Enrico Battaglin (Bardiani-CSF) won stage 14 of the Giro d’Italia on Saturday.
An early break of 21 riders built a lead of more than nine minutes during the mountainous 164km stage from Agliè to Oropa. But when the ground tilted skyward for the final time a lead group containing Jan Polanc (Lampre-Merida), Jarlinson Pantana (Colombia), Dario Cataldo (Sky) was off the front and looked set to contest the victory.
Suddenly, Battaglin rocketed up from behind as Cataldo launched his push to the line, and the Bardiani rider sailed past to take his second stage win of this Giro. Cataldo hung on for second with Pantano third.
“The last kilometer, I was really suffering,” said Battaglin. “It was a hard pace all day long. I thought I had lost it. I saw Cataldo leading out the Colombian, and I just felt a final surge, and decided to give it all in the final 100 meters. It’s a huge victory for me and for my team.”
Cataldo was predictably disappointed to lose the stage, but tipped his hat to Battaglin.
“This Giro didn’t work out like I had hoped, because I wanted to fight for the GC. Then I had to change the chip to look for stages,” he said. “Today we knew would be a good opportunity. I was trying to save the legs as best I could. Battaglin was very brave, and he played it just right. Of course I am disappointed not to win the stage.”
In the overall, Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) retained the overall lead, but saw his rivals take back some time. Runner-up Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) is now 32 seconds down, with Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) third at 1:35.
“Today was a hard day,” Uran said. “Every day is going to be explosive. Today the team supported me well. I knew that they were going to attack. There were a few riders ahead, but the team was riding a steady tempo. I didn’t have any problems. I am calm, the team is going well, I am still in pink.”
Evans, who finished 21st on the stage, made a big push in the final 50 meters, reducing his deficit to Uranwith one week of the race to go.
“It might have been a few more seconds, but there was a bit of a wave (of other riders) in front of me,” Evans said. “Someone set a really hard tempo at the start of the climb. That eliminated a lot of riders who might have ridden tempo — Samuel Sanchez or Steve Morabito — who could have been by my side later in the climb. So all the leaders were isolated quite early.”
As for Majka, he was delighted with how the stage played out.
“It was a very hard stage. I went pretty hard on the first climbs, and I didn’t feel great on the last climb,” he said. “I am content, because I was still able to take some time on Evans and Uran. It’s only starting now, the real Giro. The harder the climb, the better it is for me.”
Domenico Pozzovivo (AG2R La Mondiale), sitting fourth overall at 2:11, took back some time on the day, but had hoped to do more.
“I wanted to try,” he said. “(Nairo) Quintana came up, but he didn’t pull through. I lost a little speed in the finale, but it was a good try. I took back a little time. We cannot let these opportunities go by without trying.”