Bouhanni returns to notch third victory of Giro, Evans holds Maglia Rosa

by Shane Stokes

Although he got into difficulties on the final descent and was distanced for a time from the main bunch, French sprinter Nacer Bouhanni battled back to regain his place in the peloton and then to thunder home for what is his third stage win in this year’s Giro d’Italia.

The rider played things perfectly in the final gallop, avoiding a crash which brought down Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp) and several others, then calmly took Giacomo Nizzolo’s wheel when the Trek Factory Racing rider launched his sprint.

He then kicked past inside the final 100 metres, showing confidence and strength to nab the victory.

“It was really, really quick,” he said afterwards. “My team did it absolutely perfectly. They all helped me, they were all read to help me, and they gave me a very, very good approach to the sprint. I just did my bit after that.”

Although Bouhanni couldn’t match Marcel Kittel when the Giant Shimano rider won the first two road race stages, he has come into his own since then. He took stage four in Bari, notched up another success three days later in Foligno and took his third today.

Bouhanni’s success tightens his grip on the red points jersey, while the Maglia Rosa Cadel Evans had little issues in defending his own tunic.

His BMC Racing team-mates rode well in chasing down the day’s break, the two man move of Marco Bandiera (Androni Giocattoli) and Andrea Fedi (Neri Sottoli), and while Yannick Eijssen was forced to pull out after crashing with Ivan Rovny (Tinkoff-Saxo), the team was able to protect the pink jersey.

“As expected after a rest day, everyone is a bit recovered, physically and mentally,” said Evans afterwards. “The final climb went very fast. We saw that there and of course the descent, and fresher riders attacking after the descent. It often makes it a more dangerous finish.”

Evans said that he regretted the withdrawal of Eijssen, both for the team and also for the rider himself. “Of course he is a young rider who is doing his first year’s grand Tour. He made a lot of progress to be here and came to a really good level today.

“Of course we will miss one. But also for him, his career and his progression, let’s hope he is okay. Of course we will miss him every day between here and Trieste, it’s unfortunate for him.”

The Giro d’Italia recommenced after yesterday’s rest day, with the riders due to slug it out on a mainly flat 173 kilometre route from Modena to Salsomaggiore.

Early on Bandiera and Fedi surged clear and built a lead of eight and a half minutes. The move enabled Bandiera to take top points in the day’s sole intermediate sprint, the TV prime at Mirandola, while behind Elia Viviani (Cannondale) helped his chances in the race for the red sprint jersey when he picked up third.

Race leader Evans’ BMC Racing Team and the Omega Pharma Quick Step squad did most of the riding behind and nibbled away at the leaders’ advantage. They were finally hauled back nine kilometres from the line, after which the stage-chasing Sky team lit the touchpaper on the climb of Salsomaggiore.

The pace caused the bunch to fragment and Bouhanni was distanced on the descent. His team-mate Sebastien Chavanel rode well to get him back up to the front shortly before the finish, then Bouhanni thundered through to notch up another victory.

Nizzolo did what he could to notch up his first Grand Tour win, but had the frustration of seeing his rival pounce seconds from the line.

Nizzolo did what he could to notch up his first Grand Tour win, but had the frustration of seeing his rival pounce seconds from the line.

Bouhanni got the upper hand today but said that he wasn’t taking anything for granted. “I don’t underestimate anyone,” he said. “There are very talented sprinters here, and I need the help of my team-mates to win.”

He has marked himself out as one of the top sprinters in the sport and said that he takes satisfaction from the attention and the encouragement he is getting from the fans.

“This is the second time I’ve ridden the Giro but, this time. I’ve taken three stage wins. I feel that the spectators are starting to recognise me and encourage me from the roadside,” he said. “It’s a great pleasure when they call out my name. In the mountains, I think they’ll push me and encourage me, because they’ll recognise the Maglia Rossa.”

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