Veteran Michael Rogers took Stage 11 of the Giro d'Italia with an impressively strong ride, dominating the field behind him.
The Australian re-announced himself on the world stage after a recent suspension and won by 10 seconds.
Rogers was too strong for the pack in the final two kilometers as they started to close, and he powered away to take a comfortable finish.
The Tinkoff Saxo rider showed his fitness is high despite previous doubts and a lack of racing, and he got his tactics right on the day.
The hugely experienced rider cruised home in a time of 5:48:07.
Here are the classifications for Stage 11 and the Giro d'Italia standings:
|1||Mick Rogers (AUS)||Tinkoff Saxo|
|2||Simon Geschke (GER)||Team Giant Shimano|
|3||Enrico Battaglin (ITA)||Bardiani CSF|
|4||Wilco Kelderman (NED)||Belkin Pro Cycling Team|
|5||Gianluca Brambilla (ITA)||Omega Pharma|
|1||Cadel Evans (AUS)||BMC Racing Team||48:39:04|
|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||Wilco Kelderman (NED)||Lampre-Merida||0:01:44|
|8||Nairo Alexander Quintana Rojas (Col)||Movistar Team||0:01:45|
|9||Robert Kiserlovski (Cro)||Trek Factory Racing||0:01:49|
|10||Ivan Basso (ITA)||Cannondale||0:02:01|
The day started with the news that Michael Matthews had abandoned the race due to injury.
The 23-year-old had been caught up in a huge crash in Stage 9, with the Orica-GreenEdge rider damaging a thigh. He managed to finish the stage, but the injury has ended his run.
Matthews had only been narrowly beaten in Stage 10, but the team decided that his race was over. They released a statement, per CyclingNews.com, saying:
After consulting with our medical staff, we have decided that it was the most prudent decision to take Michael out of the Giro.
He fought hard to get a result today [stage 10] and it was extremely impressive, knowing that he had a lot of pain after his crash the day before yesterday. He has a substantial contusion and is generally quite bruised, so everything taken into consideration, it was the right thing to do.
Stage 11 began with a neutral start as all the riders stuck close and did not attack too early. After 30 kilometers of the race, the peloton stayed firm with no rider committing to a breakaway due to the fast pace being set.
As they hit the first climb of the day at Passo Cento Croci, still no rider was willing to chance their arm.
Finally, after some 60 minutes of racing, Alexandre Geniz and Tim Wellens took the initiative and decided to attack. But they were soon dragged back into the front pack with their efforts going to waste.
The second climb of the day saw the leading contenders narrow down to 22 riders with a frightening pace being set, opening up a 32-second gap.
A crash in the field on the descent saw Luke Durbridge of Orica-GreenEdge forced to retire from the stage. Double stage winner Diego Ulissi was also involved in the crash but managed to stay on his bike and continue.
The leading group was eventually narrowed to 14 riders who held a five-minute lead in the race, and with around 20 kilometers to go, Rogers set out to attack and flew away from the rest.
The Australian rider had built a 44-second lead in only five kilometers, and he was not to be caught.
With just five kilometers of the race to go, the pack started to make inroads into Rogers' lead, narrowing it down to 11 seconds at one point. But it was simply too late.
The stage was Rogers' first race of the season, and his form and fitness were proven to be superb.
Rogers was delighted with his efforts and he said after the race, per CyclingNews.com:
It was certainly a beautiful moment. The team tried really hard we had Nicolas Roche and Ivan (Rovny) out front. Unfortunately the break came back but it gave me a chance and I made the most of it. It was a spur of the moment. I saw that the team leaders were looking at each other. I saw my opportunity and I took it."
Cadel Evans remains as the overall leader of the race heading into Stage 12, with a healthy lead of 57 seconds over Rigoberto Uran.
Evans is still very much in control overall, and with his stronger events to come, he just needs to stay steady and consistent. The ride for Rogers on Wednesday was magnificent, especially when you consider how long he has been off his bike.
His breakaway was inspired when the rest of the field was not prepared to commit after such a fast pace, and his control and quality in the final minutes of the race was close to perfection. Rogers was a deserved winner on the day and proved that he still has the ability to beat a top-class field.