Points classification leader Nacer Bouhanni of FDJ.fr has won Stage 10 of the Giro d’Italia in the spa town of Salsamaggiore Terme - but the Frenchman had to fight back on in the closing kilometres after Sky forced the pace on the day's only climb which came inside the final 10km.
Giacomo Nizzolo of Trek Factory Racing was second and Michael Matthews of Orica-GreenEdge third, but a big crash with a little over half a kilometre left on a right hand bend in what was a technical run-in took out a number of sprinters, the first to go down being Garmin-Sharp's Tyler Farrar.
Among the few riders to avoid going down in the crash or getting held up by it was race leader Cadel Evans of BMC Racing, although since it happened inside the final 3km, none will lose time.
The break comprised just two riders today, and they were two of the serial attackers of the race, Marco Bandiera of Androni-Giocattoli and Andrea Fedi of Neri Sottoli-Fluo Yellow, who appear to have engaged in a private battle for the Fuga prize awarded to the man who spends most time at the head of the race.
At one point on the 184km stage from Modena, which crossed the flat expanse of the plain of the river Po with just one small, uncategorised climb towards the end, the pair had an advantage of 8 minutes, but were brought back with around 9km remaining as the sprinters’ outfits forced the pace ahead of the finale.
It was Sky who took the initiative on that last climb, led by Dario Cataldo who put in a huge turn working on behalf of Ben Swift, seeking his first Grand Tour stage win.
Immediately behind Sky on that ascent was the BMC Racing team of race leader Evans, which had suffered a blow earlier when Belgian rider Yannick Eijssen crashed around 18km out and was taken away in an ambulance, his Giroover. He is the first BMC Racing rider to leave the race.
The speed Cataldo had set on the climb meant the peloton was strung out in single file even before it commenced the descent towards the finish, the road bottoming out with 5km remaining.
By now, it was Edvald Boasson Hagen who was towing a much diminished front group along, Swift in his wheel, but some riders managed to get back on, including Bouhanni who would get a strong leadout from team mate Sebastien Chavanel to complete his hat-trick of wins.
Following his third stage win of this year's race, Bouhanni said: “Team Sky rode very hard on the climb and made the first selection. I dropped back a bit, but iI still managed to cross the climb in about 20th place. In the team meeting this morning we were told that we would have to be among the first 5 at the turn with 500m to go. Sebastien Chavanel took me there, then rode at the front for me. The entire team was formidable today, always around me and working hard all stage. I’m very happy to be at the Giro with this team.”
He went on: ”This is the 2nd time I’ve ridden the Giro but, this time. I’ve taken 3 stage wins. I feel that the spectators are starting to recognise me and encourage me from the roadside. It’s a great pleasure when they call out my name. In the mountains, I think they’ll push me and encourage me, because they’ll recognise the Maglia Rossa.”
Referring to the final kilometres of the stage, Evans said: “On paper it already looked a little bit intimidating to me. I think there we’ve got fresher riders, a bigger group coming in to the finish, and of course riders maybe seeing it as one of their last opportunities, the sprinters there, so they’re possibly taking more risks on the descent, and then of course, in the final there, with all the corners, there’s only so much space for so many riders, but a lot more want to be in the front.”
Talking about Eijssen's crash, he added: “We only hear these things on the radio, we don’t know what happens. and I only saw the images on TV after the race at the finish. To see a neck brace on anyone is scary - they say it’s only a precautionary measure - but of course we miss one team-mate. I first met him when he stagiaired in 2009 with our team, and I was really proud of him and I even complemented him on the road today for how good he was going and how much progression he’d made over these last weeks. It’s a big blow as well to us as a team.”
Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.