Alberto Dainese delivered the first home victory of this year’s Giro d’Italia as he won stage 11 in Reggio Emilia.
The 24-year-old upset the bigger name sprinters as he powered his way past Fernando Gaviria, Simone Consonni and Arnaud Demare to win on the line and take his first victory in two years – and his first in a Grand Tour.
Mark Cavendish and Caleb Ewan were both too far back – Cavendish perhaps paying for the loss of key lead-out man Michael Morkov to illness – but Dainese had been alongside Cavendish when he launched his attack, finding space on the left to come from well back in the pack.
Dainese had expected to be riding in support of DSM team-mate Cees Bol, but made the most of a late change of plan.
“In the morning the plan was to go for Cees in the sprint but in the last kilometres we swapped because he didn’t feel so good. I tried to stay relaxed and following the guys.
“To have Romain (Bardet), third in the GC, giving me a lead out to the last corner showed how we work as a team.
“I was a bit boxed in but found a gap on the left and in the last 20 metres I came past (Gaviria) and that felt super.”
With the threat of crosswinds not materialising, the sprint finish at the end of the 203km stage from Santarcangelo di Romagna allowed Juan Pedro Lopez to retain the leader’s pink jersey for another day.
However, there was one notable change at the top of the general classification with Richard Carapaz using the bonus sprint to pick up three seconds which moved him up to second, 12 seconds off pink.
That bumps Joao Almeida and Bardet to third and fourth, with Jai Hindley, Guillaume Martin and Mikel Landa the other riders still within 30 seconds of Lopez as the race passes the halfway mark.
The day began with confirmation that Biniam Girmay had been forced to pull out of the race after injuring his eye while celebrating his historic stage win on Tuesday.
Girmay became the first black African to win a stage of a Grand Tour when he beat Mathieu Van Der Poel in a reduced sprint in Jesi, but his celebrations were cut short when he was struck in the eye by the cork from a Prosecco bottle on the podium, with his debut Grand Tour now over.
“Yesterday when I arrived (at the hotel) after the hospital, the bad moment, I enjoyed it a bit with my team-mates, the staff, everybody,” Girmay said in a video posted by the Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert Materiaux team.
“I am happy now, I was a bit sad about what happened with the champagne but when I came back they were super happy.
“But today unluckily I didn’t start the race because still, my eye, I need some rest to give more power to the eye. I’m just looking forward to the rest of the season. Thank you to everybody who supported me and pushed me. I’m OK now. See you soon.”