Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) stormed into the pink jersey with a phenomenal ride in the stage 12 individual time trial of the Giro d’Italia.
The Colombian became the first of his compatriots ever to pull on the prestigious maglia rosa after obliterating his rivals on the tough stage.
Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) had initially looked good for the stage win, posting a time of 58.51 as he pushed for a third stage win of this year’s race.
But Uran, who was paced his effort to perfection – crossing fastest at the second time check and gaining time by the pedal stroke across the latter half of the course – finished in 57.34.
Former leader Cadel Evans put together a strong final few kilometres to finish third on the day, but the Australian paid the price for a few misjudged corners and trails Uran by 37 seconds overall.
Svein Tuft (Orica-GreenEDGE), who led the general classification after the stage one team time trial, was first down the ramp – his crashes and injuries making him the current back marker in the GC.
The former Canadian time trial champion set a mark of 1:05:56 on the difficult circuit, with rain already falling and making riding conditions difficult for the riders.
Michael Hepburn, the Australian national time trial champion and winner against the clock – albeit on a much shorter route, in much more ideal conditions – at the Tour of Qatar crossed 34 seconds down on his team-mate.
Tuft’s mark did not last for long however, with several riders taking seconds off it before Patrick Gretsch (Ag2r-La Mondiale) became the first go sub-one hour.
Thomas de Gendt (Omega Pharma-Quickstep), who was originally fastest at the King of the Mountains time check, went even quicker however – despite having to change bikes en route.
The Belgian, who finished third on the first individual time trial of last year’s Tour de France, set a time of 59:41, which earned him a long wait in the winner’s enclosure.
Conditions continued to deteriorate on the road however, Team Sky’s Dario Cataldo’s brakes screeching as he passed his minute man, Lotto-Belisol’s Sander Armee.
Further evidence of the dangerous conditions came when Tobias Ludvigsson (Giant-Shimano) crashed heavily.
The Swede, who had being going well over the early part of the course, approached a bend too fast and as he went wide in a bid too slow down, went straight over the top of the crash barrier.
With a big ditch and a gravelled path beneath him, Ludvigsson looked in a very bad way as he waited for ambulance treatment, some distance from where his bike came to rest.
Back on the road, taking it easy, seemed to be the way to go for many of the riders – Adriano Malori (Movistar), time trial winner at Tirreno-Adriatico, did not trouble the leaders, perhaps still feeling the effects of his heavy crash on stage 11.
Team-mate and Spanish national champion Jonathan Castroviejo was also well off the pace.
Stage 11 winner, three-time former world time trial champion Michael Rogers (Tinkoff-Saxo), appeared to have no such reservations however – placing provisionally sixth at the first intermediate time check and third at the second.
He eventually finished in 1:00:12, fourth fastest at the time he finished, to continue a very good two days for the Australian.
Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) beat de Gendt’s time at the uphill intermediate time check, to also maintain his slim hopes of a shot at the King of the Mountains.
Any suggestion he could keep it up for the whole course were dampened however, as a steady descent saw team-mate Damiano Cunego, who he passed on the way up, pass him at a much faster speed than Ulissi was generating.
Nevertheless, the Italian remained strong and was on the wheel of his two-minute man – Alexandre Geniez (FDJ.fr) – with a third of the course still to race.
Further up the road, Dario Cataldo (Team Sky) became only the third rider to post a sub-hour time, placing provisionally third in 59.57.
Ulissi – who lost time following a crash on stage 11 – continue to look strong however, and obliterated de Gendt’s mark.
Roared on by a passionate home crowd, Ulissi pushed hard into the final kilometre to set a time of 58.51.
With all the GC men on the course, Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Wilco Kelderman (Belkin) and Fabio Aru (Astana) all looked good on the first uphill section to the time check – the latter taking one second of Ulissi’s mark.
Steve Morabito (BMC Racing) was happy to take it slower however, perhaps affected by his crash on stage 11 but more likely with one eye on the work in the mountains he still has to come.
Gianluca Brambilla (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) beat team-mate De Gendt’s mark, moving second at 36 seconds behind Ulissi.
But with the GC men all setting fast times at the intermediate time checks – Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r-La Mondiale) the next to set a new fastest time on the uphill section.
Uran also went quicker than Ulissi at the first intermediate time check, to ensure the Lampre-Merida man was unable to claw back any of Julian Arredondo’s blue jersey lead.
When Cadel Evans crossed the time check some 53 seconds slower than Pozzovivo however, hopes were raised for Ulissi, who was seen smiling as he watched the action unfold on a television screen.
The diminutive Pozzovivo, as expected, lost time on the descent and the long, flat straights – a problem not shared by Majka and Uran though who looked in a commanding position at the halfway point.
Cadel Evans crossed 59 seconds slower than Uran at the time check – meaning the Colombian had taken the virtual lead.
Back up the road, the first of the GC men began to finish, with both Ivan Basso (Cannondale) and Robert Kiserlovski (Trek Factory Racing) losing a lot of time – the former having crashed with four kilometres to go
Quintana crossed in 1:00:15, to leave him with time to make up in the mountains, though not as much as he may have feared having been suffering with a cold.
Kelderman was the first of the GC men to go under an hour, with Pozzovivo following suit, though Evans’ hopes of doing similar were dealt a blow as he suffered a momentary slide to halt his momentum.
When Uran crossed in 57.34 however – drawing applause from Ulissi – Evans hopes of retaining the pink jersey were all but ended – over-shooting another corner as he looked to limit the damage.
The Australian rallied to gain back some time and finish third on the stage, but Uran now holds the overall lead and has a big gap on many of his leading GC rivals.
Giro d’Italia 2014: stage 12 (individual time trial) – result
1) Rigoberto Uran (COL) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep – 57.34
2) Diego Ulissi (ITA) – Lampre-Merida +1.17
3) Cadel Evans (AUS) – BMC Racing +1.34
4) Rafal Majka (POL) – Tinkoff-Saxo +1.39
5) Gianluca Brambilla (ITA) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep +1.53
6) Wouter Poels (NED) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep +2.00
7) Wilco Kelderman (NED) – Belkin Pro Cycling +2.03
8) Thomas de Gendt (BEL) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep +2.07
9) Domenico Pozzovivo (ITA) – Ag2r-La Mondiale +2.09
10) Patrick Gretsch (GER) – Ag2r-La Mondiale +2.12
1) Rigoberto Uran (COL) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep – 49.37.55hrs
2) Cadel Evans (AUS) – BMC Racing +37”
3) Rafal Majka (POL) – Tinkoff-Saxo +1.52
4) Domenico Pozzovivo (ITA) – Ag2r-La Mondiale +2.32
5) Wilco Kelderman (NED) – Belkin Pro Cycling +2.50
6) Nairo Quintana (COL) – Movistar +3.29
7) Fabio Aru (ITA) – Astana +3.37
8) Wouter Poels (NED) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep +4.06
9) Steve Morabito (SUI) – BMC Racing +4.20
10) Robert Kiserlovski (CRO) – Trek Factory Racing +4.41