Enrico Battaglin took the win in Stage 14 of the 2014 Giro d'Italia, surviving an uphill sprint with three riders following a stage filled with breaks, long flights and back-and-forth battles.
Team Sky shared this picture of the finish line:
Dario Cataldo was beaten at the stripe and finished second, while Jarlinson Pantano ran out of juice late and completed the podium.
|1||Enrico Battaglin||Italy||Bardiani Valvole||4:34:41|
|2||Dario Cataldo||Italy||Team Sky||+0|
The leaders for the pink jersey allowed groups to break from the peloton left and right as they focused on their own battle, and it was Colombia's Nairo Quintana who shone brightest in that group, as he attempts to make up for his dreadful start to the Giro.
Rigoberto Uran spent most of the final climb trying to control the damage, but the man in pink had to go very deep in the fight to hold onto the top spot on the leaderboard, something that could cost him as Sunday's stage doesn't look any easier.
Saturday's stage was seen as a warm-up stage for the favourites, giving some of the lesser riders a chance to shine while the big names stayed quiet. A group of 21 was allowed to break from the pack, and the group stayed mostly together until the finale on the slopes of the Oropa, at which point the race exploded.
Pantano and Cataldo showed the most initiative at the front of the race and eventually broke free from the leading group, as the two gathered forces in the final three kilometres.
Battaglin displayed more patience and used his fellow chasers well, conserving strength he'd use to make a final job towards the lead. William Fotheringham thought the Italian executed the plan to perfection:
if ever there was an example of leaving it late to win a hilltop finish, that was it. perfectly calculated by Battaglin— William Fotheringham (@willfoth) May 24, 2014
The three entered the final straight and got ready for an uphill sprint on cobblestones, and Battaglin clearly had the freshest legs, easily dispatching of his fellow leaders late.
Behind the leaders the real battle for the 2014 Giro went on, as Quintana and Domenico Pozzovivo felt like testing Uran and Cadel Evans surprisingly early in the climb. The Australian seemed to have little difficulty limiting the damage, but Uran looked positively spent when he reached the finish line.
|1||Rigoberto Uran||Colombia||Omega Pharma - Quick Step||57:52:51|
Quintana in particular needed to make up some ground ahead of tomorrow's stage, and he was certainly able to do it today.
Battaglin acknowledged he felt like he was growing towards his best form just mere days ago, via cyclingquotes.com, and he felt like he still had one or two chances at winning a stage:
I know that I was close to the win but I’m happy with my improvement after the 5th place of yesterday and the 7th place in the Foligno stage," Battaglin said. "It means that my shape is growing very well. Today my team did a great stage and we deserved a better result.
Now before the end of the Giro I think I still have at least two chances that are good for me. I believe that I can do better than today if I continue in this way.
The racers will have little time to rest as tomorrow's stage will be even more difficult. A full day of climbing in heavy mountainous terrain will culminate with a finish towards Montecampione, and all of the contenders for the pink jersey will have their eyes set on a result.
Uran will need to recover quickly as Evans wasted little energy on Saturday and Pozzovivo and Quintana both looked very impressive in the final kilometres, and if the Colombian can't keep up tomorrow, his bid for a 2014 Giro victory may very well be over.