Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) took his third stage victory of the Giro d’Italia in Cuneo, sprinting to glory ahead of a fast-finishing Phil Bauhaus (Bahrain Victorious) after the peloton had left it very late to catch the breakaway.
The Frenchman launched at around 175 metres to go, going head-to-head with Mark Cavendish (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl) on the run to line after the peloton brought back a four-man break inside the final 500 metres of the 150km stage.
Cavendish couldn’t make his way past Démare’s finishing burst, though, fading to third place as Démare celebrated once again while Bauhaus nipped through to grab second place.
“It was an incredible day,” Démare said after the stage. “They really resisted in the front. We had all the elements ready to work, everyone did a perfect job, and Attila [Valter] even contributed.
“We were riding really hard. With 10km to go I started to think about the sprint because we knew by then we would get them. It was monstrous, the lead-out. With 1.5km to go we had to go up that climb really hard.
“I did as strong as a sprint as I could. It was a collective effort, exceptional effort. It’s just like the 2020 Giro. When I got here, I was saying it would be nice to win one stage. Then you have to keep looking for more. I’m really happy.”
A sprint finish always looked likely in Cuneo on what was a slightly uphill finish in Cuneo, and it eventually came to pass, despite a nailbiting final 40 kilometres as the peloton battled to catch the break, with Mirco Maestri (Eolo-Kometa) the last man standing at just 300 metres to go.
Groupama-FDJ and QuickStep-AlphaVinyl led the way in the chase and it was no surprise that their men were the most prominent in the final dash to the line, Démare launching it from behind his lead-out man Jacopo Guarnieri as Cavendish jumped out from behind the Frenchman.
Démare simply had too much out-and-out speed for his rivals, with Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) caught behind as Cavendish and Bauhaus went either side of the Frenchman.
It looked close at the line, but Démare had held on to take the win by half a bike length, while Cavendish and Gaviria trailed in behind.
The 50-man peloton that crossed the line as one contained all the main GC favourites, meaning there were to be no major GC moves in Cuneo, barring the abandon of Romain Bardet (Team DSM) from fourth place. Juan Pedro López (Trek-Segafredo), Démare, and Diego Rosa (Eolo-Kometa) continue in the pink and white, cyclamen, and blue jerseys following stage 13.
How it unfolded
Stage 13 of the Giro d’Italia saw the peloton reconvene for one of the few remaining sprint stages of the race as they tackled a 150km stage from San Remo to Cuneo in the northeast of the country.
There would be few obstacles along the way, with the third-category Colle di Nava (10.1km at 6.7%) the only climb of the day, coming inside the first 60km. The remainder of the day would be largely made up of a long, gradual downhill run and then a long, gradual uphill run to the finish.
The battle for the breakaway played out over the first 15km of the stage, with stage 7 winner Koen Bouwman (Jumbo-Visma) and maglia azzurra Diego Rosa (Eolo-Kometa) among those heading out on the attack early on.
Rosa’s teammate Mirco Maestri had more success, though, stealing away along with Filippo Tagliani (Drone Hopper-Androni Giocattoli), and Julius van den Berg (EF Education-EasyPost) at the 10km mark.
The trio were quickly joined by Nicolas Prodhomme (AG2R Citroën), and Pascal Eenkhoorn (Jumbo-Visma), making it five out front as sprinters’ teams Groupama-FDJ and QuickStep-AlphaVinyl blocked the road, indicating they were happy to let the move go.
The break’s advantage never reached much beyond 3:30 during the northern run from Liguria to Piedmont, with the sprint squads keen to keep the situation under control ahead of an expected showdown at the finish later on.
There wasn’t much drama during the mid-part of the stage, then, barring the unexpected abandon of GC contender, Romain Bardet (Team DSM), who left the race after around 30km after suffering from an illness since Thursday’s stage.
Tagliani dropped away from the front of the race on the Colle di Nava, the perennial breakaway man dropping back on the day’s only classified climb never to see the front of the race again. As the riders hit the final 100km, he lay a handful of minutes down as the peloton lingered at six minutes from the break.
That gap came down in the kilometres following the climb, as the long, gradual slope saw those controlling the peloton for the sprinters naturally speed up. At the 50km mark, though, the gap was down to 4:35, still enough to ask questions about when the catch might be made.
Up front, the leading quartet continued to work well together, determined to continue the push on up front as the peloton – well, Groupama-FDJ, Israel-Premier Tech, and QuickStep-AlphaVinyl – tried to up the pace behind.
At the 30km to go mark, they still lay at over three minutes back, with the high pace being set causing a split at the rear of the peloton not long after. The likes of Richie Porte (Ineos Grenadiers), Simon Yates (BikeExchange-Jayco), and Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) were caught out, but the major GC names avoided any pitfalls.
10km later, the gap was still 2:30 as the same teams worked to try and drag back the breakaway, with the stage set for a nail-biting finish in Cuneo as all four in the break sought to hang on for their first Grand Tour victory.
By the time the quartet hit the final 10km, their advantage was down to just 1:05 – a kilometre on the road. The seconds began to drop away more slowly from that point, though, with the gap going down just 15 seconds over the next 3km.
Heading into the final 5km, the same three sprint teams were still doing the work, still striving to shave off the 40 seconds that remained between them and the break. A kilometre later, on a section of long straight, the peloton had the break in their sights, though the gap still lay at 30 seconds, while another five had fallen away by the 3km to go banner.
A couple more seconds had gone at the 2km mark – with 22 seconds separating the groups as the break started the uphill run to the finish line. Eenkhoorn was at the front at that point, with few willing to work with him, and then Van den Berg going on the attack at 1.5km to go.
Behind, the peloton lay at 10 seconds as Eenkhoorn brought the group back together heading into the final kilometre. That was that for the move, though, with his companions’ unwillingness to share the work on that final uphill run sounding the death knell.
Eenkhoorn, Van den Berg, and Prodhomme were caught at 700 metres to go, though Maestri gave it one last push, racing metres ahead of the charging peloton until the final 300 metres.
After Guarnieri peeled off, having done his stint as final lead-out man, the sprint was launched, and seconds later it was Démare who raised his arms in celebration for the third time this Giro.
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