Race leader Vincenzo Nibali extended his lead over Australia’s Cadel Evans as Mauro Santambrogio won a shortened 14th stage of the Giro d’Italia to claim his maiden win on the race Saturday. Italian Nibali, of the Astana team, came over the finish line in second place after giving his fellow Italian, of the Vini Farini team, the nod to take the stage win unhindered.
Evans, the 2011 Tour de France champion, who started the day 41 seconds behind Nibali, crossed the finish line 33 seconds behind. Saturday’s stage in the high Italian Alps was due to finish in Sestriere, but was shortened by organisers due to fears over cold and wet conditions on the final descent. As snow and rain fell at high altitude, the finish line was lowered to 1908 meters at Jafferau, where BMC leader Evans and Colombian Rigoberto Uran (Team Sky) fell off the pace in a final kilometre which proved just too steep for the duo.
Nibali’s hopes of a maiden Giro win were boosted earlier this week when main rival Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) and defending champion Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin) pulled out due to illness. In the overall standings the Sicilian now has a lead of 1:26 over Evans, and 2:46 on Uran, who has taken the mantle of Sky’s team leader after Wiggins’s retirement from the race.
Santambrogio’s win, meanwhile, pushed the 28-year-old up to fourth place overall but he is nearly three minutes off the pace and not considered a threat to Nibali. After the race was shortened by 12km, from 180km to 168km, a four-man group broke from the peloton and went on to build a lead of nearly eight and a half minutes. They held a four-minute lead at the foot of the final climb, a 7.3km ascent with an average gradient of nine percent. However they were reeled in one by one as the battle for the stage win and for the pickings in the overall race took hold.
Sunday’s 15th stage, due to finish on the summit of the legendary Galibier climb in France, has also been altered due to poor weather conditions. The finish line will now be moved from the Galibier’s altitude of 2642 metres to 2301 meters, at the site of a statue commemorating fallen Italian champion Marco Pantani.