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Giro d'Italia

Giro d’Italia stage 12: Breakaway wins in calm before the mountain storm

The GC riders were content to let the breakaway challenge for the spoils with the Giro's first major climbs on the horizon Friday.

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Nico Denz (Bora-Hansgrohe) won out of a breakaway Thursday in the calm before the storm as the Giro d’Italia looks toward its first major mountain stage on Friday.

The major GC riders could enjoy a relatively quiet day in the saddle after a big group of about 30 riders pulled clear in the transition stage

For once, there were no crashes, no COVID cases, and no other mishaps to alter the script. The breakaway pulled clear in the 185km romp from Bra to Rivoli.

Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma) rode into the big group, but three riders — Toms Skujinš (Trek-Segafredo), Denz and Sebastian Berwick (Israel-Premier Tech) — finally extracted themselves over the day’s major hurdle at the Cat. 2 Colle Braida to challenge for the win.

On paper, Denz was the fastest of the three, and he opened up with about 300 meters to go to fend off Skujinš for Germany’s second straight stage win at this Giro.

“This is super big for me,” Denz said. “I was not supposed to be in the breakaway, but I got the green light to go. There were monsters all around me. I thought it would be difficult to do something. The collaboration was bad and then we had a gap, and we pushed on.

“On the last climb, I was on my limit,” Denz said. “I have a fast finish and that saved me in the end. I am over the moon.”

The victory helped soften the disappointment for Bora-Hansgrohe after GC captain Aleksandr Vlasov abandoned Tuesday.

Behind, the GC contenders licked their collective wounds and were happy to see a non-threatening bunch challenge for the spoils.

The top-3 all crashed Wednesday, with Tao Geoghegan Hart crashing out of the race with a fractured hip. In calmer conditions Thursday, Geraint Thomas was well-protected by Ineos Grenadiers while Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) sported a few bandages from his crash the previous day.

All eyes were on the horizon as the peloton rolled across the line about eight minutes in arrears.

“It was a lot more straight forward today. It was the right break that we wanted, and the boys rode the front all the way. It sets up nicely for tomorrow,” Thomas said. “[Pavel] Sivakov rode the front from the bottom of the climb to the finish, so he is alright. He’s a battler and he’s a tough guy.”

Geraint Thomas safely defended pink going into Friday’s decisive climbing stage. (Photo by Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

Friday’s 199km 13th stage from Borgofranco d’Ivrea to Crans-Montana tackles the first major climbs of this Giro, and will provide the best clue so far who will have the legs to challenge for the pink jersey in the final week.

Wednesday’s exit of Geoghegan Hart is a blow for Ineos Grenadiers, but Thomas vows to defend the pink jersey with honor.

“It changes how we race, it gave us two good options with Tao [Geoghegan Hart] here. It’s a massive blow to the team that he’s not with the team,” Thomas said. “We still got a strong unit here and we have great morale. Hopefully we can continue that. We still have five mountaintop finishes, and we haven’t even ridden up one yet. We cannot count our chickens yet.”

The opening climb up the Saint-Grand-Bernard will go through a tunnel instead of over the summit due to the threat of avalanches, but there is still plenty of vertical on the menu.

The Cat. 1 Croix de Couer takes the peloton past Verbier before the final climb to the summit finish at Crans-Montana.

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