Bora-Hansgrohe rider Nico Denz took a long awaited grand tour stage victory on stage 12 of the Giro d’Italia.
The German outsprinted breakaway companions Toms Skujiņš (Trek-Segafredo) and Sebastian Berwick (Israel-Premier Tech) into second and third respectively.
Denz had been a member of a 30 rider breakaway that was established in the opening kilometres of the stage, the GC riders quite content to let the break contest the stage win.
After the race he said: “I was not supposed to be in the breakaway it was supposed to be Konnie [Patrick Konrad] and Bob [jungles] but Bob said he was not at his best and he wanted to save himself for tomorrow to be there for Lenny [Lennard Kamna, the team’s GC leader]..so I got the green light to go.
“When I got in the breakaway and I looked around me there were just monsters around, only big guys. I thought it would be difficult for me to do something. I thought I’d help Konnie to do something to win the stage.”
He was among a group of five that then clipped off the front of that group with over 80km left to race.
Denz said: " The collaboration was really really bad and I was going on the font and I found I had a gap so I pushed on fully. "
On the final category two climb the numbers were whittled down and Denz himself had to struggle "to his limit" to stay in contact but following the descent and the run in to the finish, where he tried to attack on a short kicker of a climb before being brought back, he proved the strongest.
"I have a fairly fast finish and it saved me," he said. " I’m over the moon right now... I'm super proud."
It was his fifth career victory and went one better than his previous grand tour stage best of second in 2018 when he finished runner-up to Matej Mohorič in a two-up sprint after a similarly lumpy day out.
Behind him the main peloton rolled in several minutes behind as Geraint Thomas comfortably maintained his position at the top of the GC standings.
Tomorrow, he'll have a tougher test with a big mountain stage with a hill top finish at Crans-Montana.
How it happened
Within the first couple of hours of racing a large breakaway of 30 riders had formed. Ineo Grenadiers, holders of the pink jersey, were one of the few teams not present and so it fell to them to set the pace in the peloton.
For nearly 100km the gap slowly ticked up to several minutes before cooperation in the front group began to break down and a smaller selection for five, then four riders went off the front.
By 65km to go they had well over three minutes n hand over the rest of the day’s large early breakaway and over seven minutes over the peloton.
Despite several attempts to bridge the gap it the winner of the day’s stage would come from this group. However, eventually a trio of Alberto Bettiol (EF Education-EasyPost) Alex Baudin (AG2R Citroen) and Christian Scaroni (Astana Qazaqstan) went clear nad began to chase the leaders.
Come the final climb, the second category Colle Braida, a ascent of around 10km with gradients of up to 12%, the front group was whittled down to three riders as Toms Skujiņš (Trek-Segafredo) pushed the pace and dropped Alessandro Tonelli (Green Project-Bardiani). They were gaining time on those behind and so assuring the likelihood that they would contest the win.
Nico Denz (Bora-Hansgrohe), not well known for his climbing ability, put in a gritty performance to stay with the other two as they crested the climb.
Meanwhile Davide Formolo (UAE Emirates) led a group up to the chasers to become a bigger chase group of seven riders. But still 3-07 down they were a long way from victory.
Despite a few hairy moments on the descent the leaders made it down without incident. Denz attacked on a kicker and distanced both his rivals but they made it back to him.
Into the final few hundred metres Berwick opened the sprint and Skujiņš tried to get the run on Denz but the German was just too strong, no one could come round him.
Giro d’Italia stage 12 result: Bra > Rivoli
1. Nico Denz (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe, in 4-18-11
2. Tom Skujiņš (Lat) Trek-Segafredo, at s.t.
3. Sebastian berwick (Aus) Israel-Premier Tech, at 0-03
4. Alessandro Tonelli (Ita) Gren Project-Bardiani, at 0-58
5. Marco Frigo (Ita) Israel-Premier Tech, at 2-07
6. Ilan van Wilder (Bel) Soudal - Quick-step, at 2-20
7. Alberto Bettiol (Ita) EF Education-EasyPost
8. Christian Scaroni (Ita) Astan Qazaqstan
9. Michel Hessmann (Ger) Jumbo-Visma
10. Alex Baudin (Fra) AG2R Citroen, all at s.t.
GC standings after stage 12: Bra > Rivoli
- Geraint Thomas (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, in 49-02-05
- Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma, at 2s
- João Almeida (Por) UAE Team Emirates, at 22s
- Andreas Leknessund (Nor) Team DSM, at 35s
- Damiano Caruso (Ita) Bahrain Victorious, at 1-28
- Lennard Kämna (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 1-52
- Eddie Dunbar (Irl) Jayco AlUla, in 2-32
- Thymen Arensman (Ned) Ineos Grenadiers, at same time
- Laurens De Plus (Bel) Ineos Grenadiers, at 2-36
- Aurélien Paret-Peintre (Fra) AG2R Citroën, at 2-48
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