Arnaud Démare took his third sprint win at this year's Giro d'Italia with a perfectly timed kick in Cuneo on stage 13.
The Groupama-FDJ rider has proved himself as the best fast man in this year's race over the last fortnight, and did so again on Friday, beating Phil Bauhaus (Bahrain-Victorious) and Mark Cavendish (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl).
It was heart-in-mouth stuff for the peloton, with the breakaway still maintaining their lead inside the final 5km, but the day's escape was caught just within the final kilometre.
Julius van den Berg (EF Education-EasyPost), Pascal Eenkhoorn (Jumbo-Visma), Nicolas Prodhomme (AG2R Citroën) and Mico Maestri (EOLO-Kometa) almost stole victory from the sprinters, but were denied by the strength of the bunch in sight of the line.
How it happened
After the longest day of the race on Thursday, the riders only had to contend with a measly 150km long stage on Friday from San Remo to Cuneo. The race started off by following the course of Milan-San Remo in reverse, tracing the Ligurian coast before heading north inland.
It was one of those stages where no one could quite decide whether it would be a day for the breakaway or one for the sprinters, and this confusion over its classification proved exactly right come the end of the day.
There were multiple attacks in the opening kilometres of the stage, as the riders knew that getting into the day’s escape would be crucial.
When the break actually established itself, it had five members: Filippo Tagliani (Drone Hopper-Androni Giocattoli), Julius van den Berg (EF Education-EasyPost), Pascal Eenkhoorn (Jumbo-Visma), Nicolas Prodhomme (AG2R Citroën) and Mico Maestri (EOLO-Kometa).
Tagliani is a veteran of the fuga at this Giro, and leads the intermediate sprint competition, something he hoped to extend today. The other four were clearly only thinking about the stage win.
Stage 13, on a Friday, proved unlucky for Romain Bardet (Team DSM) early on in the race, as the Frenchman was forced out of the race due to illness.
The first intermediate sprint was won by, you guessed it, Tagliani, before the front group hit the Colle di Nava, the day’s sole classified climb, 10.1km at 6.8%.
Tagliani was dropped on the category three climb, before Eenkhoorn was the first over the top. The remaining four were combining well by this stage, and extending their advantage over the peloton.
Behind, the sprinters teams, Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl, Groupama-FDJ, Israel-Premier Tech, and UAE Team Emirates, all attempted to keep a lid on the gap to the break, but it was proving difficult.
With 50km to go, there was a gap of just over 4-30 to the four leaders out front, which looked like it might be difficult to bring back. Still, no one quite knew whether it would be a day for an escape or for a bunch sprint.
Van den Berg won the second intermediate sprint, but this was a hollow victory, as the quartet sought to only push onto the stage finish in Cuneo.
The pace being pushed in the peloton was so high that with 28km there was a split in the peloton, with no serious casualties, but still a healthy-sized group left off the back.
At 15km to go, there was still 1-48 between the break and the main bunch, as desperation took over. It would be heartbreak for either sprinters or the men out in front.
Just 32 seconds separated the groups on the road with 4km to go, and this proved just not enough. Van den Berg attempted to fly off the front in the final 2km, but this was a futile attack.
Inside the last kilometre, the bunch caught the break, those men who had been their nemeses across the whole day, and Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) once again proved himself as the fastest man in the race.
Phil Bauhaus (Bahrain-Victorious) looked like he might have caught the Frenchman, but ran out of road. Mark Cavendish (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) had to come a long way round and finished in third, seemingly giving up once the win had disappeared.
Juan Pedro López (Trek-Segafredo) comfortably held onto the race lead, meaning tomorrow will be his tenth day in the maglia rosa.
GIRO D’ITALIA 2022, STAGE 13: San Remo to Cuneo (150KM)
1. Arnaud Démare (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, in 3-18-16
2. Phil Bauhaus (Deu) Bahrain-Victorious, at same time
3. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl
4. Fernando Gaviria (Col) UAE-Team Emirates
5. Alberto Dainese (Ita) Team DSM
6. Simone Consonni (Ita) Cofidis
7. Dries de Bondt (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix
8. Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) Israel-Premier Tech
9. Andrea Vendrame (Ita) AG2R Citroën
10. Tobias Bayer (Aut) Alpecin-Fenix, all at same time
General classification after stage 13
1. Juan Pedro López (Esp) Trek-Segafredo, in 54-37-23
2. Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Ineos Grenadiers, at 12s
3. João Almeida (Por) UAE Team Emirates, at same time
4. Jai Hindley (Aus) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 20s
5. Guillaume Martin (Fra) Cofidis, at 28s
6. Mikel Landa (Esp) Bahrain Victorious, at 28s
7. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux, at 54s
8. Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 1-09
9. Pello Bilbao (Esp) Bahrain-Victorious, at 1-22
10. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar, at 1-23
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