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Friday’s 13th Giro stage proved unlucky for some, with Alberto Contador crashing and losing the pink jersey to Fabio Aru, but for Sacha Modolo, it was the day he claimed his first Giro d’Italia stage win.
The rainy, flat stage followed the script as a day for the sprinters, but it’s rarely so simple at the Giro d’Italia — race leader Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) crashed just outside three kilometers to go. Ahead, Lampre-Merida delivered Modolo to the line with a perfect lead-out to cap off a short ride from Montecchio Maggiore to Jesolo.
The late crash started on the left side and spread across the peloton, to the right, where Contador was positioned.
“We were really well-placed in the stage, but you could see the crash coming,” Contador said. “Of course, first of all, I checked to see if I was okay, and I tried to get a bike, any bike. I don’t think the [time] loss has been too much. Of course, seconds cost a lot to get back, but the thing that most worries me is of course my injury, but I think I’m okay. I think I can make the time up.”
The race leader quickly grabbed a bike from teammate Chris Juul-Jensen and dashed to the line, riding with urgency to limit his losses. But he was unable to keep his GC lead over Astana’s Aru.
“When you crash, you automatically put yourself in a rigid position,” Contador continued. “Of course, the shoulder hurts, but I want to think positively, just thinking of getting better from this crash, get some ice on it and make sure it doesn’t get too inflamed so I’m okay for tomorrow.”
Modolo’s team delivered a perfect lead-out, dominating the front in the final kilometer. The Italian held off a late surge from his countryman, Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek Factory Racing), to win. Elia Viviani (Sky) finished third.
“Finally I’ve won a stage,” said Modolo. “My great companion, colleague, and friend, Max Richeze, gave me the perfect lead-out, and I just finished off the work of my team.
“Perfect? No, because there was the crash of course. [Roberto] Ferrari was involved,” Modolo said. “There were of course a few curves and things, all the road furniture — it didn’t make it too simple. It was really slippery on the way in.”
Though the 27-year-old’s first Giro stage victory was a crowd-pleaser, all eyes were on the GC riders. After the late crash, Aru leads the overall by 19 seconds over Contador. Aru’s teammate, Mikel Landa is third, 1:14 back.
“It’s a great feeling to finally wear the pink jersey,” Aru told AFP. “I’ve waited since the beginning of the race to finally take the lead.”
The wet, 129.9km stage was meant for a bunch sprint, and accordingly, the early breakaway of Marco Frapporti (Androni-Sidermec), Rick Zabel (BMC), and Jerome Pineau (IAM Cycling) never got a significant advantage.
With around 17km to go, the escape was caught as Tinkoff-Saxo aided the sprinters’ teams in the chase.
Coming into the final five kilometers, Trek Factory Racing was in control at the front of the peloton, with Orica-GreenEdge waiting in the wings.
Just outside of three kilometers to go, a crash interrupted the field. Contador went down, and Porte was caught behind the mess of riders, gapped by the field.
“It’s just how it is today. It’s really nervous,” said Richie Porte (Sky), who was also caught in the crash and lost over two minutes. “Wasn’t really a big surprise that there was a crash, to be honest.”
Giant-Alpecin soon moved to the front with three kilometers left. Then, it was Lampre-Merdia to take over.
Into the last kilometer, it was all Lampre at the front.
Sitting third into the final right-hand corner, Modolo was perfectly positioned. He jumped off his teammate Richese’s wheel in the finish stretch and delivered a beautiful turn of speed.
Modolo took the sprint from long range, and claimed the stage ahead of a charging Nizzolo.
Contador finished 40 seconds behind the sprinters’ group, losing 36 seconds and his overall lead to Aru.
Stage 13’s unexpected finale sows some doubt ahead of Saturday’s 59.4km time trial from Treviso to Valdobbiadene. Aru will start last, wearing the pink jersey, which may buoy the 24-year-old Italian, who isn’t known as an ace time trialist.
“It’s a really important day tomorrow,” Aru said. “It’s a long, long time trial, so I don’t know what to think really, but I want to recover to the maximum capability that I can. Of course the Giro is three weeks long. … I’m going to give my maximum.”