Giro d’Italia 2021 - Stage 13 as it happened: Sprinter showdown in Verona
After the fireworks of the past few days, the Giro enjoys a pan-flat run from Ravenna to Verona on Friday - giving the sprinters something to shout about. Egan Bernal remains in the pink jersey for Ineos Grenadiers and will hope to keep out of trouble ahead of Saturday's big test on Monte Zoncolan.
As expected Egan Bernal retains his pink jersey ahead of tomorrow's decisive stage where there will be an almighty shake-up on the eastern, lesser-used, side of the Zoncolan. Thanks for joining me today - see you tomorrow for the maglia rosa battle.
We'll leave you with the tearful reaction of today's winner, Giacomo Nizzolo...
Victory for Giacomo Nizzolo!
The European champion is finally a stage winner on the Giro d'Italia! After 11 second places Nizzolo tastes what it's like to win on home soil... And he needed to reel in a long-pop from Eduardo Affini of Jumbo-Visma to do so - just pipping his compatriot in time. Sagan took third and Gaviria fourth ahead of Cimolai. But you won’t find a more popular winner than Nizzolo there – he’s being congratulated by everyone, including his rivals. A lovely thing to see after all those narrow misses.
Today's top 10:
Jumbo-Visma have left it late but they are now tucked in behind Bora on the front working for their Dutch duo Groenewegen and Dekker. It's show time...
3km to go: Alpecin-Fenix on the front
Now Alpecin have taken it up. They don't have Tim Merlier any more but they're going all in for the German Alexander Krieger. UAE Team Emirates, however, have three riders - including Gaviria - just behind. Sagan, Cimolai and Viviani are a bit further back.
5km to go: Team DSM in the mix
Romain Bardet's team are riding alongside Qhubeka-Assos but they're soon joined by Trek and Ineos, who want to ensure their GC men get beyond the magic 3km marker so they don't lose time in the event of splits caused by crashes.
7km to go: Breakaway caught
After 191km out ahead, our leading trio has been swept up by the Qhubeka-led peloton. They want a win for Giacomo Nizzolo after 11 second places...
10km to go: Fight for positions begins
Bora-Hansgrohe have finally come to the front for their men Peter Sagan, who they want to win the sprint, and Emanuel Buchmann, who they want to keep out of trouble.
15km to go: 15 seconds the gap
If the three leaders can limit their losses to one second per kilometre, they might just stand a chance in Verona.
25km to go: Peloton has trio in its sights
These roads along the fertile plains of north-east Italy are long and straight which means the peloton can easily see their prey just 30 seconds up the road... Amazingly, I have only seen one swimming pool throughout the day's stage - here it is:
30km to go: No change to report
It's still 55 seconds for Rivi, Marengo and Pellaud as they ride on towards their inevitable demise at the hand of the peloton. If a sprinter doesn't win today then I'll eat my capello.
40km to go: One minute in Mantova
The gap drops below one minute for the first time in 158km as the riders pass through the streets of Montova, lined with applauding fans. Meanwhile, off the back of the pack, Pello Bilbao pays a visit to the race doctor. Bahrain-Victorious only have five men left and the Basque climber will be a key rider for third-place Damiano Caruso tomorrow and beyond.
Eduardo Affini, who is from Mantova, is being given permission to ride on the front and wave at his cheering fans, friends and family.
47km to go: Gap tumbles for leaders
As a result of the upped tempo behind, the lead of the break plunges to just 1'35". No one managed to escapee the clutches of the peloton after that tense moment following the intermediate sprint - but it was a reminder that it doesn't take much.
51km to go: It's all kicking off!
Belgian champion Dries De Bondt rode clear ahead of the pack to snaffle out the remaining spoils at the second intermediate sprint. It all looked a bit sterile and pointless - and then Thomas De Gendt suddenly upped the tempo behind, drawing out a cluster of riders such as Pieter Serry and Remi Cavagna of Deceuninck Quick-Step. All of a sudden the peloton is all strung out under these series of attacks - which have come from the teams who don't have any sprint options.
