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Santambrogio wins Giro stage 14 as Nibali extends GC lead

The Astana rider attacks late in Saturday's stage 14, eventually finishing second while extending his overall advantage

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Mauro Santambrogio (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia) won stage 14 of the Giro d’Italia on Saturday, while Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) padded his overall lead in the three-week grand tour.

Santambrogio matched Nibali’s attack with about 2 kilometers left on the final climb of Jafferau, and the pair rode together to the finish after picking off the three stage leaders. Carlos Betancur (Ag2r-La Mondiale) was third.

Nibali extended his GC lead over Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) to 1:26, while Rigoberto Uran (Sky) is now 2:46 behind in third.

Santambrogio is now fourth in the GC, 2:47 behind Nibali.

“I still haven’t realized what this means for me. It was a hard day, cold and rain. Then with the snow in the end,” Santambrogio said. “Nibali attacked with about 2km [left]. I felt good and followed him. We worked together to catch the breakaway. They stayed with us a bit, but we dropped them. It’s good for him, too, with a 12-second bonus.”

Nibali appeared to soft pedal close to the finish line, allowing his fellow Italian to earn the victory.

“It was a long, hard day. Very cold, especially at the end in the snow,” Nibali said. “This is a long Giro, not over yet. It was a good test at the end. [Santambrogio] won, but I was able to make a good gap on my rivals.”

An early break developed about 19km into the 168km stage, and the riders stayed together until the Jafferau climb. The group began to fracture, with Matteo Trentin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) initially dropping back. Eventually, Santambrogio and Nibali dropped the other three riders — Luca Paolini (Katusha), Daniele Pietropolli (Lampre-Merida), and Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox.

‘Not my best day’

Evans lost contact with Nibali after the Italian made his late move.

“It was not my best day,” Evans said in a BMC press release. “Conceding time to the other GC contenders is certainly not what I wanted. I just couldn’t react when the attack from Nibali came. I think that has something to do with the last couple of days. I hope this is my worst day in the mountains; otherwise to fight for the win will be difficult.”

BMC assistant director Fabio Baldato said Evans’ Giro is far from over, with more days in the mountains still on the schedule.

“Cadel is still there,” Baldato said. “For me, he did a great job to stay close to Nibali and Santambrogio. Today, they were stronger. He only lost a few seconds to Uran. So for the moment, we are happy and we are confident.”

Weather alters course

Earlier Saturday, race organizers announced the climb of Sestriere was removed from the stage 14 course because of bad weather that featured snow at the summit. The concern was not the ascent but rather the descent, which would have required the peloton to carefully navigate the fast and technical snowy roads.

The decision was also made to change the route for Sunday’s stage 15. Gone is the climb of Mont Centis early in the stage, and the finish on the summit of the famed Col du Galibier was moved 4.2km below the top. The original re-routing plan was to have the stage finish 15km before the summit.

The weather also forced the grounding of helicopters and airplanes above Saturday’s course, so there were no live television images of the race until the finish.

The weekend of climbing was expected to sort out the GC picture, but the altered route changed that. The race for the pink will be now be sorted out in the final week of racing, which ends with next Sunday’s 197km stage 21 from Riese Pio X to Brescia.

Four riders did not start Saturday’s stage: Jack Bobridge (Blanco), Gert Steegmans (Omega Pharma), Daniele Bennati (Saxo-Tinkoff), and Karsten Kroon (Saxo). Three others abandoned during the stage: David Millar (Garmin-Sharp), Alessandro Vanotti (Astana), and Enrico Battaglin (Bardiani Valvole).