Geraint Thomas defended the pink jersey in a severely reduced stage 13 of the Giro d’Italia.
Einer Rubio (Movistar) defeated Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) and Alexander Cepeda (EF Education-EasyPost) in a three-up sprint from the breakaway to take the stage win.
The day began with the news that the first half of the stage that was billed as being one of the most difficult of the whole Giro had been removed due to bad weather, and ended with a bad-tempered contest between Rubio, Pinot and Cepeda for the stage win.
Pinot was frustrated with his breakaway companions, especially Cepeda, for not helping him with the pace-setting, and attacked them constantly on the final climb. But the trio remained together, even after Cepeda tried his own attacks, and the three-up sprint was won by Rubio.
Thomas (Inoes Grenadiers) held on to the pink jersey as he finished in a small group of favourites that made it to the Crans-Montana summit, having not been subjected to any serious attacks on the climb.
He finished in a group of favourites just seven-riders strong, also featuring GC rivals João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates), Eddie Dunbar (Jayco-Alula), Lennard Kämna (Bora-Hansgrohe), Damiano Caruso (Bahrain-Victorious), Primož Roglič, and his Jumbo-Visma teammate Sepp Kuss.
There was no change in the GC, apart from Pinot, who moves up from fifteenth to tenth overall.
Thomas recognised Pinot as a potential threat, but felt his Ineos Grenadiers handled the situation well.
“We stayed calm”, he said at the finish.
“When Pinot went… we stayed in control. When Swifty [Ben Swift] and Pavel [Sivakov] weren’t too far behind. Really good rides by them, to stay close. They came back on the descent and then the valley so they could ride the first part of the climb. So it was all under control. Pinot’s a great rider, ideally we don’t want him to gain a heap of time, but the boys controlled it really well.”
None of the GC riders nearer to him on the GC made similar attempts to gain time on him, and Thomas suggested that the wind on the final climb might have put them off.
“The way the wind was at the end made it quite hard for attacks. I was waiting for some big attacks, but I think Primož was probably happy to leave me in the jersey for a few more days and let us control the race. Biding his time for next week, that’s the feeling I’m getting from him.”
There was much drama and confusion at the start of the day, as the organisers revised a new route for the riders to take.
The decision was made for the riders to travel via team bus to a new official start in La Châble at the bottom of the Croix de Coeur, after completing the neutralised section of the originally planned stage start in Borgofranco d’Ivrea.
The start was delayed by about three hours, and then another half hour as the rest of the team buses made their way to the new start.
By the time the race got going, the rain that had been the reason for the revised group had thankfully mostly eased off.
Reduced from 199km to just 74.6km, it was an intense day even if the big mountain of Gran San Bernardo was taken out from it, and attacks were launched right from the start.
On the Croix de Coeur, a four-man group was established, and made it to the top together: Pinot, Rubio, Cepeda, and Derek Gee (Israel-PremierTech).
They worked well initially together, but Pinot began to remonstrate with the others when he felt they weren’t pulling their weight in the valley road leading to the final climb.
Once they reached the climb, Pinot attacked incessantly, but although Gee was distanced each time Cepeda clawed his way back, and was followed soon by Rubio.
They were therefore together in the final kilometre, when Cepeda went for a long sprint for victory.
He got a gap, but Rubio managed to bring him back before the finish, then continued to open a gap and hold off an attempted recovery by Pinot to take the stage victory.
The Giro d’Italia will continue tomorrow with a flatter stage not expected to have much of an impact on the GC.
GIRO D’ITALIA STAGE 13 RESULT
1. Einer Rubio (Col) Movistar, in 2-16-21
2. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) Groupama-FDJ), at 0-06
3. Alexander Cepeda (Eca) EF Education-EasyPost, at 0-12
4. Derek Gee (Can) Israel-Premier Tech, at 1-01
5. Valentin Paret-Paintre (Fra) AG2R Citroën Team, at 1-29
6. Hugh Carthy (GBR) EF Education-EasyPost, at s.t.
7. João Almeida (Por) UAE Team Emirates, at 1-35
8. Eddie Dunbar (Irl) Jayco-AlUla
9. Geraint Thomas (GBR) Ineos Grenadiers
10. Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma), all at s.t.
GC STANDINGS AFTER STAGE 13
- Geraint Thomas (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, in 51-20-01
- Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma, at 2s
- João Almeida (Por) UAE Team Emirates, at 22s
- Andreas Leknessund (Nor) Team DSM, at 42s
- Damiano Caruso (Ita) Bahrain Victorious, at 1-28
- Lennard Kämna (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 1-52
- Eddie Dunbar (Irl) Jayco AlUla, in 2-32
- Thymen Arensman (Ned) Ineos Grenadiers, at 2-45
- Laurens De Plus (Bel) Ineos Grenadiers, at 3-08
- Thibaut Pinot (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 3-13