55km to go: Attack from Rivi
Samuele Rivi is going to his fellow escapees what Simon Pellaud did to him and Marengo after the first intermediate sprint. Perhaps it's all a big show for the second intermediate sprint, which is coming just up. And it's the Eolo-Kometa rider who indeeds go through the sprint at Bagnolo San Vito - the birthdown of the great Learco Guerra - to take the spoils, with Marengo following shortly after having fought back with Pellaud. For a moment, it looks like the Swiss is going to pass them both - as he did last time - when he catches up, but instead he just joins the line with a wry smile. Gap now just under three minutes.
70km to go: Lead creeps back up
The three escapees - Rivi, Marengo and Pellaud - have added another minute to their lead so they're back up to 3'40". They've been out since kilometre zero today. Meanwhile, Dylan Groenewegen spoke to us this morning about his chances of picking up a win in Verona.
Dylan Groenewegen: I believe in myself and my team
80km to go: Nosebleed for Gaviria
As Dan Lloyd says, it must be the altitude...
That's as interesting as it gets right now, with the leading trio being held at around 2'45". Bernal, meanwhile, is off the back after a call of nature or a visit to the Ineos team car. Hasn't put a foot wrong so far - but his good days were always going to be on the gravel. The high mountains will be a different test.
It's been an easy day for the race leader Egan Bernal, safely protected by his Ineos Grenadiers teammates. Tomorrow's rendez-vous on Monte Zoncolan, however, will be a different matter.
Who are the outsiders?
So far it has been four teams sharing the workload on the front – Cofidis, UAE Team Emirates, Qhubeka-Assos and Jumbo-Visma – paving the way for their respective sprinters: Elia Viviani, Fernando Gaviria, Giacomo Nizzolo and Dylan Groenewegen. We have also mentioned Peter Sagan of Bora-Hansgrohe, who can't be discounted as be protects his maglia ciclamino lead while pushing for a second stage win.
But what of the outsiders for victory in Verona? They include Davide Cimolai (Israel Start-Up Nation), Francesco Gavazzi (Eolo-Kometa), Matteo Moschetti (Trek-Segafredo), yesterday's winner Andrea Vendrame (Ag2R-Citroen), Stage 3 winner Taco van der Hoorn (Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert), Nikias Arndt (Team DSM), Stefano Oldani (Lotto Soudal), Alexander Krieger (Alpecin-Fenix) and David Dekker (Jumbo-Visma).
99km to go: Halfway through
The good news: we're halfway through; the bad news: we're only halfway through...
The sunshine has gone and it's rather cloudy now. I wouldn't be surprised if we see some showers before the finish in Verona in two-and-a-half hours. The gap for our leading trio is down to 4'45".
112km to go: Duo catch Pellaud
Rivi and Marengo let Pellaud dangle out around 10 metres ahead for a while before finally making the connection. And even when they do, they just sit on the Swiss's back wheel without exchanging any words. The gap is up to 6'25" again and, it's fair to say, the Po valley is not the most scenic of spots in Italy...
120km to go: Pellaud still pellaud'ing ahead
The Swiss schemer still has 10 seconds or so over his fellow escapees, Rivi and Marengo, who outclassed him in the sprint and are now suffering retribution. The riders have passed over the River Po and the peloton is still 5'50" in arrears having finally caught up with that Sagan-Gaviria group which zipped clear in search of the intermediate sprint ciclamino scraps in Ferrara.
127km to go: Gaviria wins sprint for fourth
When the peloton passes through the tree-lined boulevard for the intermediate sprint, it's Gaviria who takes the spoils for fourth place ahead of Cimolai, Molano, Sagan and Consonni. Those five points to Sagan's two points sees the Colombian slash the Slovakian's lead to 14 points in the maglia ciclamino standings.
129km to go: Pellaud soloes clear
When Pellaud catches up with his two Italian breakaway companions he simply rides past them - as if in some kind of tacit protest - and opens up a gap. Quite an odd tactic but whatever floats your boat, I guess.
131km to go: Marengo wins intermediate sprint
Simon Pellaud takes a flyer and goes from a long way out in Ferrara. But Marengo latches on and eventually sweeps past the Swiss - as does Rivi, who then goes shoulder-to-shoulder with his compatriot in what is a veritable ding-dong battle for the intermediate sprint. Despite that pressure from Rivi, it's Marengo who just holds on - by a whisker.
