Cesare Benedetti (Bora-Hansgrohe) took a hard earned maiden professional victory on stage 12 of the Giro d’Italia, in a thrilling contest to Pinerolo.
The Italian was part of a large 25-man breakaway that also included Jan Polanc (UAE Team Emirates) and finished over eight minutes ahead of the main GC contenders.
A select group of Eddie Dunbar (Team Ineos), Eros Capecchi (Deceuninck-Quick-Step), Gianluca Brambilla (Trek-Segafredo) made it to the final kilometre after a category one climb with 30km remaining and a short steep climb just over 2km from the finish, but Damiano Caruso (Bahrain-Merida) and Benedetti were able to join back on in the final 500m as the leaders hesitated.
It all came down to a sprint between that group, with Benedetti able to get ahead and hold his sprint in front of Caruso and Dunbar who were the only two able to get close.
Slovenian Polanc was satisfied to just finish 25 seconds down on the front group, which handed him the pink jersey and the overall lead after his team-mate Valerio Conti finished over 10 minutes down on the day.
Mikel Landa (Movistar) and Miguel Ángel López (Astana) were the only overall hopefuls who gained time, taking 28 seconds on the other GC contenders after attacking on the Montoso climb.
How it happened
Stage 12 of the Giro d’Italia would finally present some difficult climbing for the riders, although the main climb of the day wouldn’t come until within 40km to go on the 158km stage from Cuneo to Pinerolo.
The parcours looked like it could suit a breakaway staying away, with the category one climb of Montoso crested with 30km to go.
There wasn’t too much fighting for the break, with 25 riders able to slip the peloton’s grasp in the opening 25km. The GC contenders’ teams seemed content with the make up of the break, and quickly allowed the gap between them to grow.
With 60km gone the gap was up to around 13 minutes, with the race covering the opening 50km in just over an hour.
The gap continued to grow and within the last 80km it was out to almost 16 minutes, with UAE Team Emirates’ Jan Polanc now in the virtual lead, with Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) almost seven minutes back and Polanc’s team-mate Valerio Conti, riding in the pink jersey, almost five minutes back.
With just under 60km to go the first attack came from the break group, with Sean Bennett (EF Education First) jumping clear, soon followed by Marco Haller (Katusha-Alpecin).
They quickly gained a 30 second gap and still held that as they hit the final 9km climb, with the peloton still 12-30 behind the main break.
Just 2km into the climb and Haller and Bennett were brought back by the chasing group’s accelerations, with Damiano Caruso (Bahrain-Merida) then making a move that group split down the group, with Eddie Dunbar (Team Ineos), Eros Capecchi (Deceuninck-Quick-Step), Gianluca Brambilla (Trek-Segafredo), Dario Cataldo (Astana) and Polanc making it to the halfway point of the climb at the front, with the gap still at over 11 minutes.
The first rider to jump from the main peloton on the climb was Jan Hirt (Astana), who was joined by his team leader Miguel Ángel López who attacked shortly after.
They weren’t able to stay away though, particularly with Richard Carapaz (Movistar), Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) and Rafał Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe) bridging across. The peloton, led by Roglič, now without team-mates, was quickly back on them, however the pink jersey Valerio Conti was now dropped and not looking likely to get back in.
Mikel Landa (Movistar) was the next to then try and get away, with López trying once again to get up the road and follow him.
Meanwhile, all but Cataldo and Polanc made it to the top of the climb in the breakaway group, with Brambilla the rider accelerating multiple times to try and break the group. They still had over 10 minutes over the peloton.
The descent saw Cesare Benedetti get back to the four leaders along with Polanc, Cataldo and Matteo Montaguti (Androni Giacattoli).
Behind, the peloton became severely reduced to almost just leaders over the top of the climb, as they chased Landa and López who had joined up with Jasha Sütterlin (Movistar) and Manuele Boaro (Astana), who had dropped back from the break to help their leaders and helped them hold a 40 second gap.
For the break, the next action came on the steep 500m cobbled climb through Pinerolo, where Brambilla and Capecchi were able to get away with 2.3km to go. Dunbar was then able to bridge over to them just as they began the final descent.
The Irishman refused to come through as they entered the final kilometre with Brambilla and Capecchi taking turns, but their hesitation allowed Benedetti and Caruso to get back.
Capecchi led into the final turn but it was Brambilla that began his sprint first, however the fatigue from his previous efforts were now showing and he could do nothing to stop Benedetti, Caruso and Dunbar from coming past, with the Bora man the strongest and able to hold his effort to the line to take victory.
Just over seven minutes later López and Landa were able to come in and hold 28 second to the main peloton containing Majka, Nibali, Roglič and Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) among others.
The Giro d’Italia continues on Friday with the race’s first summit finish, a 196km route from Pinerolo to the top of Lago Serrù.
Giro d’Italia 2019, stage 12: Cuneo to Pinerolo (158km)
1. Cesare Benedetti (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe, in 3-41-49
2. Damiano Caruso (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
3. Edward Dunbar (Irl) Team Ineos, all at same time
4. Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Trek-Segafredo, at 2 seconds
5. Eros Capecchi (Ita) Deceuninck-Quick-Step, at 6s
6. Jan Polanc (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, at 25s
7. Matteo Montaguti (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec, at 34s
8. Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Lotto-Soudal, at 2-36
9. Francesco Gavazzi (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec, at same time
10. Manuel Senni (Ita) Bardiani-CSF, at 2-38
General classification after stage 12
1. Jan Polanc (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, 48-49-40
2. Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma, at 4-07
3. Valerio Conti (Ita) UAE Team Emirates, at 4-51
4. Eros Capecchi (Ita) Deceuninck-Quick-Step, at 5-02
5. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Bahrain-Merida, at 5-51
6. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo, at 6-02
7. Rafał Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 7-00
8. Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Movistar, at 7-23
9. Andrey Amador (CRc) Movistar, at 7-30
10. Hugh John Carthy (GBr) EF Education First, at 7-33