Italian Astana rider Fabio Aru took over as leader of the Giro d’Italia from crash victim Alberto Contador on Friday after the rain-hit 13th stage was won by Sacha Modolo.
Italian Modolo hung on in a sprint finish on his home stage to edge compatriots Giacomo Nizzolo and Elia Viviani at Jesolo, near Venice.
A mass crash less than 5km from the line saw long time race leader Contador fall of his bike and the 40secs dropped on Aru saw the pink jersey handed to the Italian by 19secs heading into Saturday’s time-trial.
Australian Richie Porte also took a tumble and lost over 2mins and is now well down the rankings and out of contention at nearly 6mins off the pace.
The 24-year-old Aru, who finished third overall last year, takes the leader’s jersey for the first time in his career.
“It’s a great feeling to finally wear the pink jersey,” said the delighted Aru.
“I’ve waited since the beginning of the race to finally take the lead and now I can look forward to the time-trial tomorrow (Saturday).
“Today (Friday) was very hard, in bad weather, on a route that was flat but with lots of roundabouts and other paraphernalia.
“I was always at the front, in a good position to avoid possible falls, and what happened, happened.
“Now I’m just thinking of tomorrow. It is going to be a very important stage. I will give it everything. But the Giro ends next Sunday in Milan, not before.”
Spaniard Mikel Landa is third overall at 1min 14secs.
On a day of steady rain and run over 147km of flat racing, a trio of Italian Marco Frapporti, Frenchman Jerome Pineau and German Rick Zabel opened up an escape before being reeled in towards the finale.
The accident then played havoc with the chances of several contenders, including Contador, before the rest of the pack raced for home.
It then came down to a long sprint finish that Modolo won by half a bike length after being led in by two of his Lampre teammates.
“Finally I’ve won a stage, my great companion, colleague and friend, Max Richeze, gave me the perfect lead-out, and I just finished off the work of my team,” said Modolo.
“At Fiuggi, I was disappointed with myself. At Forlě the breakaway made it so I didn’t get the chance to sprint, so it was destiny that I would win my home stage.
“I have so many friends standing at the barriers from San Vendemiano, my home village, that this experience is unforgettable.”
Saturday will feature a tough 59.4km time-trial from Treviso to Valdobbiadene and is guaranteed to shake up the overall standings and give Contador a chance to recover his lost time.
1. Sacha Modolo (ITA/LAM) 3hr 03min 08sec, 2. Giacomo Nizzolo (ITA/TRE)
same time, 3. Elia Viviani (ITA/SKY) s.t., 4. Aleksandr Porsev (RUS/KAT) s.t.,
5. Eduard-Michael Grosu (ROU/NIP) s.t., 6. Maximiliano Richeze (ARG/LAM) s.t.,
7. Moreno Hofland (NED/LNL) s.t., 8. Nicola Ruffoni (ITA/BAR) s.t., 9. Luka
Mezgec (SLO/GIA) s.t., 10. Heinrich Haussler (AUS/IAM) s.t.
1. Fabio Aru (ITA/AST) 54hr 20min 35sec, 2. Alberto Contador (ESP/TIN) at
19sec, 3. Mikel Landa (ESP/AST) 1:14, 4. Roman Kreuziger (CZE/TIN) 1:38, 5.
Dario Cataldo (ITA/AST) 1:49, 6. Rigoberto Uran (COL/ETI) 2:02, 7. Damiano
Caruso (ITA/BMC) 2:12, 8. Andrey Amador (CRC/MOV) 2:21, 9. Giovanni Visconti
(ITA/MOV) 2:40, 10. Yury Trofimov (RUS/KAT) 3:15