Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing) won stage 12 of the Giro d’Italia on the wet, steep uphill finish on Monte Berico as Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) extended his overall lead.
Gilbert caught and passed Tanel Kangert (Astana) inside the final 500 metres on the steep final climb to claim the team’s first win at this year’s Giro.
Contador, in the pink jersey, meanwhile claimed second place to pick up a time bonus – which was boosted further as a result of splits in the front group.
Despite plenty of attacks early on, more than 70km had been raced before a group finally went clear up the road.
Patrick Gretsch (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Davide Appollonio (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec), Kenny Elissonde (FDJ), Enrico Barbin (Bardiani-CSF) and Nick Van der Lijke (LottoNL-Jumbo) were the men to finally earn a gap.
The peloton kept up the high tempo behind, however, despite the heavy rain and the group of five was brought back and reeled back in with 60km remaining.
Orica-GreenEDGE had riders chasing, while Alberto Contador’s Tinkoff-Saxo team-mates also took charge of the peloton.
Louis Vervaeke (Lotto-Soudal) built up a small solo advantage, before Benat Intxausti (Movistar) tried to lead a group across in pursuit of more King of the Mountains points.
The ascent of the Crosara saw the peloton cut to size, thanks to a strong pace from Contador, and a very select group had formed at the front by the time they finished tackling what had become a dicey descent.
Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEDGE) and Stef Clement (LottoNL-Jumbo) were among the riders to crash, while there were plenty forced to unclip as the slick roads made picking the lines difficult.
With Contador and Richie Porte (Team Sky) briefly isolated in the front group, a large chasing group packed with their team-mates bridged across on the uncategorised penultimate climb.
Franco Pellizotti (Androni Giocatolli-Sidermec) attacked off the front of the small group, while Tanel Kangert (Astana) continued to lead the front group.
Giovanni Visconti accelerated for Movistar over the top of the climb, which Contador followed with Aru and Porte many wheels back.
It did not stick, however, and with the contenders all together, Kangert burst off the front with little more than five kilometres remaining to bridge to Pellozotti.
The two were still on the front as they passed under the flamme rouge, but Kangert looked the stronger and pushed on alone.
The Estonian could not hold out to the line, however, BMC Racing closing the gap for Gilbert to catch him and press on into the tough finale and take victory.
Contador was just behind, the Spaniard claiming second place and subsequent time bonus while Aru was stuck at the back of that front group, losing even more time because of splits in the group.
Giro d’Italia 2015: stage 12 – result
1) Philippe Gilbert (BEL) – BMC Racing – 4.22.50hrs
2) Alberto Contador (ESP) – Tinkoff-Saxo +3”
3) Diego Ulissi (ITA) – Lampre-Merida – ST
4) Simon Geschke (GER) – Giant-Alpecin
5) Enrico Battaglin (ITA) – Bardiani-CSF
6) Paolo Tiralongo (ITA) – Astana
7) Jon Izaguirre (ESP) – Movistar +6”
8) Carlos Betancur (COL) – Ag2r-La Mondiale – ST
9) Jurgen van den Broeck (BEL) – Lotto-Soudal
10) Mikel Landa (ESP) – Astana
1) Alberto Contador (ESP) – Tinkoff-Saxo – 51.17.06hrs
2) Fabio Aru (ITA) – Astana +17”
3) Mikel Landa (ESP) – Astana +55”
4) Dario Cataldo (ITA) – Astana +1.30
5) Roman Kreuziger (CZE) – Tinkoff-Saxo +1.55
6) Rigoberto Uran (COL) – Etixx-QuickStep +2.19
7) Giovanni Visconti (ITA) – Movistar +2.21
8) Damiano Caruso (ITA) – BMC Racing +2.29
9) Andrey Amador (CRC) – Movistar +2.38
10) Leopold Konig (CZE) – Team Sky +2.44