It was a day for the sprinters into Reggio Emilia
This was probably the most comfortable of Gaviria’s three wins, as he was given a textbook lead-out by Maximiliano Richeze and didn’t give a chance to Jakub Mareczko (Wilier Triestina), who was unable to come off his wheel, or Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe), who wasn’t able to finish off a big effort by his team.
The win also extended Gaviria already comfortable lead at the top of the points classification, and with most of the other sprinters likely to head for the airport after tomorrow’s flat stage, the maglia ciclamino looks like Gaviria’s to keep so long as he can make it through the Alps.
Bennett misses out again
Stage 12 looked all set for Sam Bennett to take his first Grand Tour stage win after having finished in third place on three occasions so far in this Giro.
With six kilometres to go, Bora-Hansgrohe couldn’t have hoped to be in a better position, with seven of their eight remaining riders lined out at the front of the peloton with Bennett placed perfectly at the rear.
Matching turquoise helmets and shoes lined up in perfect formation, the German team were unruffled by Eugert Zhupa’s with a couple of kilometres to go, and held off challenges by Lotto-Soudal and Orica-Scott to knock them off the head of the peloton.
Rounding the final bend and Rüdiger Selig had Bennett locked on his wheel, poised to jump for the line, but they didn’t count on the superb effort of Richeze who swung over to the left of the road, pulling Gaviria clear and leaving Bennett with far too much to do.
Italian nightmare continues
The 100th edition of the Giro d’Italia was meant to be a celebration of Italian cycling, but instead it’s turning into a something of a nightmare for the home riders.
With Marezko finishing second behind Gaviria today, this is now the longest that the Italians have ever had to wait for a stage win in their home Grand Tour.
The Italian press have seen this as symptomatic of the current poor state of Italian cycling, with 43 Italian riders starting this year’s race (a record low) and no Italian team at WorldTour level.
With nine stages remaining there are still plenty of opportunities for the Italians to pick up a win, but barring an overall victory for Vincenzo Nibali, the 2017 Giro d’Italia looks set to go down as the worst in the history of Italian cycling.
Largely flat, 229km in length, and inevitably destined to finish in a bunch sprint, today was a day where you had to spare a though for the poor riders told to get into the break in the pre-stage team meeting.
The three riders to draw the short straws were Sergey Firsanov (Gazprom-RusVelo), Marco Marcato (UAE Team Emirates) and Mirco Maestri (Bardiani CSF), who endured what must have been a tedious five hours out front, never enjoying a lead of more than 6-45.
Of course there are genuine reasons for riders to get in the break on days like this, with the team sponsors enjoy four hours of TV coverage which they wouldn’t get if all the riders were ensconced in the peloton.
There are also minor classifications for the riders to fight for such as the breakaway classification, which tots up the number of kilometres that riders spend in the breakaway over the course of the race, which would explain Maestri’s forlorn fight to stay out in front for every last metre.
Mountains classification begins to hot up
After simmering under the surface for the last week, the mountains classification is poised nicely heading into the Alps at the end of the week.
Jan Polanc (UAE Team Emirates) has held the blue jersey since winning stage four’s summit finish to Mount Etna, but has now been overtaken by Omar Fraile (Dimension Data).
The Spaniard took plenty of points on his way to the stage win on Wednesday to draw level, then sprang out of the peloton ahead of Polanc to take four points on the second category climb at the start of the stage to move into blue.
Both Fraile and Polanc look set on competing for the jersey to Milan, but with a whopping 439 points still up for grabs in a mountainous final week there will be plenty of other riders thinking of blue.