By Jonny Long
Arnaud Démare once again won the bunch sprint finish at the Giro d'Italia, beating Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) into second place on stage 11 for the fourth time as he took his fourth stage victory at this year's race.
Deceuninck - Quick-Step's Álvaro Hodeg took third, Cofidis' Simone Consonni fourth and Rick Zabel (Israel Start-Up Nation) rounded out the top five.
The maglia ciclamino was brought to the front late on the run-in to the line, but was led out perfectly by his Groupama-FDJ team-mates and once he hit the front no-one was catching him.
Fernando Gaviria, who won four stages in 2017, had UAE Team Emirates driving the pace in the closing kilometres but could only managed seventh, while Cofidis' Elia Viviani, the last rider to win four stages in a year, took 10th after being hit from behind by a motorbike with 30km to go.
How it happened
A straightforward sprint day along the coast to Rimini, and we could do with a spot of quiet at the Giro after the coronavirus abandons of the past 24 hours.
5km in and all was going to plan, as breakaway addict Marco Frapporti (Vini Zabù - KTM) went clear alongside Mattia Bais (Androni Giocattoli - Sidermec), Fabio Mazzucco (Bardiani - CSF - Faizanè), Francesco Romano (Bardiani - CSF - Faizanè) and the only WorldTour rider in attendance, Lotto-Soudal's Sander Armée.
After the escapees had swept up most of the points at the first intermediate sprint of the day, Arnaud Démare and Peter Sagan went head-to-head for the minor placings. Sagan's stage 10 win had brought him back to within 21 points of the maglia ciclamino but the Frenchman bested him in this particular contest to extend his lead by a single extra point.
Bais then took the points at the top of the category four climb as the breakaway's advantage went out to over three minutes and Frapporti then took the second intermediate sprint.
Armée and Bais soon tired of their companions and rode clear on their own, their gap having been brought back to around the two-minute mark and the pair wanting to prolong their day out front.
A motorbike then tried to move to the front of the bunch as the peloton passed through a roundabout and drove straight into the back of Elia Viviani, causing him to crash. The Italian was able to get back up and start chasing, a less than ideal situation on a day he would have fancied himself for the win.
As the road headed uphill slightly, Armee attacked Bais, having decided he would prefer to go it alone with 24km to go, as Groupama-FDJ went full-throttle on the front of the bunch to try and keep Elia Viviani from getting back in contention for the stage victory.
22km remaining and the first three riders to be dislodged from the breakaway were swept up, but Armée was holding firm.
Viviani had made contact with the back of the peloton with 17km to the line, stopping off for some assistance at the medical car, receiving spray on his left ankle and wrist.
Back up front and Armée, out of contract with Lotto-Soudal at the end of the season, was putting himself right in the shop window as he still held a 1-40 advantage over the bunch with 13km to go.
Bais was caught not long after, as Cofidis came to the fore to join Groupama-FDJ and UAE Team Emirates as they jostled for positions.
This fight for the front started to take chunks out of Armée's gap, down to 57 seconds with 11km remaining, and it was down to 15 seconds 3km later, as Ineos and Deceuninck - Quick-Step hit the front of the peloton as the peloton approached Rimini.
As Armée was finally reeled in with a little over 6km to go, UAE Team Emirates were all lined out on the front, with Groupama-FDJ nowhere to be seen, then starting to move up on the right as the race entered the final technical section of the stage.
Next, it was Israel Start-Up Nation, with Peter Sgagn also present towards the front, Matthias Bändle and Alex Dowsett guiding the peloton through a number of corners as UAE Team Emirates then came back in to hammer the pace some more.
A 90-degree right-turn, as Mikkel Bjerg took it up to above 50km/h before he fell away, Groupama-FDJ bursting through to deliver Démare to the front with 2km to the line.
All of the sprinters were present for the final two corners as Groupama-FDJ led it out perfectly for Arnaud Démare who opened his sprint and never looked back, all of his rivals unable to match his sheer strength as he crossed the line first for the fourth time this Giro.
Giro d'Italia 2020, stage 11: Porto Sant'Elpidio to Rimini (182km)
1. Arnaud Démare (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, in 4-03-52
2. Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe, at same time
3. Álvaro Hodeg (Col) Deceuninck - Quick-Step
4. Simone Consonni (Ita) Cofidis
5. Rick Zabel (Ger) Israel Start-Up Nation
6. Nico Denz (Ger) Sunweb
7. Fernando Gaviria (Col) UAE Team Emirates
8. Stefano Oldani (Ita) Lotto-Soudal
9. Jacopo Mosca (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
10. Elia Viviani (Ita) Cofidis, all at same time
General classification after stage 11
1. João Almeida (Por) Deceuninck-Quick-Step, in 43-41-57
2. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Team Sunweb, at 34 seconds
3. Pello Bilbao (Esp) Bahrain-McLaren, at 43s
4. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) NTT Pro Cycling, at 57s
5. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita), Trek-Segafredo, at 1-01
6. Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 1-15
7. Jai Hindley (Aus) Team Sunweb, at 1-19
8. Rafał Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 1-21
9. Fausto Masnada (Ita) Deceuninck-Quick-Step, at 1-36
10. Hermann Pernsteiner (Aut) Bahrain-McLaren, at 1-52
Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races. I'm 6'0", 26 years old, have a strong hairline and have an adequate amount of savings for someone my age. I'm very single at the minute so if you know anyone, hit me up.
Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab, reporting about students evacuating their bowels on nightclub dancefloors and consecrating their love on lecture hall floors. I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).
I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.
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