Thomas De Gendt (Vaconsoleil-DCM) scored an emphatic win on the Queen stage of the 2012 Giro d’Italia.
The Belgian launched his attack as he crested the Motorilo, the penultimate climb of a brutal 218km stage that ended with the highest finish in the 103-year history of the race.
His victory came after nearly seven hours in the saddle, and moved him to within 2.18 of the overall lead ahead of tomorrow’s final stage, an individual time trial in Milan.
De Gendt broke clear with four others, among them 2004 champion, Damiano Cuengo, and Mikel Nieve (Euskaltel-Euskadi), who held on to finish second and third respectively.
The modest Belgian said afterwards that he had completed altitude training on the Stevlio for six years and learned where he could go “full gas”.
Maglia rosa, Joaqiun Rodriguez (Katusha) who came home fourth, surging past his closest rival for overall victory, Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Barracuda), and then Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD), in the final two kilometres to take a lead of 31” over Hesjedal in to tomorrow’s time trial.
It was Hesjedal’s Garmin-Barracuda team who worked relentlessly in pursuit of De Gendt on the snow-lined slopes of the iconic, 2757 metre Passo dello Stelvio.
Christian Vande Velde set a storming pace while Rodriguez, Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale), Scarponi and other favourites followed, content to allow Hejsedal’s team to do the work.
With 4km to go, the group of favourites, which included Team Sky’s Columbian pairing of Rigoberto Uran and Sergio Henao, almost came to a complete stop as the Garmin riders attempted to force a share in the pace making.
But just one kilometre later, Hesjedal launched off the front of the group in an attempt to shut down an attack from Jean Gadet (AG2R-La Mondiale) and continued to give his all until the line.
While the Canadian’s efforts were not enough to resist subsequent attacks, firstly from Scarponi and then from Rodriguez, he had done enough to retain his status as favourite for overall victory heading into tomorrow’s individual time trial.
Despite leading for almost the entirety of the most brutal climb of the race, De Gendt cannot be discounted from delivering a similiarly inspiring performance tomorrow.
He followed his sixth place finish on l’Alpe d’Huez in last year’s Tour de France with fourth place in the following day’s individual time trial in Grenoble.
Giro d’Italia stage 20 – result
1) Thomas De Gendt (BEL) – Vaconsoleil-DCM – 6.54.41
2) Damiano Cunego (ITA) – Lampre-ISD +55”
3) Mikel Nieve (Euskaltel-Euskadi) + 2.50
4) Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (SPA) – Katusha Team +3.22
5) Michele Scarponi (ITA) – Lampre-ISD + 3.34
6) Ryder Hesjedal (CAN) – Garmin-Barracuda +3.36
7) John Gadret (FRA) – AG2R-La Mondiale +4.29
8) Rigoberto Uran (COL) – Team Sky + 4.53
9) Sergio Henao (COL) – Team Sky + 4.55
10) Ivan Basso (ITA) – Liquigas-Cannondale
1) Joaquin Rodriguez (SPA) – Team Katusha – 91.4.16
2) Ryder Hesjedal (CAN) – Garmin-Barracuda + 31”
3) Michele Scarponi (ITA) – Lampre-ISD +1.51”
4) Thomas De Gendt (Vacansoleil-DCM) + 2.18”
5) Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale + 3.18
6) Damiano Cunego (ITA) – Lampre-ISD + 3.43
7) Rigoberto Uran (COL) – Team Sky + 4.52
8) Domenico Pozzovivo (ITA) – Colnago-CSF Inox + 5.47
9) Mikel Nieve (SPA) – Euskaltel-Euskadi + 5.56
10) John Gadret (FRA) – AG2R-La Mondiale +6.43