Michael Rogers (Tinkoff-Saxo) won stage 11 of the Giro d’Italia on Wednesday.
Rogers attacked with 21.5 kilometers left on the descent following the final climb, and he managed to stave off the chasing peloton in the closing kilometer to win the 249km stage from Correggio to Savona by 10 seconds over Simon Geschke (Giant-Shimano) and Enrico Battaglin (Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox).
“It was certainly a beautiful moment,” Rogers said afterward. “The team tried really hard today. A great opportunity for me and I was able to take advantage of it.”
Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) remains in the pink jersey, holding a 57-second lead over Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and a 1:10 advantage over Rafal Majka (Tinkoff).
The peloton caught up with a breakaway group of six riders with 24km remaining in the stage, right before a fast descent took the riders down into Savona. When the road pointed downhill about a half kilometer later, the field was strung out in single file as everyone navigated the sweeping turns down the backside of Naso di Gatto.
With 21.5km to go, Rogers swung wide of the group and surged ahead.
“[It was] certainly a spur of the moment [decision to attack],” Rogers said. “On the top of the climb, I noticed all the contenders for the general classification were looking at each other.
“My teammate Rafal was well-placed, so I tried. It was very difficult, but I survived.”
Rogers used the entire road on the fast descent, taking the best angles at every turn and then speeding up on the straight sections.
He had a 37-second lead with 10km to go and a 32-second gap at the 5km mark. Using his time trailing skills — he won the world time trial championship from 2003-2005 — Rogers stayed low on his handlebars and cut through the wind to hold off the chase. A short cobblestone section with around 1.5km left seemed to slow down the peloton just enough for Rogers to remain in front.
The win is Rogers’ first since he returned from a provisional doping ban in April. He tested positive for clenbuterol, a banned drug, during the Tour of Beijing last October. He proclaimed his innocence and said he unknowingly ingested the substance in tainted food.
The UCI eventually agreed with Rogers, and he was not punished.
“I am very happy,” Rogers said Wednesday. “It was a very hard stage, very long, very combative right from the start. We rode well from the start. We had two in the breakaway. It was a very difficult moment for me. I always maintained the optimism, there is always light at the end of the tunnel. There are always difficult moments in life, I am glad it’s over.”
Wednesday’s stage contained a pair of category 2 climbs — one early, one late. The Passo Cento Croci, a 13.8km ascent, had an average gradient of 4.5 percent and summitted 66km into the route.
A big descent came after that, during which there was a large crash that affected around 30-40 riders, followed by a flat section and another descent. A few more small hills ensued before a long, 70km flat section brought the race to the base of the second Cat. 2 climb of the day, the Naso di Gatto. The 9km climb started off gradually but grew steeper after the first 2km, averaging more than 8 percent and topping out at 13 percent.
The GC contenders’ teams all positioned themselves at the front of the peloton during the climb, trying to chase down a pack of 14 leaders. As the gap grew smaller, the break panicked and started to implode. Attacks ensued, during which Julian Arredondo (Trek Factory Racing) emerged from the peloton and went after the leaders.
Arredondo caught up to the leaders and eventually found himself at the front of the race, continuing to push the pace up the steep incline. His effort dropped his closest rival on the climb, Georg Preidler (Giant-Shimano), and he crested the mountain first and added to his lead in the mountains classification.
Shortly after, Arredondo slowed and allowed the five riders behind him to catch up. The peloton then joined them before Rogers took control of the race.
Garmin loses Wegmann
Fabian Wegmann (Garmin-Sharp) crashed in the first half of the stage and was forced to abandon the race. Later, Garmin confirmed the extent of the German’s injuries.
“Fabian Wegmann suffered a complete tear of the hamstrings in his left leg during today’s Giro stage,” the statement reads. “He underwent imaging at a local hospital and team medical staff is currently arranging an orthopedic surgical follow up for him in Germany, close to his home.”
The Giro picks up with Thursday’s stage 12, a 42km individual time trial from Barbaresco to Barolo.