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PINEROLO, Italy (AFP) – Russia’s Ilnur Zakarin of Katusha soloed to a snow-capped summit finish victory on a chaotic 13th stage of the Giro d’Italia on Friday that shook up the overall picture. Slovenia’s Jan Polanc of Team UAE kept hold of the overall lead as favourites Primoz Roglic and Vincenzo Nibali crossed the line together 2min 57sec adrift, with Briton Simon Yates and Colombian Miguel Angel Lopez another two minutes back.
“My two attacks weren’t planned at all,” Zakarin said. “I came to the Giro d’Italia to make the top five and I hope it’s still possible.”
The Russian thereby climbs to third in the overall standings, which is where the now 29-year-old finished on the 2017 Giro.
Polanc was distanced but held on to this pink jersey. “It was a very hard stage, I tried to pace myself on the climb and I’m happy to have managed to defend the Maglia Rosa,” he said. “I have to thank the team that worked hard all day. Tomorrow we’ll see how it goes.”
On this first summit reckoning in a mountain-packed second section of the Giro, the peloton climbed to 2237m altitude, with Zakarin dropping Spain’s Mikel Nieve in the final section and beating him by 35sec at the panoramic finishing post in the Gran Paradiso national park.
Movistar pair Mikel Landa and Richard Carapaz came third and fourth on a great day for the Spanish team as Dutchman Bauke Mollema climbed to fourth in the overall with his fifth place on the day.
The two favourites, Roglic of Jumbo-Visma and two-time Giro winner Nibali of Bahrain, kept close tabs on each other all day with both men taking frequent turns to test each other.
Colombian hope Miguel Angel Lopez of Astana, who was third on last year’s Giro, had been leading that pair until he suffered yet another mechanical cost him precious initiative.
But the day’s biggest loser, over five minutes behind Zakarin, was Simon Yates, a Briton who rides for Mitchelton-Scott, whose pre-race bravado will haunt him after declaring himself the man to beat.
British Team Ineos, formerly Sky, had a mixed day, losing 24-year-old climber Tao Geoghegan Hart to an early crash, but seeing their 21-year-old Russian climber Pavel Sivakov finish ninth to climb into the overall top 10 and shoot to the top of the young rider white jersey standings.
Saturday’s stage looks even tougher with five climbs and 4,000m elevation on the menu. The penultimate climb, the Colle San Marco is 10.5km with an average gradient of 9.8 percent.