Stage 11: Cave del Predil - Erto
By Daniel Benson
Wednesday, May 15, 2013 3.30pm
Overall leader Nibalia retains maglia rosa
Navardauskas wins Giro d'Italia stage 11 AP Photo
This article was originally published on Cyclingnews.com.
Ramunas Navardauskas (Garmin-Sharp) claimed stage 11 of the Giro d'Italia after dropping breakaway companion Daniel Oss (BMC) on the final climb to Vajont. It was a much needed win for the American team after Ryder Hesjedal had plummeted out of overall contention the day before.
Oss hung on for second place with Stafano Pirazzi (Bardiani Valvole) taking third.
In the race for the maglia rosa, Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) protected his 41-second lead over Cadel Evans (BMC) with the main favourites finishing in the same time.
With Hesjedal no longer in contention for the overall, Garmin's plan B immediately started to take shape when Navardauskas powered clear of the peloton with a group of 20.
The Lithuanian was joined by Egoi Martínez (Euskaltel), Leonardo Duque (Colombia), Juan Jose Cobo (Movistar), Guillaume Bonnafond (AG2R), Jackson Rodríguez (Androni Giacattoli), Stafano Pirazzi (Bardiani Valvole), Paul Martens (Blanco), Daniel Oss (BMC), Cayetano Sarmiento (Cannondale), Johan Le Bon (FdJ), Vladimir Gusev (Katusha), Serge Pauwels (OPQS), Jens Keukeleire (Orica-GreenEdge), Yaroslav Popovych (RadioShack-Leopard), Salvatore Puccio (Sky) Patrick Gretsch (Argos-Shimano), Evgeni Petrov (Saxo-Tinkoff), Frederik Veuchelen (Vacansoleil) and Danilo Di Luca (Vini Fantini).
With the overall contenders content to let their legs recuperate after yesterday's travails in the mountains, the break quickly established an advantage of over four minutes.
Ahead of them lay the daunting prospect of the Sella di Campigotto. Although the climb was long, the average gradient as a mere four percent. Pauwels, Popovych and Rodríguez, who had been the previous day's break, were allowed to resume their temporary alliance as the peloton afforded the break two more minutes, but the cooperation only lasted until the descent when Gretsch attacked.
Argos already had a stage win under their belt courtesy of John Degenkolb, but with the German back home and with his feet up the Dutch squad were challenged to show that they're more than just a one-man team in this year's race.
Gretsch had finished inside the top 15 in the individual time trial to Saltara, and with that form in his legs, he quickly built up a two-minute advantage over a stuttering chase.
Nibali, meanwhile, was content to set his Astana team on the front of the peloton to deliver a steady tempo.
With Gretsch racing towards the final 25 kilometres with a growing lead, Di Luca served up the first counter punch. Whether age or other factors are at the heart of it, Di Luca is no longer the rider he once was. Gaps take longer to close, efforts appear to take greater toll, and the Vini Fantini's aggression merely acted as a catalyst for Navardauskas and Oss to use as a springboard.
The pair dived down towards Longarone and quickly reduced Gretsch's lead to no more than a handful of seconds.
When contact was made, the German began to struggle as soon as the road leveled off and then started to climb as Navardauskas began to shoulder the majority of the pace setting.
The remnants of the break were unable to match the two leaders, and when they began the final drag up to Erto e Casso the gap had stretched to over two minutes.
Navardauskas tested Oss with a volley across the bows on the lower slopes of the climb, just as the Italian was taking a drink, and although the BMC rider was able to respond, it appeared that Navardauskas had more left in the tank.
A second and third acceleration followed and with five kilometres remaining, the Garmin rider had broken through and pushed clear. Oss battled on and found a rhythm that saw him hang on for second but this was a day for Navardauskas and a day for Garmin.