Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) took a long-awaited first victory of the season at the Giro d’Italia, soloing to the win on stage 10 after going in the day’s breakaway.
The three-time world champion fought hard to be part of the early break on a stage full of steep climbing, and was left with just Ben Swift (Ineos) for company in the final 20km of the stage.
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Sagan was able to drop the British champion on the final climb of the day, which topped out with 11km to go, with the GC contenders breathing down his neck at just 22 seconds behind.
He pushed out that gap on the treacherous final descent which was made all the worse thanks to the rain that fell in the latter half of the stage.
With none of GC contenders’ teams able to take control of the remaining riders in the chase group despite just being just 20 seconds behind in the final 3km, Sagan was able to hold his effort and take his first career victory at the Giro.
João Almeida (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) extended his lead in pink once again after finishing third on the stage to take four bonus seconds ahead of the main GC contenders that finished just 23 seconds behind the stage winner.
Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) was the day’s biggest loser amongst the overall hopefuls, losing around 1-15 on the Almeida group.
How it happened
Following the first rest day of the 2020 Giro d’Italia, the peloton faced a 177km route peppered with steep climbs from Lanciarno to Tortoreto on stage 10. The final climb of the day topped out with 11km to go, meaning there could be some GC action on the cards at the beginning of the second week.
With potential for the breakaway to stay away though, there was a huge early fight as riders tried to break clear of the peloton’s grasp.
It took almost 50km for a group to finally settle, with 13 riders in there before hard to pace saw just seven left inside the final 100km. Those riders, Jhonathan Restrepo (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec), Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), Filippo Ganna and Ben Swift (Ineos Grenadiers), Simon Clarke (EF Pro Cycling), Dario Cataldo and Davide Villella (Movistar), were battling Arnaud Démare’s Groupama-FDJ team who were fighting to bring them back to the peloton.
The French champion was attempting to prevent Sagan from taking the intermediate sprint points at 110km ridden, with his team-mates narrowing the gap from almost a minute to 30 seconds at one point.
But the effort took its toll and Groupama-FDj gave up chase with 88.5km to go, the gap now at 44 seconds to the breakaway. That allowed Sagan to gain 12 points and close the gap to Demare in the maglia ciclamino to 45 points.
With that laying down of arms from Groupama-FDJ, the breakaway’s advantage rocketed out to 4-40 with 75km to go, with no single team seemingly keen on bringing it all back together.
UAE Team Emirates then began to chase not long later and were able to peg the break back to under four minutes inside the final 50km.
The climbing on the stage really began in earnest inside the final 40km, with numerous steep climbs for the riders to tackle. As the break began to tackle the climbs, their gap dropped to 1-50 with 35km to go, with Clarke and Ganna now dropped and trailing at 30 seconds.
Clarke’s day was done, but Ganna was able to make it back with 31.3km to go and immediately attacked, but was brought back by Cataldo.
Despite the numbers now dwindling in the peloton behind, the break’s chances of making it to the finish looked extremely unlikely with just 40 seconds in hand at the 25km to go mark.
The falling gap and the fewer number of riders in the peloton saw Pello Bilbao (Bahrain-MacLaren) take his chance and attack with 22.5km to go.
No-one immediately followed Bilbao, and he was able to begin making inroad to the break who were now at just 25 seconds away with 20km left.
With rain now falling heavily, the slick roads made descending a tricky affair, with Sagan and Swift able to go away from the break with 19.7km remaining and extend a gap to 42 seconds thanks to some expert descending.
Bilbao was now within touching distance of the leading duo as they started final 2.2km climb that topped out with 11km to go. The Spaniard was about to make the bridge when Sagan accelerated away from Swift with 12.1km remaining.
Sagan crossed the top of the final climb with just 22 seconds in hand over the peloton, and began to settle in for his solo effort to try and take a maiden Giro victory.
Behind, Jakob Fuglsang suffered a puncture on a descent with 9.4km to go and was forced to swap bikes with a team-mate, but by this point had already lost significant time at over 30 seconds down on the pink jersey group.
The GC contenders group was now just the favourites themselves with few team-mates to speak of, but the were able to close in on Bilbao and absorb him 6km to the finish having already caught Ben Swift.
Sagan, however, persevered, with 32 seconds in hand with 5km to go. Brandon McNulty was the only rider to successfully get away from pink jersey group despite numerous attacks, but had left it too late to get to lone leader Sagan inside the final few kilometres.
Sagan was able to sit up inside the final few hundred metres to celebrate and make an incredible victory and complete his set of stage wins in all three of the Grand Tours. He also closes the gap in the points competition, leaving things neck and neck as he trails triple stage winner Démare by 20 points.
McNulty was able to hold on in front of the peloton to grab second place, with João Almeida able to sprint ahead of the other contenders to grab third place and the four remaining bonus seconds on the line.
Fuglsang rolled in 1-38 down on Sagan in a group, but more pertinently lost 1-15 on the likes of Vincenzo Nibali (Trek-Segafredo), Wilco Kelderman (Sunweb), and Rafał Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe).
The Giro d’Italia continues on Wednesday with stage 11, a 182km route from Porto Sant’Elpidio to Rimini.
Giro d’Italia 2020, stage 10: Lanciano to Tortoreto (177km)
1. Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe, in 4-01-56
2. Brandon McNulty (USA) UAE Team Emirates, at 19s
3. João Almeida (Por) Deceuninck-Quick-Step, at 23s
4. Ben Swift (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers
5. Jai Hindley (Aus) Team Sunweb
6. Rafał Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe
7. Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe
8. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Team Sunweb
9. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) NTT Pro Cycling
10. Pello Bilbao (Esp) Bahrain-McLaren, all at same time
21. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana, at 1-38
General classification after stage 10
1. João Almeida (Por) Deceuninck-Quick-Step, in 39-38-05
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
11. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana, at 2-20