Sacha Modolo (Lampre-Merida) sprinted to his second stage win of this year’s Giro d’Italia on stage 17 as the peloton crossed into Switzerland.
His team, who now have four wins at this year’s race, led him out perfectly and the Italian outsprinted Luka Mezgec (Giant-Alpecin) and Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek Factory Racing) to claim victory.
Pink jersey Alberto Contador was well protected by his Tinkoff-Saxo team-mates, meanwhile, to maintain his big overall lead.
Marco Bandiera (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec), Giacomo Berlato (Nippo-Vini Fantini) and Iljo Keisse (Etixx-QuickStep) made up the day’s break after a flurry of attacking early on but ‘breakaway killer’ Cheng Ji (Giant-Alpecin) immediately worked to bring them back.
A number of counter-attacks failed to come to anything, and so with just three men up the road – much less than had been expected – the gap never got too big thanks to the pace in the bunch.
Elia Viviani (Team Sky) and Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek Factory Racing) shared points at the two intermediate sprints – the tempo increasing to such an extent at the second that the catch was made shortly afterwards.
With 27km still to ride, there was a danger of more breaks going clear and Patrick Gretsch (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and Adam Hansen (Lotto-Soudal) tried their luck almost immediately.
Darwin Atapuma (BMC Racing) bridged across to the two leaders on the climb but Hansen had soon distanced them as they hit the flat, with Giant-Alpecin leading the chase again behind.
The Aussie hardman hd a 20-second lead over the bunch as the riders emerged from a long tunnel on the approach to the Italian-Swiss border with 14km to ride but that soon tumbled.
With ten kilometres remaining the peloton was back together, with Tinkoff-Saxo bringing Alberto Contador to safety on the front as they entered Switzerland.
Tom-Jelte Slagter (Cannondale-Garmin) attacked at the bottom of the final climb, with Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing) quickly jumping across the gap just as they crested the ascent.
Luca Paolini (Katusha) also accelerated on the descent, hitting the front after a series of tight hairpins with several riders in hot pursuit.
The Russian was caught just outside the final kilometre, however, as the sprint teams who had stayed at the front lined out ready for the bunch sprint.
Lampre-Merida had the position on the front, with two men in front of Modolo, though, and the Italian finished it off with a powerful sprint to claim his second victory of the race.
Giro d’Italia 2015: stage 17 – result
1) Sacha Modolo (ITA) – Lampre-Merida – 3.07.51hrs
2) Giacomo Nizzolo (ITA) – Trek Factory Racing – ST
3) Luka Mezgec (SVN) – Giant-Alpecin
4) Heinrich Haussler (AUS) – IAM Cycling
5) Davide Appollonio (ITA) – Androni Giacottoli-Sidermec
6) Stig Broeckx (BEL) – Lotto-Soudal
7) Juan Jose Lobato (ESP) – Movistar
8) Aleksandr Porsev (RUS) – Katusha
9) Kevin Reza (FRA) – FDJ
10) Nick van der Lijke (NED) – LottoNL-Jumbo
1) Alberto Contador (ESP) – Tinkoff-Saxo – 68.12.50hrs
2) Mikel Landa (ESP) – Astana +4.02
3) Fabio Aru (ITA) – Astana +4.52
4) Andrey Amador (CRC) – Movistar +5.48
5) Yury Trofimov (RUS) – Katusha +8.27
6) Leopold Konig (CZE) – Team Sky +9.31
7) Damiano Caruso (ITA) – BMC Racing +9.52
8) Steven Kruijswijk (NED) – LottoNL-Jumbo +11.40
9) Alexandre Geniez (FRA) – FDJ +12.48
10) Ryder Hesjedal (CAN) – Cannondale-Garmin +13.01