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by Shane Stokes
May 24, 2014
After Thursday’s battle between the general classification contenders, Friday was a day for the breakaway at the Giro d’Italia, with three riders from the early six-man move managing to reach the line slightly clear of the hard-chasing peloton and dispute the stage thirteen win.
Best in the dash to the line was Bariani CSF rider Marco Canola, who beat Jackson Rodriguez (Androni Giocattoli) and Angelo Tulik (Team Europcar) into Rivarolo Canavese.
Nacer Bouhanni led in the main bunch eleven seconds later, beating Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek Factory Racing) and Elia Viviani (Cannondale) and showing again that he is the fastest sprinter in the race.
Canola previously won stage twelve of the 2012 Tour de Langkawi and also took the mountains jersey in this year’s Tirreno Adriatico. However he said that he’s also lost many races, and that his victory was as a result of his determination to keep going.
“As an under 23 rider, I lost many important races after being caught in the final 300 metres,” he said. “I’m a strong rouleur and I have a pretty good sprint, but it’s not easy to emerge in this sport. I was a promising rider as a junior: I had seven wins, I rode for the national team, and I achieved good things. That continued into my first year at under-23 level.
“Then, in my second year of under-23, I had some problems. My father died after illness. But with good people around me, I came through it, and I learned that it isn’t just the result that counts, it is the memory you leave behind of who you are.”
For a while it looked like memories would be his only reward for today’s stage, as the bunch was bearing down on the riders and looked set to catch them. However while the gap was less than two minutes inside the final 22 kilometres, the reluctance of teams to give Bouhanni an easy path to another win led to some of those squads dragging their heels. While the pace picked up again in the end, it was too little too late and the three leaders were able to scrape home eleven seconds ahead.
Canola showed plenty of spirit during stage and seemed philosophical at the finish. “There is no such thing as unfavourable conditions, there are only people who give up, and in this team, we never give up!” he said. “It’s good that we can’t see the future. If everything went the way we expected, there’d be no surprises. That’s why you have to stick at it.
“Today you could say I was lucky, but on other days I’ve had bad luck. But you have to go for it – that’s the rule of cycling.”
The break went clear very early on with Canola, Rodriguez, Tulik, Gert Dockx (Lotto-Belisol) and Jeffry Johan Romero (Colombia) getting a gap and then having a reinforcement in the shape of Katusha’s Maxim Belkov.
The sprinters’ teams initially looked to have things well under control, with Bouhanni’s FDJ.fr team and the Giant Shimano squad keeping the pace sufficiently high behind to limit the gains to less than four minutes.
The riders were all instructed to slow inside the final hour due to large amounts of hail on the roads, although fortunately the miniature missiles fell prior to the riders’ arrival at the area, sparing them the discomfort.
Once on the finishing circuit it looked almost certain that a bunch sprint would ensue but rather than knuckling down to close the final gap, the sprinters’ squads started to play chess, trying to entice other teams to take up the pacesetting.
This was all the break needed and while Rodriguez looked like he had the pace to take Canola, the latter was strong enough to hold on and to win the sprint to the line.
Race leader Rigobert Uran (Omega Pharma Quick Step), second placed Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team) and the other GC riders all finished in the main bunch, eleven seconds back.
Uran maintains a 37 second lead over Evans, while Rafal Majka (Tinkoff Saxo) and Domenico Pozzovivo (AG2R La Mondiale) are one minute 52 seconds and two minutes 32 seconds back overall.
The race continues Saturday with a 164 kilometre race from Agliè to the summit finish of Oropa. It will present an opportunity for the GC riders to scrap it out once again; Uran said that he is taking nothing for granted, and is aware that there are dangers to his lead.
“The stage to Oropa is going to be beautiful, but every stage here means something. Being at the Giro means something, wearing the Maglia Rosa means something. I have a lot of respect for the race, and there’s still a long way to go,” he stated.
“In a race like the Giro, something can happen every day. Yesterday, I was strong, but there are riders here like Quintana and Pozzovivo, who are in good shape. I’d add Majka to that list. I’ve a lead, but in the end it’s very small one.”