Stefano Pirazzi (Bardiani-CSF) won stage 17 of the Giro d’Italia to secure the pro continental team’s third victory of this year’s race.
Awarded a wildcard at the expense of teams such as MTN-Qhubeka and IAM Cycling, the Italian team have certainly justified their selection as Pirazzi followed Marco Canola and Enrico Battaglin in bagging stage wins.
Pirazzi was part of a five-man group remaining from the day’s break, bursting clear from his rivals just before the flamme rouge and staying clear to celebrate a very popular stage win.
Nairo Quintana, who finished safely in the bunch, retained the maglia rosa meanwhile, though the after effects of his controversial stage win were still being felt before the stage began.
The break always looked likely to succeed once it went clear – though it took some time for any riders to earn a gap with a furious pace set from the off in the peloton.
Movistar, with new race leader Nairo Quintana dressed entirely in pink, led the bunch, which stayed together for more than 40 kilometres at the start of the race.
Finally, a 26-man group went clear with a number of strong riders and breakaway specialists among them including Thomas De Gendt and Serge Pauwels (Omega Pharma-Quickstep), Davide Malacarne (Team Europcar), Tim Wellens (Lotto-Belisol), Nicola Boem and Stefano Pirazzi (Bardiani-CSF) and Philip Deignan (Team Sky).
They quickly earned a big advantage and once clear were not to be seen again by the bunch who maintained a steady pace – Movistar happy to lead the way – throughout the stage.
Giavanni Visconti did the majority of the work for the Spanish team, ensuring the remaining riders took it easy on the wet roads.
Up front meanwhile, their lead quickly grew to in excess of ten minutes and attention started to turn to those who would compete for the stage.
Early accelerations by Wellens allowed him to collect the intermediate sprint and add some King of the Mountains points to his tally but the first attack that mattered was by De Gendt.
The Belgian’s attack split the large group decisively, and though his move was marked he soon earned a good lead as he climbed the day’s final category four ascent.
Pirazzi marked the move, but De Gendt descended hard to ensure he stayed clear of the rest of the escapees.
Counter-attacks by Wellens, Jay McCarthy (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Matteo Montaguti (Ag2r-La Mondiale) ensured it would be a five-man group that contested the stage.
Deignan, Fabio Felline (Trek Factory Racing) and Boem were among the riders to attempt to bridge across but it was to little avail as the five worked extremely well together.
Opting against any cat-and-mouse chasing, their co-operation ensured they stayed clear of the remains of the break before Pirazzi burst from the group just outside the final kilometre.
Pirazzi took the flamme rouge as the other four looked to each other to take up the chase, the delay playing into the Italian’s hands.
And after a look over his shoulder, Pirazzi ploughed on sprinting hard into the final metres and staying clear.
One final look confirmed he had taken the victory, and he thrust his arms into the air in celebration – shedding tears as the magnitude of his success sunk in.
Giro d’Italia 2014: stage 17 – result
1) Stefano Pirazzi (ITA) – Bardiani-CSF – 4.38.11hrs
2) Tim Wellens (BEL) – Lotto-Belisol – ST
3) Jay McCarthy (AUS) – Tinkoff-Saxo
4) Thomas de Gendt (BEL) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep
5) Matteo Montaguti (ITA) – Ag2r-La Mondiale
6) Jussi Veikkanen (FIN) – FDJ.fr +28”
7) Simon Geschke (GER) – Giant-Shimano – ST
8) Fabio Felline (ITA) – Trek Factory Racing
9) Marco Canola (ITA) – Bardiani-CSF
10) Serge Pauwels (BEL) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep
1) Nairo Quintana (COL) – Movistar – 73.05.31hrs
2) Rigoberto Uran (COL) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep +1.41
3) Cadel Evans (AUS) – BMC Racing +3.21
4) Pierre Rolland (FRA) – Team Europcar +3.26
5) Rafal Majka (POL) – Tinkoff-Saxo +3.28
6) Fabio Aru (ITA) – Astana +3.34
7) Domenico Pozzovivo (ITA) – Ag2r-La Mondiale +3.49
8) Wilco Kelderman (NED) – Belkin Pro Cycling +4.06
9) Ryder Hesjedal (CAN) – Garmin-Sharp +4.16
10) Robert Kiserlovski (CRO) – Trek Factory Racing +8.02