Giro 2013 stage 14: Santambrogio takes sprint win from Nibali

Nibali strengthens advantage over Evans and Uran

This story originally appeared on Cyclingnews.com

Mauro Santambrogio (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia) won the 14th stage of the Giro d'Italia, finishing first atop the Jafferau in horrid weather conditions which forced organisers remove the Col di Sestriere from the stage. He finished just ahead of maglia rosa Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), who didn't contest the win. Carlos Betancur (AG2R-La Mondiale) was third, eight seconds later.

The real winner of the day, however, was the weather. It started raining heavily shortly after the stage started, and that was just a harbinger of things to come. Only an hour before the start, organisers announced that the Sestriere was being taken out due to bad weather, and that the riders would ride through the Val di Susa for an additional 12 kilometers on the day. There were variously heavy fog and even snowfall at the finish during the stage.

A break got away early and built up a lead of up to 10 minutes and Astana gave up interest in pursuing early on. Several teams combined in the final climb to catch the remaining two riders who were away, and Nibali jumped late on the Jafferau to further cement his overall lead.

Nibali once again increased his lead, as Cadel Evans (BMC) finished 33 seconds later. That dropped the second-placed Australian to 1:26 down. Sky's Rigoberto Uran stayed in third at 2:46, with Santambrogio directly behind him at 2:47. Robert Gesink (Blanco) lost enough time on the final climb to drop him from the top ten.

How it happened

Four riders didn't take to the start: Daniele Bennati and Karsten Kroon (both Saxo-Tinkoff), Gert Steegmans (OPQS) and Jack Bobridge (Blanco).

As has so often been the case in this Giro, heavy rainfall started shortly after the start of the stage. That didn't stop a group from forming after about 14 kilometers. Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel), Pieter Weening (Orica-GreenEdge), Luca Paolini (Katusha), Peter Stetina (Garmin-Sharp), Daniele Pietropolli (Lampre), Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox) and Matteo Trentin (OPQS) started off together.

However, in an odd coincidence, the three non-Italians all soon crashed apparently due to the wet roads, and fell back, leaving Italians Paolini, Pietropolli, Colbrelli and Trentin in the lead. The foursome proved to be speedy, building up a 7:10 lead by kilometre 50.

A "brutal" crash, as the Gazzetta dello Sport called it, took down Alessandro Vanotti (Astana), Enrico Battaglin (Bardiani Valvole-CSF-Inox) and Robinson Chalapud (Colombia). The first two were forced to leave the race.

The gap only increased, as Astana showed little interest in giving serious chase. After 100km, and with 80km left to go, the time difference was nine minutes.

As the gap grew to nearly 10 minutes, Cannondale, Androni Giacattoli and Sky moved to the head of the field. Their work helped the gap come down only slowly, though. Their efforts finally showed effect on the final climb, as the gap had dropped to 5:35 with 25km remaining.

Trentin suffered on the climb but was able to hold on. However, a puncture at 20km to go, put an end to his slim hold on the group.

Sky led the charge from behind, apparently hoping to launch their new leader Uran to make up time on maglia rosa Nibali.

The closer the finish line climb, the smaller the gap became. A greatly reduced field of 30-40 riders was giving furious chase, with Sky setting a blistering pace. It started getting nip-and-tuck for the three leaders, as the gap hovered around four minutes with 5km to go.

It was not Uran but Henao who was sent up the road for Sky. He was marked by Androni's Diego Rosa, whose teammate Franco Pellizotti had earlier attacked but was unable to sustain his lead.

The fog and mist which had left the finish line returned, of course, in time for the finish. Colbreli was dropped as the finish line – and the maglia rosa group - approached.

The first rider to emerge from the fog with 400 meters to go was Santambrogio, followed closely by Nibali, who had obviously jumped from the chase group. Behind them, a handful of riders including Cadel Evans made their slow way up.

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