconds and put their stamp on the race. Betancur attacked again and took second alone at 20 seconds down, while Nibali sprinted to take third, ahead of Mauro Santambrogio (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia) Evans, Rafal Majka (Saxo-Tinkoff) and Pozzovivo.
Wiggins eventually crossed the line over a minute after his winning teammate.