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Colombians combine to assault final mountain stage of 2013 Giro

TRE CIME DI LAVAREDO, Italy (VN) — Colombia delivered a knockout punch on Sunday in whiteout conditions up the Giro d’Italia’s Tre Cime di Lavaredo climb. Where Eddy Merckx made his name in the climb’s debut in the late 1960s, Colombia’s Escarabajos made their mark.

With the help of Fabio Duarte (Colombia), Carlos Betancur (Ag2r La Mondiale) nabbed the white jersey and Rigoberto Urán (Sky) left Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) behind to seize second overall.

The Giro d’Italia, after a frigid final week, finishes in Brescia on Sunday with a flat stage that should see the results stick.

“I had the Colombians at my side, Betancur and Duarte,” Urán said while swaddled in warm clothes after the finish. “We did some good work.”

The climb debuted in 1967, but the organizer had to annul the results due to snow and over-helpful tifosi pushing riders. Merckx returned, won and rode on to his first grand-tour win the following year. Both times, as on Saturday, it was snowing.

Overall leader Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) shot clear with 2.6km left in the stage. Urán couldn’t keep the overall leader’s pace, but he did leave behind Evans, who started the day 10 seconds ahead of him in second overall.

The move drew out Betancur, who trailed Pole Rafal Majka (Saxo-Tinkoff) by two seconds in the best young rider competition. Betancur bridged to join and lifted Colombia’s spirits.

Journalists at the finish radioed home live comments at a rapid pace. Though they were unable to win the stage, this was close enough: Urán knocking out 2011 Tour de France winner Evans for second place and Betancur taking the white jersey.

Betancur had to fight back from a puncture and subsequent bike change before the base of the climb.

“My teammates did a good job to help me get back to the bunch,” Betancur said. “I was hoping to win the stage but Nibali is a class by himself. I’m very happy with my performance in this Giro — to win the young jersey gives me great motivation for the future.”

Betancur leads the young rider classification by 41 seconds over Majka.

“It’s important for me to finish second overall, that’s a big difference from third place. I wasn’t able to get first, but second is pretty good,” Urán added.

“Nibali is unbelievable. You saw what he did today; he was truly going well. However, finishing second overall is an important result for team Sky and me in this Giro. … It’s what I wanted to achieve because I saw that first overall was out of reach.”

Urán placed seventh overall and won the white jersey last year.

Earlier in the Giro, Urán won the stage to Altopiano del Montasio. The win set him up as Sky’s overall leader as Brad Wiggins was nearing an abandon due to a chest cold.

Duarte, the under-23 world champion in 2008, and team Colombia arrived empty-handed. They lost an opportunity when Friday’s high mountain stage was canceled and narrowly missed a stage win on Saturday. Duarte had to settle for second behind Nibali, 17 seconds down.

However, the ride did sit well with the team sponsor and his country’s minister of sport, Andres Botero, who rode shotgun in the team’s car. He failed to see a win, but left with a feeling of national pride.