145km to go: No Bora-Hansgrohe yet
The notable absence on the front comes with Peter Sagan's Bora team - but that's no huge sirprise because the Slovakian doesn't see himself as an out-and-out sprinter, even if he'll be there or thereabouts in the final. Sagan is in the maglia ciclamino following his victory at Foligno in stage 10. He has 108pts with Gaviria level with Davide Cimolai of Israel Start-Up Nation on 91 points. No surprise that none of Cimolai's teammates are helping out on the front: they lost two riders yesterday (De Marchi and Dowsett) and so are down to just five now...
The gap is 5'30" for our trio of Rivi, Marengo and Pellaud with the intermediate sprint at Ferrara coming up in about 15km.
150km to go: Jumbo-Visma get involved
Completing the haul of sprinters' teams, Jumbo-Visma send a man to the front to help bring this gap down to six minutes. They will be hoping to set up Dylan Groenewegen for a win on his comeback - the Dutchman has been a bit off the pace so far and has not yet cracked the top three in a sprint. His understudy David Dekker has been used in his leadout and not given a chance yet - so it will be interesting to see if he gets the nod or if he's working for Groenewegen.
155km to go: Qhubeka-Assos also contributing
Giacomo Nizzolo's team also put a man on the front to help with the chase. Nizzolo, the European champion, has finished runner-up in a Giro stage on 11 occasions without ever tasting victory. Could the 32-year-old finally get that monkey off his back in Verona? He's twice missed out this year - behind Tim Merlier in stage 2 and Caleb Ewan in stage 5. With both those riders no longer here then surely Nizzolo has to fancy his chances...
160km to go: UAE Team Emirates lend a hand
Cofidis have sparked some input from the UAE team of Fernando Gaviria, who, like Viviani, is also a former Quick-Step sprinter with a track pedigree who is looking for his first Grand Tour stage win since 2019. The 26-year-old Colombian came second a few days ago in Foligno but has otherwise been off the boil in the bunch sprints. Today would be the ideal moment to remind the world of his class. The gap comes down to seven minutes.
165km to go: Cofidis come to the front
The Cofidis team of Elia Viviani have come to the front of the peloton to start leading the chase now that the gap has swelled above seven minutes. While he's still without a Grand Tour stage win since 2019, it's been a good 24 hours for the Italian track specialist who yesterday was named the Italian flag-bearer for the Tokyo Olympics. Today's stage passes just seven kilometres from his home town of Isola della Scala so we can expect a big effort from the 32-year-old today. He's had two third places and a fourth in sprints so far - so he'll need to up his game.
Bennett given third place after Brambilla relegation
In yesterday's finish, George Bennett and Gianluca Brambilla seemed to argue themselves out of contention by letting Andrea Vendrama and Chris Hamilton ride clear with 2km remaining while they were engaged in an unseemly spat. They had already been sharing some choice words on the final climb - and their scuffle continued on the home straight when the Italian cut up the Kiwi in the sprint for third place - prompting a disgusted Bennett to gesticulate wildly in his direction.
After the stage, Brambilla said he had nothing to say on the matter, adding with the claws out: "Just ask George Bennett how to lose the race. Sometimes it's better to watch some racing on TV so you can learn how to do it."
‘Ask George Bennett how to lose the race,’ fumes Brambilla
For his part Bennett later apologised for his behaviour to the world in general (if not to Brambilla) and admitted he had to work on his temper. But he also said that he had been called on to close down all the attacks from the break on the climbs - and that it annoyed him because he knew he stood no chance to win a sprint given his slender 58kg frame.
In any case, the two riders swapped positions after the intervention of the race jury - not that it would have made any difference in the grand scheme of things.
‘I’m not going to win the sprint’ – George Bennett hits back at Gianluca Brambilla
180km to go: Five minutes now
Our three heroes/suckers out ahead on this interminable piece of bunch sprint foreplay now have over five minutes of a margin. They are: Samuele Rivi (Eolo-Kometa), Umberto Marengo (Bardiani-CSF) and Simon Pellaud (Androni Giacattoli). The Swiss is the best placed on GC but even then he's a huge 1hr 35'06" down on Bernal.
