Andrea Vendrame wins from breakaway on Stage 12 at Giro d’Italia, Vincenzo Nibali gives Ineos fright
Italy’s Andrea Vendrame proved the strongest of the remaining four escapees from a 16-man move which animated an eventful Stage 12 of the Giro d’Italia. Egan Bernal retained the pink jersey, but a late move from Vincenzo Nibali showed that Ineos Grenadiers are not unflappable after Gianni Moscon crashed on the final descent.
Highlights: 'The Shark' unsettles Ineos, Vendrame wins from breakaway
On a day of extremes – with bright sunshine bookending some serious showers – Italy’s Andrea Vendrame ditched the sprinter tag with an inspired performance in the Apennine backbone separating Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna.
Vendrame (Ag2R-Citroen) outkicked Australia’s Chris Hamilton (Team DSM) in Bagni di Romagna for the biggest win of his career after bickering ended the chances of Gianluca Brambilla (Trek-Segafredo) and George Bennett (Jumbo-Visma).
With the peloton riding over 10 minutes in arrears, Vendrame went clear on the last of four climbs before being joined by the trio of chasers just ahead of the summit. After a treacherous descent on roads still wet from a recent downpour, New Zealand’s Bennett and Italy’s Brambilla effectively argued themselves out of the equation as an unseemly spat boiled over during the tactical run to the line.
Vendrame blasted clear with Hamilton before showcasing his superior kick with a commanding sprint to take the win. Brambilla and Bennett’s war of words continued right to the line with the Trek-Segafredo rider cutting up the gesticulating Kiwi from Jumbo-Visma on the home straight to take third place at 15 seconds.
A super successful day for the French Ag2R-Citroen team was capped by sixth-place Geoffrey Bouchard, who went over three of the four climbs in pole position to strengthen his now-commanding grip on the blue jersey.
The remainder of the initial 16-man move came home in dribs and drabs before Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali (Trek-Segafredo) crossed the line a morale-boosting seven seconds clear of the main field after putting in a trademark downhill dig on the final descent.
‘Stupid thing to do’ – Moscon crashes while chasing Nibali
Two-time Giro champion Nibali’s acceleration on the descent forced a response by the Ineos Grenadiers team of race leader Egan Bernal, with Italy’s Gianni Moscon taking too many risks and hitting the deck on a tight hairpin bend. Moscon returned to the main field but his crash was an unnecessary setback for Ineos and vindicated Nibali’s decision to pile on the pressure despite trailing the BC battle by over four minutes.
Bernal nevertheless came home safely in the peloton to retain his pink jersey by an unchanged 45-second lead over Russia’s Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana-Premier Tech) in the general classification.
As the first attacks came in shortly after the start in Siena, a crash near the back of the peloton brought down half a dozen riders and sparked the beginning of the end for Marc Soler’s debut Giro. Eleventh place in the overnight standings, the Movistar rider battled on with what seemed like a back injury, but the fierce tussle to make the day’s break left him with a mountain to climb and Soler abandoned after a painful opening hour of torment.
The Spaniard was not the only big-name casualty, with the Italian Alessandro De Marchi (Israel Start-Up Nation) a victim of an early fall which resulted in the former pink jersey being taken to hospital with a broken collarbone, six broken ribs and two broken vertebrae. Stage 6 winner Gino Mader (Bahrain-Victorious), Fausto Masnada (Deceuninck Quick-Step), Alex Dowsett (Israel Start-Up Nation) and Kobe Goosens (Lotto Soudal) were also casualties of a fast and frantic opening half to the long 212km stage north from Tuscany into Emilia-Romagna.
Breakaway specialist Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal), the maglia ciclamino Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Irish veteran Nico Roche (Team DSM) were all among the litany of riders who tried to go clear as the race weaved its way through the achingly beautiful Chianti wine region south of Florence.
But it took a ferocious 65km of racing before a strong move finally extricated itself from the peloton and the stage started to settle with the familiar sight of Bernal’s Ineos team coming to the front of the peloton to control matters for the pink jersey.
‘Ask George Bennett how to lose the race,’ fumes Brambilla
Joining Vendrame, Hamilton, Brambilla, Bennett and Bouchard in the 16-man move were: Dries De Bondt (Alpecin-Fenix), Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates), Vincenco Albanese (Eolo-Kometa) and Mikkel Honore (Deceuninck Quick-Step), Natnael Tesfatsion and Simone Ravanelli (both Androni Giacattoli), Simone Petilli (Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert), Guy Niv (Israel Start-Up Nation), Victor Campenaerts (Qhubeka-Assos), Giovanni Visconti (Bardiani-CSF) and Nicolas Edet (Cofidis).
Over 20 minutes down in the general classification, New Zealand champion Bennett was the best placed rider in the break, and clearly eyed a maiden Grand Tour stage win after seeing his GC hopes go up in smoke in the first half of the race. It was a shame, then, that he let the occasion go to waste with his confrontation with Brambilla.
Once the race has passed through Florence, the dynamic changed with the first of four categorised climbs which saw the advantage stretch out to a maximum 13 minutes.
Frenchman Bouchard took maximum points over the Cat.3 Monte Morello, the Cat.2 Passo della Consuma and the Cat.2 Passa della Calla to extend his lead to 56 points in the blue jersey king of the mountains competition over Bernal. But the Ag2R-Citroen rider struggled on the long descents – especially when the heavens opened, sparking a collective reaching for gilets and jackets.
Campenaerts, the Hour Record holder, had no appetite for the dangerous descents and the Belgian was the first of the escapees to be swept up by the peloton inside the final 45km. The majority of the break remained intact as the leaders started the fourth and final climb, the Cat.3 Passo del Carnaio, which preceded the final descent to the finish.
Supposedly a sprinter by trade, Vendrame powered clear on a little downhill ledge before being joined by compatriot Brambilla and the antipodean duo of Bennett and Hamilton.
Four became two and then Vendrame put the cherry on the top of a superb all-round performance, taking his first WorldTour win and the biggest since his victory in the 2019 Tro-Bro Leon.
Behind, it looked like the peloton would ride home together as one until Trek-Segafredo duo Giulio Ciccone put in an attack halfway up the final climb, followed swiftly by a counter-move by teammate Nibali. The two Italians combined together but never had a big enough gap to make it stick.
‘You can count on the Shark’ – Nibali and Trek-Segafredo spice up Stage 12
But Nibali still had another trick up his sleeve, the 2013 and 2016 champion trying his luck on the final descent – and forcing Ineos to panic, resulting in that crash by Moscon. Moscon was soon back on his bike, while the Shark’s time gain was a paltry seven seconds – putting him 4’04” behind Bernal on GC – but it was a reminder of the challenges ahead for the Colombian race leader and his team.
The Giro continues on Friday with the pan-flat 198km Stage 13 from Ravenna to Verona, which will reopen the doors to the sprinters and the battle for the maglia ciclamino ahead of Saturday’s pink showdown on Monte Zoncolan.
Stage 12 results
1. Andrea Vendrame (Ita) AG2R Citroën Team 5:43:48
2. Christopher Hamilton (Aus) Team DSM
3. George Bennett (NZ) Jumbo-Visma +15
4. Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
5. Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane +1:12
6. Geoffrey Bouchard (Fra) AG2R Citroën Team +1:25
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