Enrico Battaglin (Bardiani) has won the fourteenth stage of the 2014 Giro d’Italia.
The Italian, who spent almost the entire day on the attack, swooped to pip Team Sky’s Dario Cataldo on the finish line at the climax of an exhilarating final climb to Oropa.
“I’m delighted by the victory,” Battaglin said. “Of course, I was away from the first kilometre. I’ve been away all the stage. There were plenty of men in front, but I managed to come back. What a day. It’s a superb win.”
And in the battle for the maglia rosa, Cadel Evans (BMC Racing), claimed a small victory over an exhausted Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma-Quickstep), outsprinting the race leader, despite the best efforts of Uran’s team-mate, Wout Poels, to block the Australian.
Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r-La Mondiale), waged a private battle between diminutive climbing specialists ahead of the GC’s leading pair. Quintana was strongest and while he sprinted to the line to reduce his deficit to race leader and countryman, Uran, the 3.06 that separates them will take a superhuman effort from the younger man to close.
If this fourteenth stage could be regarded as the first significant climbing stage, tomorrow will offer no respite for the men who loathe the mountains and further opportunity for those who thrive on Italy’s vicious gradients. The 225km run from Valdengo ends with another summit finish above 1,000 metres at Montecampione.
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The climb to Oropa
Albert Timmer (Giant-Shimano) and Manuel Quinziato (BMC Racing) began the final 11.75km climb to the summit finish at Oropa by working effectively, but disaster struck soon after for the Italian, who suffered a mechanical that required a bike change. He rejoined with a slender advantage over a group that had attacked from the bunch, but was soon swept up.
Edvald Boasson Hagen (Team Sky), riding ahead of the bunch for the second time in the stage, was the main protagonist in the pursuit of Timmer. The Dutchman, however, seemed unperturbed by the sudden loss of Quinziato and continued to punch his way up the lower slopes.
Fluctuations in the group of the maglia rosa, some five minutes behind, brought Uran to the head of the elite selection. As the sole member of his Omega Pharma-Quickstep team present, the Colombian had to marshal his own defence and did so by riding at the head of a group containing all his GC rivals.
With six kilometres remaining, Timmer had reached the steepest part of the slope: a leg-breaking 13 per cent. A second chasing group, containing four riders, among them Pierre Rolland (Europcar) and 2012 Giro winner, Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp), set a ferocious pace.
The more immediate threat to Timmer came from the first chasing group, especially when Dario Cataldo (Team Sky) and Mattia Catteneo (Lampre-Merida) rode clear of their rivals. Boasson Hagen marshaled for his Italian team-mate, discouraging any pursuit.
The real action of the race was beginning to explode in the maglia rosa group. Quintana rode at the front with genuine presence, perhaps for the first time this Giro, but Pozzovivo matched him, pedal stroke for pedal stroke.
Up ahead, Timmer looked all but beaten as he groveled bravely beneath the 4km to go kite, but when Pozzovivo passed beneath the same mark a few minutes later, the contrast cold not have been more stark. Only Quintana could keep tempo with the Italian, and he soon mustered additional resource in the shape of Movistar team-mate, Gorka Izagirre.
As the climb momentarily flattened, the 76kg Timmer plunged onward, the Dutchman suddenly finding himself on more sympathetic terrain. His respite was short-lived, however. With the 2km kite in sight, Cataldo passed him, bringing with him Jarlinson Pantano (Colombia).
Cataldo wasted little time in attempting to assert his authority, but Pantano not only resisted his attack, but launched his own as Catalado paused for breath. The Team Sky leader launched his own response and a momentary, exhausted stalemate ensued. Behind, two of the world’s best climbers continued their remorseless pursuit. Pozzovivo and Quintana both looked comfortable, but Izagirre had been shed.
In a final, dramatic turn of events at the head of the field, Timmer rejoined Cataldao and Pantano, and all found themselves suddenly accompanied by Lampre-Merida’s Jan Polanc. The four rode beneath the flamme rouge together, but 100m later Timmer cracked for good. His place among the quartet was taken by Battaglin.
The quartet rounded the penultimate corner together, before Polanc cracked and fell away. Cataldo lead out the remaining trio, but Pantano passed him almost immediately. Catalado kicked again, but Battaglin timed his effort to perfection, diving to his right and between Cataldo and the crowd barrier with just 20 metres remaining to claim a second victory for Bardiani.
Pozzovivo and Quintana closed remorselessly on Hesjdedal and Rolland, but the pair just survived to the finish. Quintana kicked with the line in sight, as if to show Pozzovivo he had more to give.
Uran’s suffering in the final kilometres was visible and he was outsprinted by Evans in the final few hundred metres, allowing the Australian to strike a small, but potentially significant psychological blow.
Giro d’Italia 2014: stage 14 – result
1) Entrico Battaglin (ITA) – Bardiani – 4.34.41
2) Dario Cataldo (ITA) – Team Sky – ST
3) Jarlinson Pantano (COL) – Colombia +7″
4) Jan Polanc (POL) – Lampre-Merida +17″
5) Nicolas Roche (IRE) – Tinkoff-Saxo +22″
6) Albert Timmer (NED) – Giant-Shimano +26″
7) Emanuele Sella (ITA) – Androni-Giocatoli +28″
8) Mattia Cattaneo (ITA) – Lampre-Merida +33″
9) Tim Wellens (BEL) – Lotto-Belisol +39″
10) Ivan Santaromita (ITA) – Orica-GreenEDGE +54″
1) Rigoberto Uran (COL) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep – 57.52.51
2) Cadel Evans (AUS) – BMC Racing +32″
3) Rafal Majka (POL) – Tinkoff-Saxo +1.35
4) Domenico Pozzovivo (ITA) – Ag2r-La Mondiale +2.11
5) Wilco Kelderman (NED) – Belkin
6) Nairo Quintana (COL) – Movistar +3.04
7) Fabio Aru (ITA) – Astana +3.16
8) Wouter Poels (NED) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep +4.01
9) Pierre Rolland (FRA) – Europcar +5.07
10) Robert Kiserlovski (POL) – Trek +5.13