Nibali's fishing expedition on the final descent
Yesterday, Vincenzo Nibali and his Trek-Segafredo teammate Giulio Ciccone put in an attack on the final climb which Ineos Grenadiers were quickly able to snuffle out. It showed that the Italian duo had balls and aren't afraid to think out of the box in a bid to destabilise Egan Bernal, the race leader.
Then, going over the top of the climb, Nibali put in one of his trademark attacks on the descent... and instead of letting him go (the Shark was over four minutes down on GC), Gianni Moscon couldn't resist trying to chase him down... which resulted in this:
‘Stupid thing to do’ – Moscon crashes while chasing Nibali
In a post-stage tactical opinion piece, I argued that Nibali’s attack on the final descent of Stage 12 exposed the one major chink in the Ineos Grenadier armour: their desire for total control. Seven seconds and a few cuts and bruises to Moscon’s skin (and ego) were ultimately the only setbacks – but it was a timely reminder of the potential pitfalls that lie ahead in Egan Bernal’s quest for pink.
In short, I said that Ineos have bigger fish to fry than the Shark - and that Moscon should have known better. For his part, Nibali's move was as predictable as the reaction it triggered - and for that, he should be praised. You can read the piece here:
The soft-pedalling peloton is being nosed by three Lowlanders in Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal), Victor Campenaerts (Qhubeka-Assos) and the Belgian national champion Dries De Bondt (Alpecin-Fenix). With the gap growing above three minutes, many riders in the pack swing to the side of the road and take advantage of the slow pace to answer a call of nature.
190km to go: Trio have 2'30"
The gap grows for the leaders. Given Marengo's presence in the move, it was no surprise to see Pellaud bridge over: the Swiss currently leads the "Fuga" breakaway standings with a tally of 504km but the Italian is not far down in second place on 474km in which is proving to be a two-horse race. That man Rivi, incidentally, is in sixth place on 240km but he will move up into third today ahead of Taco van der Hoorn, who is on 298km.
198km to go: Stage 13 is under way
Under blue skies and bright sunshine in Emilia-Romagna, Giro course director Stefano Allocchio waves his flag from the sunroof of his car and this snorefest - sorry, sprinter slugfest - has got going with an instant attack. And it's pretty predictable: Italian duo Samuele Rivi (Eolo-Kometa) and Umberto Marengo (Bardiani-CSF) do the honours. And it's not long before a third rider joins the party - and yes, you've got it, it's the Swiss breakaway specialist Simon Pellaud (Androni Giacattoli).
Riders edging through Ravenna
Morning all and welcome to live coverage of today's pan-flat Stage 13 from Ravenna to Verona. There's an altitude gain of 61 metres over the course of the 198km so it's fair to say that we shouldn't see too much fireworks ahead of the expected bunch sprint... although you never know: Grand Tours have a way of creeping up and delivering surprises when you least expect them.
With the remaining riders now in the neutral zone, here's the stage profile for you - should you need a cut-out-and-keep spirit level...
'Ridiculous amount of ego'
Gianni Moscon (Ineos Grenadiers) showed a “ridiculous amount of ego” in chasing Vincenzo Nibali (Trek Segafredo) down a hazardous descent at the Giro d’Italia, according to Eurosport expert Adam Blythe.
Moscon crashed moments after setting off in pursuit of the Italian in the closing kilometres of Stage 12. But the question remains: why did Moscon close down an attack from someone over four minutes adrift in the GC battle?
“He [Nibali] was just putting the pressure on and seeing who was going to follow him and if they were willing. Moscon eventually tried to follow and came a cropper,” said Blythe on The Breakaway.
“What are you trying to follow him for? Why are you? It’s stupid, I don’t understand. Nibali is four minutes down on GC, just let him go. Take it easy on the descent, there’s no stress whatsoever.
“Just by a silly mistake like that, he might have broken his collarbone, he might have done something ridiculous.
I think it’s a ridiculous amount of ego, trying to say ‘I can descend, I can descend’.
Moscon slammed for 'ridiculous amount of ego' after crashing in Nibali chase
Recap: Vendrame wins from breakaway on Stage 12
Italy’s Andrea Vendrame proved the strongest of the remaining four escapees from a 16-man move which animated an eventful Stage 12.
Egan Bernal retained the pink jersey, but a late move from Vincenzo Nibali showed that Ineos Grenadiers are not unflappable after Gianni Moscon crashed on the final descent.