This article was originally published on Cyclingnews.com.
Giovanni Visconti soloed to victory in Vicenza to earn his second stage win of the 2013 Giro d'Italia and the third straight for his Movistar squad. The 30-year-old Italian jumped away from the peloton on the day's only climb, the category 4 Crosara with 16km to go, rode through the remnants of the day's early break, and held off the pursuit of a diminished peloton in the stage finale.
Ramunas Navardauskas (Garmin-Sharp) took the sprint for second ahead of Luka Mezgec (Argos-Shimano) and Filippo Pozzato (Lampre-Merida) in the maglia rosa group, which crossed the line 19 seconds after Visconti.
The top of the general classification remained unchanged with Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) retaining the overall lead, 1:26 ahead of Cadel Evans (BMC) and 2:46 in front of Rigoberto Uran (Sky).
Prior to the start of the Giro, Visconti had thought that today's stage into Vicenza would be a favourable parcours for either himself or teammate Francisco Ventoso. "I decided to try my luck on the climb, and leave the sprint to Ventoso," said Visconti. "I saw [Danilo] Di Luca and [Miguel] Rubiano ahead. I caught them, and dropped them on the climb. I dropped Rubiano because he is fast in the sprint. Then I just gave it full gas on the descent and flat."
When it rains it pours for the Movistar Italian who won his first race of the season on the Giro's 15th stage to the Galibier, and now added another Grand Tour stage victory to his palmares just three days later.
"My mentality has changed completely," said Visconti. "It is now what it was before, and how it should be: your head can make you ride badly, but it can also revive you. The stimulus of the win on the Galibier and the congratulations I received, were deeply touching.
"I felt fearless today. I rode 13km without panicking. The kilometres flowed past one after the other and it was wonderful. I can't describe it. The crowds shouting my name. Today was special for me."
From the gun
Today's stage would provide a classic opportunity for an early break to try and ride away with the spoils as the GC contenders would opt to keep their powder dry on a parcours nearly perfectly flat, except for a category four kick in the tail at 16km to go.
And, as if on cue, soon after kilometre zero and the official start of proceedings in Caravaggio, four riders went out on the attack: Miguel Rubiano (Androni Giocattoli), stage 9 winner Maxim Belkov (Katusha), Gert Dockx (Lotto Belisol) and Australian road champion Luke Durbridge (Orica-GreenEdge), in the midst of his Grand Tour debut.
With Rubiano the highest placed rider on general classification in 49th, 1:17:50 down, the escape sparked no alarm bells from maglia rosa Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and his rivals for overall honours. However, in a Giro d'Italia with few opportunities for the fast men, the Omega Pharma-QuickStep and Argos-Shimano squads soon committed men to the chase in hopes of delivering their respective sprinters Mark Cavendish, who had previously downplayed his chances for today, and Luka Mezgec, another Grand Tour debutant with a pair of third place finishes thus far in Giro sprint finales, to the finish in Vicenza.
The quartet quickly pushed their advantage out to nearly five minutes, but the two sprinters' teams came to the fore and prevented a runaway. After approximately 100km of racing in the 214km stage had been completed the gap was reduced to nearly two minutes, but with so much real estate still to cover the peloton eased back on the throttle and the break's lead was pushed out to more than four minutes.
With 80km to go and the escape now with a more than five-minute advantage, the tempo ramped up in the peloton as Omega Pharma-QuickStep, Argos-Shimano as well as Movistar, perhaps thinking favourably of Spanish champion Francisco Ventoso's chances, added additional horsepower to the front of the peloton. Soon Cannondale chipped in support, too, but with the break fully committed and working smoothly the lead still remained at approximately five minutes for another 20km.
Belkov had additional motivation for the break to succeed, or at least remain off the front deep into the stage, as the 28-year-old Russian started the day just one point out of the lead in the intermediate sprint classification, held by Rafael Andriato (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia). The Katusha rider took maximum points at the first sprint line in San Bonifacio (150.3km) to take over the classification lead and prevailed again 23km later to further increase his points tally.
As the break rolled through the second sprint line in Orgiano, however, their lead was down to 3:04 and falling steadily. Belkov, content with his sprint classification success, was the first to drop from the break with 35km to go as they grew close to the day's only climb, the 5.3km ascent to Crosara with its summit just 16km from the finish.
In the approach to the climb where was a changing of the guard at the head of the peloton as Vini Fantini-Selle Italia drove the pace on the narrow, technical roads with Rubiano, Dockx and Durbridge still maintaining a one-minute lead as they began their ascent of the Crosara.
Sting in the tail
The leading trio shattered on a steep ramp under the impetus of Rubiano while Vini Fantini's Alessandro Proni and Danilo Di Luca jumped away from the peloton. Proni gave it his all for Di Luca and cracked, while Di Luca pressed onwards in pursuit of the solo Colombian. Di Luca made contact with Rubiano two kilometres from the summit while stage 15 winner Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) also attacked the peloton and quickly crossed the gap to the two leaders.
Visconti kept his foot on the gas, gapping Di Luca and Rubiano, but the Colombian dug deep to regain contact. Nearing the KOM line, however, Visconti dispatched of Rubiano once and for all while the Lampre-Merida led peloton swept up Di Luca and crested the summit 30 seconds behind the Movistar Italian.
Cavendish, meanwhile, had lost contact with the peloton and trailed the maglia rosa group which still contained several fast men eager to contest a stage's endgame without the Manxman in their ranks.
Rubiano was soon caught by the peloton while Visconti plummeted down the technical descent at the head of the race. Visconti held a 25-second lead when he reached the bottom, but still faced a flat, 8km run-in to the finish. In his favour, however, was the fact that the peloton was greatly reduced in numbers by the ascent and descent of the Crosara, and there wasn't an organised pursuit driving the pace in his wake.
Inside of five kilometres to go Visconti maintained a 23-second advantage as attacks were launched and brought back within the pursuing peloton. Only three seconds were chipped away in the next three kilometres and Visconti soon found himself in another technical section of twists and turns which played to his favour.
Still lacking any cohesion in his pursuit the peloton would never close the gap to Visconti, who enjoyed his second stage victory of this Giro in the home of Campagnolo, his Movistar team's equipment supplier.
"The cheering of the crowds made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck," said Visconti. "On the final corner, with 200m to go, everything around me was like a dream - beautiful. In the final 50m, I was already thinking of the photograph in tomorrow's papers, the photo I'll put on the wall at home. What more could I ask for?"