Nacer Bouhanni stormed to victory in Stage 10 of the Giro d’Italia for FDJ.fr over the 173-kilometre route to Salsomaggiore Terme.
The Frenchman notched his third stage victory of the tour in a three-way sprint finish, crossing the line ahead of Giacomo Nizzolo of Trek Factory Racing and Michael Matthews of Orica-GreenEDGE, who finished second and third respectively.
The result keeps BMC’s Cadel Evans in possession of the pink jersey after his team engineered a strong finish to the stage; the Australian avoided an almighty pile-up to finish just shy of the leaders. However, they did lose their first rider of the tour so far, as Yannick Eijssen suffered what looked like a nasty blow.
Evans finished ninth in the stage, as reported here by his team's official Twitter account:
Here are the results after a thrilling stage and the overall classification ahead of Stage 11, which will see the riders tackle the 249 kilometres from Collecchio to Savona:
|1||Nacer Bouhanni (Fra)||FDJ.fr|
|2||Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita)||Trek Factory Racing|
|3||Michael Matthews (Aus)||Orica GreenEDGE|
|4||Roberto Ferrari (Ita)||Lampre-Merida|
|5||Enrico Battaglin (Ita)||Bardiani-CSF|
|1||Cadel Evans (Aus)||BMC Racing Team||42:50:47|
|2||Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col)||Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team||0:00:57|
|3||Rafal Majka (Pol)||Tinkoff-Saxo||0:01:10|
|4||Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita)||AG2R La Mondiale||0:01:20|
|5||Steve Morabito (Swi)||BMC Racing Team||0:01:31|
|6||Fabio Aru (Ita)||Astana Pro Team||0:01:39|
|7||Diego Ulissi (Ita)||Lampre-Merida||0:01:43|
|8||Wilco Kelderman (Ned)||Belkin Pro Cycling Team||0:01:44|
|9||Nairo Alexander Quintana Rojas (Col)||Movistar Team||0:01:45|
|10||Robert Kiserlovski (Cro)||Trek Factory Racing||0:01:49|
Highlights to follow
After Monday’s rest day, the riders were keen to set a strong precedent for the second half of the tour. That was especially clear in the cases of Marco Bandiera and Andrea Fedi, who made a surge for the front very early on.
Who will win the Giro d'Italia?
The duo—who have made plenty of early breaks throughout the tour—sought to put the pressure on their opponents and steal a march after a ponderous opening to the stage; with 13 kilometres gone, they’d already built up a substantial lead of eight-and-a-half minutes.
But as is often the case when riders make such an early breakaway, their lead was gradually whittled down throughout the course of the race, with a sizeable peloton in pursuit.
In among the chasing group where the BMC riders—trying to facilitate a strong finish for Evans—and a host of the Team Sky bikers, who were looking to give Ben Swift the best possible chance for his first Grand Tour stage win.
With 20 kilometres remaining, Eijssen was stretchered off the course in a neck brace after an innocuous-looking fall, and his influence will prove to be a big miss for BMC.
Nevertheless, his BMC team continued to haul in the leaders, and with 15 kilometres remaining it was apparent we were in store for a very tight sprint finish. Fedi and Bandiera were engulfed by the peloton as the kilometres remaining ticked into single figures and the riders started to size themselves up for the latter stages.
Everyone enjoys a sprint finish, of course, but the technical nature of the descent toward the end of the race meant things could get very tricky for the riders hurtling down toward the finish.
Team Sky continued to force the pace as the stage moved into the final knockings, meaning the likes of Bouhanni, Nizzolo and Matthews had to work exceptionally hard to keep in touch. A stellar effort from Team Sky's Dario Cotaldo strung the peloton out into single file as the riders approached the tricky descent.
But with around a half-kilometre remaining, a host of the riders in the mix were taken out, as Garmin-Sharp's Tyler Farrar hit the deck. Cycling writer Blazin' Saddles was at a loss to explain what caused the crash:
Farrar inexplicably hits the deck and causes chaos as Bouhanni takes his third win on the #giro— Blazin' Saddles (@saddleblaze) May 20, 2014
It left a rather diminished group hunting down the finish line, with Bouhanni eventually proving to be too powerful once again. Swift came home in eighth position despite the stellar work done by his teammates in the approach to the finish, whilst Evans will have been delighted with a ninth-place finish that keeps him well out in front in the overall classification.
The 23-year-old Bouhanni has shown incredible levels of maturity so far in the tour, and he'll be eyeing a couple more stage wins before the Giro comes to an end.
In terms of the overall classification, it's difficult to see past Evans keeping hold of the pink jersey for the remainder of the tour. He showed superb racing nous to steer clear of trouble throughout Stage 10, and that experience—not to mention his fine teammates—should see him emerge as the 2014 winner.