By Jonny Long
Ruben Guerreiro beat Jonathan Castroviejo to the summit finish win on stage nine of the Giro d'Italia after the pair survived from the day's breakaway.
The Portuguese rider took EF's second mountain stage win of this year's race, denying the Spaniard a third victory for Ineos in Italy, Castroviejo banging his handlebars across the line, having missed out on a rare opportunity to ride for himself at a Grand Tour after Guerreiro proved to have the stronger legs in the final.
Mikkel Bjerg then came across the line, celebrating his ride by holding three fingers up for his second third-place finish at his debut Grand Tour.
After the breakaway remnants, Tao Geoghegan Hart (Ineos) and Lucas Hamilton (Mitchelton-Scott) came in 20 seconds up on the bunch, taking back a slither of time on GC.
In the final kilometre small gaps started to open up in peloton. Wilco Kelderman (Sunweb), Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) and Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe) took 10 seconds out of Vincenzo Nibali (Trek-Segafredo) and nearly 20 seconds on Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma) on the final stage before the first rest day.
How it happened
Raincoats were the order of the day at the Giro d'Italia, riders zipping up for a miserable out on the road before Ruben Guerreiro (EF Pro Cycling), Eduardo Sepulveda (Movistar), Ben O'Connor (NTT Pro Cycling), Jonathan Castroviejo (Ineos Grenadiers) Larry Warbasse (AG2R La Mondiale), Giovanni Visconti (Vini Zabù-Brado-KTM) and Kilian Frankiny (Groupama-FDJ) formed.
Mikkel Bjerg (UAE Team Emirates) then decided he wanted to make it across, getting to within 2-30 of them with 110km to go before puncturing. He eventually made it across the gap 20km later after Visconti had beaten Guerreiro and Castroviejo to the first king of the mountains points to become the new leader of that classification, then extending his lead as he was first over the summit of the next one as well.
The breakaway's lead was holding at over six minutes, slowly coming down as the escapees progressed through the final 80km, with Bjerg then coming off the road on a descent with 40km remaining, quickly getting back on before attacking at the foot of the penultimate climb of the day. This thinned out the breakaway group, with only Castroviejo, Warbasse, Frankiny and Guerreiro able to follow.
The rain was bucketing down by now as Trek-Segafredo moved to the front and turned the screw, bringing the break's advantage down under the four-minute mark, but as Bahrain-McLaren and Deceuninck - Quick-Step took over it started to go out again.
Sunweb then took over on the front as they approached the final climb, riding in support of Wilco Kelderman, as Larry Warbasse attacked the breakaway while behind Lucas Hamilton rode off the front of the peloton, Tao Geoghegan Hart following.
Ineos were animating the race up front too as Jonathan Castroviejo attacked the escape group, Guerreiro the only one able to follow.
Geoghegan Hart and Hamilton were going strong, taking a 30-second gap out over the peloton as they tried to advance back up the GC while Castroviejo and Guerreiro powered on up the climb, Bora-Hansgrohe taking over on the front of the peloton.
Castroviejo put in a dig at the 1km banner, not managing to dislodge Guerreiro, who held his wheel up the final sections of the climb before going clear, proving to have the stronger legs and taking a second win for EF Pro Cycling at this Giro, again on a summit finish.
Behind, gaps started opening up in the peloton as riders dashed for the line, Nibali, Kruijswijk and race leader Almeida all losing a bit of time as Majka, Kelderman and Fuglsang all finished together.
Giro d'Italia 2020, stage nine: San Salvo t0 Roccaraso (208km)
1. Ruben Guerreiro (Por) EF Pro Cycling, in 5-41-20
2. Jonathan Castroviejo (Esp) Ineos Grenadiers, at eight seconds
3. Mikkel Bjerg (Den) UAE Team Emirates, at 58s
4. Kilian Frankiny (Sui) Groupama-FDJ, at 1-16
5. Larry Warbasse (USA) Ag2r La Mondiale, at same time
6. Tao Geoghegan Hart (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 1-19
7. Lucas Hamilton (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott, at 1-32
8. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Sunweb, at 1-38
9. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana
10. Jai Hindley (Aus) Sunweb, both at same time
General classification after stage nine
1. João Almeida (Por) Deceuninck - Quick-Step, in 35-35-50
2. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Sunweb, at 30 seconds
3. Pello Bilbao (Esp) Bahrain-McLaren, at 39s
4. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) NTT, at 53s
5. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Trek-Segafredo, at 57s
6. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana, at 1-01
7. Harm Vanhoucke (Bel) Lotto-Soudal, at 1-02
8. Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 1-11
9. Jai Hindley (Aus) Sunweb, at 1-15
10. Rafał Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 1-17
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