Lars Bak took one for himself in the Giro d'Italia's 12th stage to Sestri Levante. The Dane of team Lotto-Belisol rode free in an escape all day in the undulating roads above Cinque Terre and, with two kilometres remaining shot free. The stage win tops years of tireless work for leaders, including as lead-out man for Mark Cavendish at HTC-Highroad.
"I know if you ride five years like that, it's not easy to switch your mind and be a winner," sports director, Bart Leysen told Cycling Weekly. "It's a big present and he made it, he trained at all times to be ready, first for the Tour de France. However, he got his chance to race here at the last moment."
Bak will switch to working for André Greipel and Jurgen Van den Broeck at the Tour de France. The Giro, though, is his chance. At the start of the race at home in Denmark, he attacked solo in the first two road stages. He failed. His former team-mates Cavendish and Matt Goss celebrated instead.
After the transfer to Italy, he recovered, worked for the team's two GC leaders, Bart De Clercq and Françis De Greef, and prepared for his next move.
"He said in the second week, I'm going to try in a breakaway. We knew today would be good day, the GC guys are already thinking of the mountains on Saturday and Sunday," added Leysen. "It was a perfect day for him."
"I always believed I could win a big race, it's always been my dream to win a stage in the Tour de France, always in a Grand Tour - now I've done that," Bak explained in a press conference. "It's a dream coming true, when you win on the highest level, you cannot be happier."
Racing into Sestri Levante and along the Ligurian coast, Bak marked his escape companions. Sandy Casar (FDJ-BigMat) raced for the stage, but also for the possibility of taking the pink jersey.
He pulled himself back in as others tried to break free on the descent of Villa Tassani at 11.2 kilometres left. Ivan Santaromita (BMC Racing) attacked, a calm followed, Jan Bakelants (RadioShack-Nissan) tried, again a calm and then, at 1.8 kilometres out, Bak punched.
"Lars stayed calm," Leysen added. "We explained very well the last two kilometres to Lars, and that's where he attacked!"
Giro d'Italia 2012: Latest news
Hesjedal happy with Giro performance despite losing lead
Pinotti alters Giro plans after losing time in mountains
Pozzato apologises for role in causing crash
Hesjedal has tough day as Giro leader
Schleck building form in Giro for final week in Alps
English speakers on top
Giro favourites to make move in first mountain finish
Malori will relish time in Giro lead
Sky's Giro team time trial disappointment
Phinney's terrible day sees Giro lead slip away
Teams ready for Giro's team time trial
Phinney given all-clear after Giro crash
Ferrari should be ashamed of Giro sprint, says Cavendish
Giro remembers Wouter Weylandt
Cavendish and Thomas a winning combo, says Brailsford
Geraint Thomas narrowly misses out on Giro lead
Phinney realises Giro dream
Giro d'Italia 2012: Live coverage
Giro d'Italia 2012 live text coverage schedule
Giro d'Italia 2012: Stage reports
Stage 12: Bak attacks to win
Stage 11: Ferrari wins Giro stage on ride to redemption
Stage 10: Rodriguez wins thrilling finale to take leadStage nine: Ventoso wins in Frosinone as Goss and Cavendish fall
Stage eight: Pozzovivo takes another Giro win
Stage seven: Hesjedal moves into Giro lead
Stage six: Rubiano solos to epic Giro stage win
Stage five: Cavendish bounces back for another stage win
Stage four: Garmin-Barracuda win TTT to take lead
Stage three: Goss wins in Horsens as Cavendish and Phinney crash
Stage two: Cavendish wins in Herning
Stage one: Phinney wins time trial
Giro d'Italia 2012: Photo galleries
Stage 11 photo gallery
Stage 10 photo gallery
Stage nine photo gallery
Stage eight photo gallery
Stage seven photo gallery
Stage six photo gallery
Stage five photo gallery
Stage four photo gallery
Stage three photo gallery
Stage two photo gallery
Stage one photo gallery
Giro d'Italia 2012: Teams and riders
Giro d'Italia 2012 start list
Giro d'Italia 2012: TV guide
Giro d'Italia 2012: British Eurosport TV schedule
Giro d'Italia 2012: The Big Preview
Cycling Weekly's Giro d'Italia section
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