Alberto Dainese (Team DSM) took Italy’s first victory of the 2022 Giro d’Italia, sprinting to victory on stage 11 in Reggio Emilia.
The Venetian made his jump from a long way back on the fast finish, coming around Simone Consonni (Cofidis) to snatch what looked like a certain victory from Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates). Consonni ended up third, while maglia ciclamino Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) took fourth.
A two-man battle for the win looked likely in the closing metres as Démare hit the front to launch the sprint at around 200 metres to go with Gaviria in his wheel. The Colombian came up front as his rival seemed to slow having jumped a touch too early, and in the dying metres, he looked set for a sixth career Giro stage victory before Dainese showed an as-yet-unseen turn of speed to shoot past.
The 24-year-old, who has stage wins at the Czech Cycling Tour and Herald Sun Tour on his career palmarès, took it on the line by half a wheel length, securing what is by some distance the biggest result of his career.
“It’s not really my home stage, that comes in stage 19. But it feels pretty amazing to win a stage in the Giro,” Dainese said after the finish. “Anywhere would feel amazing, especially being so close to home it’s incredible.
“I can’t believe it happened. This morning the plan was to go for Cees in the sprint but in the last kilometres, we swapped because he wasn’t feeling so good. Then I was just trying to stay relaxed and following the guys.
“It’s insane that Romain is sitting third in the GC, and he gave me a lead out to the last corner. That shows that we really work as a team. Then I was a bit boxed in in the middle and I found a gap on the left and I just went to the line with Gaviria on the right. The last 20 metres I came past him, and it feels super.”
On a pan-flat stage across the plains of Emilia-Romagna that promised little and delivered exactly that, there was little else to stick in the memory beyond the sprint finish and surprise result.
The crosswinds threatened to blow, but in the end, they had little effect on the race, while Dries De Bondt (Alpecin-Fenix) livened up the final 60km with a solo attack that saw him battle all the way to the 1.5km go mark.
The day’s action brought some change in the battle for the maglia rosa, as Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) snatched three bonus seconds at the intermediate sprint thanks to some clever work by his team. He now lies second overall, 12 seconds down on Juan Pedro López (Trek-Segafredo).
Démare remains in the lead of the points classification, while Diego Rosa (Eolo-Kometa) holds the maglia azzurra as top climber, and López is still the best young rider.
How it unfolded
Stage 11 of the Giro d’Italia was yet another long day out in the race at 203km from Santarcangelo di Romagna to Reggio Emilia. It would be the seventh stage at 190km or more in just 11 days, and to make matters worse the flat run skirted the Apennines but featured no climbing whatsoever.
The hours and hours in the saddle would offer no real hope or reward for anyone venturing out into the break of the day, barring the regular two intermediate sprints spaced out in the middle of the stage.
Instead, hopes of any excitement during the stage would be pinned on the wind, which was expected to blow during the second half of the day.
If there was to be any drama during the five hours of the stage, it didn’t come at the start as the flag dropped and two Italian ProTeam riders immediately rode away with no battle whatsoever among any other prospective breakaway men.
The leader of both the breakaway and intermediate sprint classification, Filippo Tagliani (Drone Hopper-Androni Giocattoli), was out front once again, accompanied by Luca Rastelli (Bardiani-CSF-Faizanè) in the move.
A mix of teams worked at the front in the early stages, staying alert in case the wind gusted. Groupama-FDJ quickly took over, though, working for maglia ciclamino holder Arnaud Démare.
The two breakaway men attained a maximum advantage of 4:30, and Tagliani duly led the way over the intermediate sprint after 76km, while Mark Cavendish (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl) beat Démare and Giacomo Nizzolo (Israel-Premier Tech) for minor points in the peloton.
Just past the midway point of the stage, with 92km left to run, the breakaway was already caught as the peloton sped along with the wind in mind. It didn’t take long for it to have an effect, either, with a small split briefly occurring at the rear of the pack.
Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) was the highest-profile rider caught out, though things were all back together in a matter of moments. QuickStep-AlphaVinyl upped the pace in an attempt to create another split soon afterwards, but that move would come to nothing.
Ineos Grenadiers later delivered Richard Carapaz to three bonus seconds at the second intermediate sprint, giving the Ecuadorian an unexpected, if small, GC boost.
The pace dropped thereafter, but at 58km to go, Dries De Bondt (Alpecin-Fenix) broke the boredom with a dig off the front. The former Belgian champion took a minute on the peloton in short order and still held 40 seconds as he raced into the final 40km of the stage.
De Bondt held on for quite some time, the peloton happy to let him hang out front as the promised wind inevitably had no effect on proceedings as they sped towards the finish line. He was eventually brought back at the 1.5km mark after holding at around 20 seconds for kilometre after kilometre before his advantage vanished on the final run-in.
Groupama-FDJ and QuickStep-AlphaVinyl had taken control of the peloton by then, along with Ineos Grenadiers, who sought to keep their GC man Richard Carapaz safe. The duelling trains fully formed at the 3km banner
It was a move from BikeExchange-Jayco that finally ended De Bondt’s turn out front, with Groupama-FDJ taking over once more heading into the final kilometre. They and QuickStep started the sprint in what turned into a messy final launch, with Démare hitting the front ahead of the rivals before eventually being passed by Gaviria and Dainese in the frantic final metres.
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