Cesare Benedetti of Bora-Hansgrohe has won Stage 12 of the Giro d’Italia in Pinerolo on a day when the race tackled the first Category 1 climb of this year’s route. With a big break getting away, this morning's leader Valerio Conti lost the overall lead - but the maglia rosa stays with UAE Team Emirates through Jan Polanc, who leads Jumbo-Visma's Primoz Roglic by 4 minutes 7 seconds. British rider Hugh Carthy of EF Education First, meanwhile takes the lead in the best young rider's competition.
Benedetti, who takes his first win as a pro, was one of five riders to contest the finish after catching fellow escapees Eros Capecchi of Deceuninck-Quick Step and Trek Segafredo's Gianluca Brambilla, who had attacked on an uncategorised climb around 2 kilometres from the line.
The start and finish towns of the stage are the same as those that featured 70 years ago in what has gone down in history has one of the greatest ever exploits at the Italian Grand Tour, when Fausto Coppi put rivals including Gino Bartali to the sword as he rode away on his own to set up his overall victory.
Today, the escapees were two dozen, and while this stage won’t resonate down the years in the same way as the 1949 one did, it was thrilling, nonetheless. While Coppi had to ride over five mountain passes seven decades ago, today there was just one – the Montoso, with the summit coming with 32 kilometres remaining of the 156-kilometre stage.
The breakaway that got clear early on in the stage, instigated by Eddie Dunbar of Team Ineos and – who else? – Thomas de Gendt of Lotto-Soudal, was a big one, the group swelling to 25 riders.
In terms of the General Classification, the biggest threat to the overall lead of UAE Team Emirates rider Valerio Conti’s overall lead came from his team-mate Polanc, who had begun the day in 23rd position overall, 5 minutes 24 seconds down.
The climb of the Montoso blew the break to pieces, with Brambilla the first rider across, and he had just five others for company on the descent – Dunbar and Polanc, plus Damiano Caruso of Bahrain-Merida, Capeccchi, and Benedetti.
11 minutes later, a group of 10 riders crested the climb together, including the three favourites for the overall – two-time Giro d’Italia winner Vincenzo Nibali of Bahrain-Merida, Mitchelton-Scott’s Simon Yates, and Roglic, who has dominated both the time trials so far in this year’s race.
Missing from that group, however, was Conti, more than a minute further back, as his spell in pink came to an end.
Stage winner Cesare Benedetti
“I’m very happy. It’s a lot of emotion for a rider like me. It’s something I’ve waited for since the day I visited a start village of the Giro d’Italia in 1999.
“From that day, I dreamt of being a pro cyclist. When I got dropped on the final climb, I thought it’d be normal if the three ahead would watch each other.
“I came across. After the last bend, it was a bit early to go to the front because of the wind but my legs were still responding. I didn’t celebrate before the line as I’ve learned from the under-17 category to not believe in the win too early and not to be too exuberant.”
Maglia Rosa Jan Polanc
“Every rider who takes part in a Grand Tour dreams of a day like this. It will be hard to still have the Maglia Rosa in Verona but at least I’ll try to retain it tomorrow.
“It’ll depend on how much energy I have left. Today’s goal with the team was to keep the lead throughout a breakaway. There’ll be even bigger gaps than now at the end. The Giro has just begun for GC riders. There’s a big battle to come.”
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.