Race leader Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) won his second stage of the 2012 Giro d’Italia in a six-way sprint on the first of three mountain stages in the Dolomites.
Rodriguez edged out Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale) in Cortina d’Ampezzo, with Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Barracuda) third ahead of Rigberto Uran (Team Sky), Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) and Domenico Pozzovivo (Colnago-CSF Inox).
Pozzovivo lead Rodriguez, Basso and Hesjedal over the top of the Passo Giau but Uran and Scarponi bridged the gap on the descent to the ski resort.
With no time bonuses on offer for the stage victory, Rodriguez continues to lead Hesjedal by 30 seconds, with Basso one minute and 26 seconds adrift. Scarponi, Uran and Pozzovivo move up to fourth, fifth and seventh overall respectively.
The stage was the first of a hat-trick of epic mountain stages – split by a flat sprint stage on Thursday – and four categorised climbs, culminating in the 2,236m Passo Giau, ended the GC hopes of a host of riders.
Liquigas-Cannondale set a blistering pace up to the foot of the final climb, a 9.9km ascent averaging 9.3 per cent, and a leading group of approximately 25 riders was soon blown to bits, with the six who would go on to contest the spring forging a lone path on the Giau’s fearsome slopes.
It looked like the leaders would crest the climb as one until the diminutive Pozzovivo moved to the front within the last kilometre of the ascent, immediately putting Scarponi and Uran in trouble.
Scarponi began to suffer with cramp as he began the technical 17km descent to Cortina d’Ampezzo but both he and Uran worked their way back to the lead quartet.
And it was Rodriguez who won the uphill sprint to claim his second triumph of the race having previously won stage ten.
Mark Cavendish (Team Sky) finished in the gruppetto and will return to the fore on stage 18, which follows a gently downhill 149km route from San Vito di Cadore to Vedelago, before the contenders for overall victory lock horns on Friday, with a summit finish stop Alpe di Pampeago.
Stage 20 – the Queen Stage – will then conclude with the highest finish in Grand Tour history on the 2,727m Passo Stelvio, before Sunday’s 30km individual time trial in Milan.
Giro d’Italia stage 17 – result
1) Joaquim Rodriguez (SPA) – Katusha 5:24:41 hours
2) Ivan Basso (ITA) – Liquigas-Cannondale – same time
3) Ryder Hesjedal (CAN) – Garmin-Barracuda
4) Rigoberto Uran Uran (COL) – Team Sky
5) Michele Scarponi (ITA) – Lampre-ISD
6) Domenico Pozzovivo (ITA) – Colnago-CSF Inox +2″
7) Benat Intxausti Elorriaga (SPA) – Movistar +1’22”
8) Daniel Moreno Fernandez (SPA) – Katusha – same time
9) Thomas De Gendt (BEL) – Vacansoleil-DCM
10) Johann Tschopp (SWI) – BMC Racing
1) Joaquim Rodriguez (SPA) – Katusha – 74:46:46 hours
2) Ryder Hesjedal (CAN) – Garmin-Barracuda +30″
3) Ivan Basso (ITA) – Liquigas-Cannondale +1’22”
4) Michele Scarponi (ITA) – Lampre – ISD +1’36”
5) Rigoberto Uran Uran (COL) – Team Sky +2’56”
6) Benat Intxausti (SPA) – Movistar Team +3’04”
7) Domenico Pozzovivo (ITA) – Colnago-CSF Inox +3’19”
8) Paolo Tiralongo (ITA) – Astana +4’13”
9) Thomas De Gendt (BEL) – Vacansoleil-DCM +4’38”
10) Sergio Henao (COL) – Team Sky +4’42”