After Domenico Pozzovivo’s successful moonlighting as a leadout man for team-mate Biniam Girmay on Tuesday it was Romain Bardet’s unlikely turn to play a huge role in an unexpected victory for his DSM team-mate Alberto Dainese in Wednesday’s Stage 11 to Reggio Emilia.
Frenchman Bardet piloted Dainese around the final bend ahead of the home straight after Team DSM shook up their tactics at the 11th hour and backed the Italian 24-year-old instead of their regular Dutch fast-man Cees Bol in what could be the last mass bunch sprint of the 105th edition of the race.
Forced to come from deep, Dainese expertly passed the more fancied Mark Cavendish (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl), Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) and Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ) on the home straight before emerging from the slipstream of compatriot Simone Consonni (Cofidis) and surge past Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) to deny the Colombian what looked like a certain win.
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“I was a bit boxed in but I found a gap on the left and found Gaviria on the right and the last 20 metres I could pass him – and that feels super,” an emotional Dainese said after becoming the first Italian to win a stage in this year’s Giro.
“This morning the plan was to go for Cees [Bol] in the sprint but at the last few kilometres we swapped because he wasn’t feeling so good. Then I was just trying to stay relaxed and follow the guys. It’s insane that Romain [Bardet], sitting third in GC, gave me a lead-out to the last corner. That shows that we really work as a team.”

‘I can’t believe it happened!’ – Dainese on shock Stage 11 win

Bardet may well have been third in the general classification in the morning, but he ended up fourth after some canny riding from Ecuador’s Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) saw the 2019 winner pick up three bonus seconds in the second intermediate sprint to jump above the Frenchman and Portugal’s Joao Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) into second place overall.
Carapaz trails Juan Pedro Lopez (Trek-Segafredo) by 12 seconds after the Spaniard retained the pink jersey for an eighth day, emerging unscathed from a stage where the threat of crosswinds provided far more drama than the actual crosswinds themselves.
A day governed by the spectre of those crosswinds started in fairly sedate fashion as two Italian riders jumped clear from the gun to build up a maximum lead of five minutes over the pan-flat profile as the mercury pushed a sweltering thirty degrees.
Filippo Tagliani (Drone Hopper-Androni Giacattoli) and Luca Rastelli (Bardiani-CSF-Faizane) were swept up shortly before the race passed through Bologna at the halfway point of the 203km ride when a directional change was touted to ratchet up the tension on exposed roads.
Before the sudden termination of their uneventful foray off the front Tagliani won the intermediate sprint at Toscanella di Dozza to extend his lead in the sprints prize.
Those crosswinds never really materialised and the only flashpoint came when the out-of-sorts Ewan found himself at the wrong end of an early split before being led back to the fold by his dependable team-mate Thomas De Gendt.
Carapaz pulled off a coup by sprinting to three bonus seconds at the second sprint at San Giovanni in Persiceto after some expert marshalling by his Ineos Grenadiers road captain Ben Swift.
Swift had a barnstorming ride on the nose of the peloton, the British national champion using all his experience to ensure his team-mates were alert to the dangers and never caught out - although Richie Porte did hit the deck on one corner after a rider in front suddenly applied the brakes.

Dries De Bondt of Belgium and Team Alpecin - Fenix attacks during the 105th Giro d'Italia 2022

Image credit: Getty Images

Dries De Bondt (Alpecin-Fenix) took advantage of a lull in proceedings to ride clear with 60km remaining. The former Belgian national champion exploited a side-tailwind that was little more than a stiff breeze to carve out a lead of almost two minutes while the stressful jostling for positions behind played out as the wider roads were replaced by narrower lanes on the approach to Reggio Emilia.
The plucky lone leader came within 1,200m of a famous victory but the sprinters’ teams timed the catch just right and De Bondt was swallowed up ahead of the flamme rouge.
All eyes were on Ewan, Cavendish and the maglia ciclamino of Demare but all three fast-men were forced to sit up once Gaviria took the sprint by the scruff of its neck.
Just as the Colombian looked certain to secure his first Grand Tour stage win in three years, Dainese emerged from the slipstream of Consonni to take the biggest win of his career with an incredibly fast finish.
Demare's fourth place saw him extend his lead in the maglia ciclamino standings following the earlier withdrawal of Biniam Girmay, his nearest challenger, with an injury sustained from a Prosecco cork while celebrating his historic win on Tuesday.
Thursday’s Stage 12 from Parma to Genova features three third-category climbs and looks to be a day where a breakaway could go the distance. A lot will depend on which sprinters decide to stay on after what may have been the last guaranteed bunch sprint of the race – a sprint which was won not by one of the established stars but by an Italian rookie in Alberto Dainese who finally broke the winless run of the host nation with his sensational turn of pace.
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