On the first summit finish in the 2012 Giro d’Italia – a 205km route from Recanati to Rocca di Cambio – Paolo Tiralongo (Astana) and Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) bolted off the front of an elite group of GC contenders in the final few hundred meters, where the road becomes brutally steep. The Astana rider took the sprint to the line for the win, his second Giro stage win in as many years.
Scarponi finished right behind in the same time for second on the day, with Frank Schleck (RadioShack-Nissan) and Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) three seconds back in third and fourth respectively. Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Barracuda) rounded out the top five.
As expected the GC saw a change at the top, with Hesjedal, who was the highest place contender at the start of the day, taking enough time out of previous race leader Adriano Malori (Lampre-ISD) to steal the pink jersey of the overall race leader – Malori dropped quickly off the back on the last climb with about 15km to go.
While he knows it will be difficult to keep it all the way to Milan, Hesjedal – the first Canadian to ever wear pink – was very happy to get this opportunity. “I didn’t want to let this possibility go, and I have to thank the whole team, especially [Christian] Vande Velde, for this incredible dream they’re giving me,” he said. “For me the aim is to wear the pink jersey for as long as possible.”
Tiralongo rose to second overall, 15 seconds behind the Canadian, and Rodriguez climbed to third, 17 seconds back. Americans Christian Vande Velde and Peter Stetina, both on Garmin-Barracuda, round out the top five on GC, 21 seconds behind, with Stetina also grabbing the white jersey of the best young rider for his efforts.
It was the first stage in which the overall favorites started to show their cards with the likes of two-time previous winner Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale) taking eighth on the stage, nine seconds down, to move up to that same position overall. Czech Roman Kreuziger (Astana) also stuck with the leading group and is now seventh overall.
The day’s main break went off almost from the start of the stage, with three riders getting free and a fourth joining soon after. They stayed away until the peloton, lead mostly by the Lampre-ISD team of Scarponi and Damiano Cunego, ate up their over 8-minute lead, early in the final climb— a 16km run up to the town of Rocca di Cambio.
That’s when the attacks started to come fast and furious. Stefano Pirazzi (Colnago-CSF) got free and José Herrada (Movistar) soon joined. The two stayed out front, maintaining about a 30-second gap for much of the climb. Riders from the main chase group tried to bridge, including three different Androni-Giocatolli riders having a go, but all got caught quickly.
The two riders were finally caught at under 1km to go, with the decisive move coming soon after lead by Scarponi, with Tiralongo finding just enough left in his legs to sprint around him in the last few meters.
“After the finish I didn’t have any oxygen; I was really exhausted,” said Tiralongo. “It was a very hard and interminable stage. Already I had to absorb the tiredness from yesterday [Friday] and tomorrow will be even harder.”
Scarponi was thinking more about the GC than the stage, but said he wanted to test his form. “Honestly I wasn’t thinking about attacking, but I found myself in an excellent position at the end and I tested the legs given that I was there,” he said. “It was a good response – I’d have liked to have won but my aim doesn’t change.”