Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) reclaimed the overall lead in the Giro d’Italia after finishing second to Matteo Rabottini (Farnese Vini-Selle Italia) on stage 15.
Spaniard Rodriguez had lost the lead to Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Barracuda) on stage 14 but the Canadian relinquished the maglia rosa after finishing 12th spot, 39 seconds down on Rabottini and Rodriguez, on the 169km stage from Busto Arsizio to Piani dei Resinelli.
Rabottini had led the stage for 150km after being in the breakaway but it initially looked like victory had eluded him after he crashed on the final descent – but the Italian recovered to pass Rodriguez in the final few metres.
“Winning in this way gave me an incredible emotion,” said Rabottini. “I came to the Giro with the hope of winning a stage. At the end I managed it. But it was so much work. It’s the best day of my life.
“When I saw Rodriquez coming up at double speed, I even feared I wouldn’t win. I had the strength to keep on going hard and at the end it worked. I dedicate this victory to my child who will be born in two weeks and obviously to my girlfriend.”
The general classification is now delicately poised going into the second rest day, with Rodriguez leading Hesjedal by 30 seconds, while Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale) sits third, one minute and 22 seconds behind the leader.
But Frank Schleck’s challenge is over after the Radioshack-Nissan-Trek rider abandoned with a shoulder injury sustained in a crash earlier in the race.
Team Sky’s Sergio Henao finished fourth on the stage to overtake team-mate Rigoberto Uran as the best young rider.
And Mark Cavendish strengthened his position at the top of the points classification after winning the intermediate sprint for third behind Rabottini and Guillaume Bonnafond (Ag2r La Mondiale) in the breakaway.
“It was a very impressive ride from Sergio to be up there on the climb at the end of a tough stage,” said Team Sky directeur sportif Nicolas Portal. “Sergio is looking very strong and both he and Rigoberto did a great job all day. Unfortunately Rigoberto lost some time at the finish but we have kept hold of both our jerseys.
“The boys did a very good job. Pete, G and Flecha helped out on the climbs and Mark also took some points for the red jersey today.
“Tomorrow [Monday] we have a rest day but we’re very proud of the way the team has performed up to this point in the race.”
Giro d’Italia stage 15 – result
1) Matteo Rabottini (ITA) – Farnese Vini-Selle Italia – 5:15:30 hours
2) Joaquin Rodriguez (SPA) – Katusha – same time
3) Alberto Losada (SPA) – Katusha +23″
4) Sergio Henao (COL) – Team Sky +25″
5) Michele Scarponi (Ita) – Lampre-ISD – same time
6) Ivan Basso (ITA) – Liquigas-Cannondale
7) Stefano Pirazzi (ITA) – Colnago-CSF Inox at+29″
8) Roman Kreuziger (CZE) – Astana – same time
9) John Gadret (FRA) – Ag2r La Mondiale
10) Amets Txurruka (SPA) – Euskaltel-Euskadi
1) Joaquim Rodriguez (SPA) – Katusha – 65:11:07 hours
2) Ryder Hesjedal (CAN) – Garmin-Barracuda +30″
3) Ivan Basso (ITA) – Liquigas-Cannondale +1’22”
4) Paolo Tiralongo (ITA) – Astana +1’26”
5) Roman Kreuziger (CZE) Astana at 1-27
6) Michele Scarponi (ITA) – Lampre-ISD +1’36”
7) Benat Intxausti (SPA) – Movistar +1’42”
8) Sergio Henao (COL) – Team Sky +1’55”
9) Dario Cataldo (ITA) – Omega Pharma-QuickStep +2’12”
10) Sandy Casar (FRA) – FDJ-BigMat +2’13”