After pedaling with the strongest for most of the day, four Team Colombia’s representatives – Darwin Atapuma, Fabio Duarte, Robinson Chalapud and Jarlinson Pantano – reached the finish at 2.31, but managed to get home safe despite a number of crashes occurred into the final 25 km of the day.
The tarmac was made slippery by the heavy showers that poured on the toughest part of a stage that included 4 categorized climbs and plenty of short and steep climb that severely tested the riders’ legs. The biggest victim of the day was highly-touted contender Bradley Wiggins, who crashed on the final descent just ahead of Colombia’s riders, and eventually finished along with them after receiving the support of Colombian Sergio Henao and Rigoberto Uran. Overnight leader Luca Paolini (Katusha) also finished in the same group, giving up the jersey to Spaniard Benat Intxausti (Movistar).
“We got to the top of the final climb in the strong men group – Fabio Duarte said afterwards – and just in the wake of the small group of attackers that created a little gap before the descent. Wiggins’ crash ultimately divided the pack, and so we needed to chase. We were quite lucky to dodge him actually, even if both Chala and Leo eventually crashed later in the descent.” After the race, Team Doctor Massimiliano Mantovani clarified that no significant injuries have been suffered by the riders involved in crashes – Chalapud, Duque and Dalivier Ospina.
Darwin Atapuma was on the same note after the effort: “We knew this stage would have been tough, but it proved more than we expected. Anyway, we climbed with the strongest on those short and steep climbs, but the descents were just crazy. The tarmac was shiny and incredibly slippery – even a descent specialist like Nibali went down – and we did our best to get home safe.”
A six-man escape moved away at km 30, after a very fast start, with a fiery battle among the riders in a favorable day for breakaways. After reaching a 7-minute maximum advantage, the leading riders splintered on Chieti’s climb, with Emanuele Sella (Androni) and Hansen hanging clear. After a crash by the Italian rider, Hansen imposed his pace on Santa Maria de Criptis climb, moving on solo to the stage win. In the GC contenders’ group, the attacks by Danilo Di Luca (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia) and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) put Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) on the back foot, until the crash that ultimately dropped the Brit.
All in all, Sports Director Valerio Tebaldi could not complain with his guys’ performance in a tough and hectic stage: “Our guys handled well a very tough stage, always showing up among the strongest in uphill sections. If not for the rain,cthe stage would have finished in a 65-man sprint, with Leo Duque having a strong chance.”
Tomorrow, a long, 54,8 time trial expects the riders, from Gabicce Mare to Saltara, in a stage that will definitely have a big impact on the Giro classification.