Giro d'Italia
The charging peloton came within seconds of...

Did the break win or the sprinters lose? A little bit of both

The sprinters missed an opportunity and perhaps provided some inspiration for future breakaways

RIVAROLO CANAVESE, Italy (VN) — Friday’s 13th stage couldn’t have gone better for Marco Canola (Bardiani CSF). The 25-year-old snuck into the day’s main breakaway, then collaborated to hold off the sprinters, before claiming the ultimate prize with a stage victory at the Giro d’Italia.

Or was it the other way around? The chasing pack was working to set up another bunch sprint, but eased up over wet, slippery roads, and miscalculated the escape’s advantage. The sprinters, above all Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ), lost.

“I won. It was my biggest win so far, one of what I hope is many,” Canola said. “It also means a lot to our team, a second division team with a wild card invitation. We won because we planned it right.”

Canola led out his breakaway companions into the final corner, just as the main pack was breathing down their necks, and beat Jackson Rodriguez (Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela) and Frenchman Angelo Tulik (Europcar).

Bouhanni (FDJ) led the chasing pack at 11 seconds back, frustrated at losing a chance to win for a fourth Giro stage.

“Congratulations to Canola,” said Bouhanni, who retained the points jersey. “The sprinters could have had their chance, but no one was giving us a hand. Or if they did, it came too late.”

The 157-kilometer stage, cutting north across Piedmont around Turin, seemed to be unfolding according to plan. A six-man escape broke free, and built a gap of 2:56 at 50km. With the Giro’s hardest stages looming in the Alps, this was likely the sprinters’ last chance until Trieste.

Somewhere north of Turin, though, something went wrong. It started to rain, and then hail began to fall, forcing the sprint teams to play it safe. That gave the breakaway extra rope.

Typically, a chasing pack can cut one minute off an escape’s advantage for every 10km. The pack had the leaders on a short leash, but they failed in the ultimate goal.

“Of course, I’m happy Marco won, but if I could analyse the chase, I’d say that they failed,” said Bardiani sport director Roberto Reverberi.

“The other teams, Cannondale or Trek, or both, should have given manpower to FDJ’s chase for Bouhanni. By the time Garmin started, under three kilometers to go, it was too late.”

Garmin hit the front in a desperate attempt for Tyler Farrar. In the final kilometers, though, the gap was not coming down. The escape dangled at 1:07 at 8km kilometers, and remained at 56 seconds at 4km.

“We were gambling,” said Trek’s Giacomo Nizzolo. “Bouhanni is clearly faster given he has already won three stages. We were trying to find a way to beat him. By forcing his team to work, we hoped that it would be weakened in its leadout, and we’d win. That obviously didn’t work out.”

Cycling derives some of its charm from its uncertainty. Most experts predicted a sprint, but what they got was a surprise, and a pleasant one, especially for Bardiani.

“That move today gave hope to every escape group,” Nizzolo said. “Sometimes you stay clear and you win.”