As the Giro d'Italia headed into the big mountains, the battle for the overall race supremacy began to take shape, with Australian Cadel Evans climbing into the maglia rosa.
Our sister site, Cyclingnews.com, is covering the race in full detail, from in-depth stage reports and results to features and insider analysis. Head on over to their Giro d'Italia section for complete race coverage. Here, we present the highlights of the last three stages, courtesy Cyclingnews.com.
Stage 8: Foligno - Montecopiolo 179km
Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) took victory on the first major mountain stage of the Giro d'Italia, as a small group of favourites swallowed up the lone leader within sight of the finish line. Robert Kiserlovski (Trek Factory Racing) took second and Wilco Kelderman (Belkin) third.
"I really didn't expect the win," Ulissi said. "Of course, it was a difficult race today, too difficult, but I'm really, really happy."
Pierre Rolland (Europcar) held a slim advantage as he entered the final 500 metres of the stage, but the Frenchman's hopes were dashed by an attacking Daniel Moreno (Katusha). Kiserlovski then dug in, passing Moreno, and dragged Ulissi with him. Ulissi left it until about 50 metres to go before launching his bid for the line and taking his second stage victory of the race.
Nairo Quintana (Movistar) finished in fourth place with Cadel Evans (BMC) right behind him. Evans moved in to the race lead, as former pink jersey Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) cracked on the first difficult mountain stage, as expected. Evans now has 57 seconds on Rigoberto Urán (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), with Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) at 1:10.
"You have hopes of what you can do in the Giro, it's been a difficult Giro," Evans said. "It was a hard stage an all the contenders were there."
Julian Arredondo (Trek Factory Racing) had led the race on the final climbs, and looked to have a good chance before cracking with less than 2 km to go. Rolland jumped from the field to finally join him, but he too couldn't hold up. Arredondo at least had the satisfaction of receiving the King of the Mountains jersey.
Pink jersey Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) was dropped on the day's first climb, but he had never expected to be up in the mix on this stage. The day's biggest loser in the GC race was Michele Scarponi (Astana), who fell back on the penultimate climb and saw his hopes of a top placing fade to nothing.
Stage 9: Lugo - Sestola 172km
Peter Weening (Orica-GreenEdge) won the mountaintop finish of the ninth stage of the Giro d'Italia, beating his breakaway companion Davide Malacarne (Europcar) in tactical two-man sprint. Domenico Pozzovivo (AG2R) took third place, 42 seconds down , having attacked the maglia rosa group to gain 26 seconds on race leader Cadel Evans (BMC).
Malacarne and Weening had broken out of an escape group on the final climb, and became the first to make it through to the finish in this year's Giro.
A 14-man group had formed about 50 kilometers into the day and had a lead of up to eight minutes. The BMC-led peloton seemed happy to let them go. Weening attacked with about 19km to go, with Malacarne chasing and catching him.
Nicolas Castroviejo climbs back onto the road after a spill
“The guys weren’t working perfect in the group,” Weening said of the breakaway. “It went slightly uphill and people were taking the wrong side of the round-about. I went on the other side and it was the right timing."
Weening was joined by the Europcar rider, and the pair worked together on the climb, but in the final 500m came to a near stand-still as they prepared for the sprint.
"I thought maybe we had to try to go before the climb. Malacarne came back and he was really strong. It was a steep part in the last climb, I made a fast speed but I couldn’t drop him. I waited until the last few hundred meters, I could gamble a bit in the last hundred meters."
Weening apologized to Malacarne after the stage, saying “Sorry, sorry.”
Cadel Evans easily held on to the leader's jersey, and although he lost time to Pozzovivo, he limited it to 26 seconds, and the Italian is still 1:20 back in fourth. Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) remains in second at 57 seconds, while young rider Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) is third at 1:10 heading into the race's second rest day.
Stage 10: Modena - Salsomaggiore 173km
Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ.fr) avoided a huge crash in the final kilometre to take his third Giro d’Italia stage victory in Salsomaggiore. The Frenchman jumped off the wheel of Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek Factory Racing) to beat the Italian and Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge). Cadel Evans (BMC) retained his lead in the race for the maglia rosa.
The bunch had been reduced to around 10 riders, when Tyler Farrar came down on one of the many corners that littered the technical finish. The Garmin-Sharp rider appeared to go into the corner too quickly, before veering across the road. It then became a three-way sprint, with Nizzolo taking up the lead. Bouhanni stuck himself into the slipstream of the Trek rider, before jumping with around 75 meters to go.
“In the end it was really quick but my team did it perfectly. They were all ready to help me and we had a very good approach to the sprint. I did my bit for by teammates,” Bouhanni said.
Bouhanni lost touch with the front of the peloton as Sky set a fierce pace on the descent into Salsomaggiore. His FDJ teammate Sebastien Chavanel put in a huge effort to bring his leader back inside the final two kilometres. It was all set up for a huge bunch sprint, before Farrar came down.
Race leader Cadel Evans (BMC) also came through unscathed to retain the pink jersey, although most of his rivals got caught behind the crash. However, with the incident coming inside the final three kilometres, no time was lost by anyone.
“As expected after a rest day, everyone is fresh and recovered both physically and mentally. It often makes a more dangerous finish,” Evans said at the finish.
Head on over to the Cyclingnews Giro d'Italia section for complete race coverage.