SESTRI LEVANTE, Italy (AFP) — After a risky descent off the last summit, Lars Bak (Lotto-Belisol) slipped away from a seven-man breakaway with 1.7km left to win stage 12 of the Giro d’Italia.
Bak had almost lost contact with the group on the final descent, but caught back on and went right off the front when it flattened out. He managed to hold off the chasing group to the line, winning by 11 seconds over the rest of the break.
“I’m happy. It was not an easy stage,” said Bak. “Normally I should not have done the Giro d’Italia. I was hoping to win a stage, but to do it is really, really difficult.
“I am not a sprinter, I am not a climber. You have to ride into breakaways and take your chances. Luckily the breakaway stayed away to the finish … I am very happy”
Sandy Casar (FDJ-BigMat) took the sprint for second from the rest of the break, 11 seconds behind Bak, just ahead of Andrey Amador (Movistar) in third. The Frenchman also moved up to third on GC, 26 seconds back.
The win was Bak’s 10th career victory and he acknowledged that he has “won a lot of them with an attack in the last kilometer.”
“This time I went to the back of the breakaway and waited for the right moment. Sandy Casar chased attacks three times and so then I went from behind. I got 200 meters and they couldn’t catch me. I was lucky but it was perfect timing.”
The main pack came in 3:48 back, with Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha) holding onto his pink jersey as overall leader. Two riders in the break had a shot at taking over the maglia rosa, but the peloton crossed the line just in time for “Purito” to stay in pink.
“Today was anything but easy. It was up and down all day, and we didn’t get a lot of help during the stage to control the breakaway,” said Rodríguez. “Finally in the end Liquigas helped us out a little bit. It’s another day in the bag.
“Today was a difficult day to defend the jersey. I hope to keep it through the weekend, and then we can start to think about overall victory. These coming climbing stages will tell us a lot about who is going to be strong in the Giro.”
Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Barracuda) finished in the main group, and remains in second overall, 17 seconds back.
Friday’s 13th stage is the final chance for sprinters before the onset of the more mountainous stages, with a 121km run linking Savone to Cervere, in the Piedmont. Team Sky sports director Nicolas Portal said his team would be going all out to set up Mark Cavendish for a third stage win.
“Mark made it through the day fine in the red jersey ahead of (Friday),” said Portal. “Friday’s stage has the chance of a bunch sprint so we will look to put Mark in the best possible position and try to get that third stage win.”