Jhonatan Narváez soloed his way to victory on a rain-drenched 12th stage of the Giro d'Italia on Thursday to give Ineos Grenadiers their third win in this year's race.
On a day in which the weather conditions dampened the hoped-for fireworks in the general classification battle over five categorised climbs, Narváez and Mark Padun (Bahrain McLaren) battled it out after escaping from a 14-man lead group.
But Padun suffered a mechanical issue with little more than 20km of the 204km stage from Cesenatico to Cesenatico remaining and despite valiantly chasing down Narváez he ran out of legs.
Narváez, 23, kept the power down to extend his advantage in the closing kilometres, winning by almost a minute.
It was a day of consolidation for Joao Almeida (Deceuninck-Quick Step) who retained the leader's pink jersey, preserving his 34-second lead over Wilco Kelderman (Sunweb).
Deceuninck-Quick Step shepherd the maglia rosa over the finishing line following what, for me, was the team performance of the day as Joao Almeida keeps hold of his leader's pink jersey for another day.
As each day passes and we get closer to the third and final week, when more than likely some of the bigger mountainous stages will be shortened due to the snow which has already fallen on the Stelvio, I am really starting to think that the 22-year-old who is making his grand tour debut here in Italy could actually do this. The work done today by James Knox and Fausto Masnada — along with the likes of Mikkel Frolich Honore and Pieter Serry — would suggest that the Portuguese certainly has the team-mates to support that ambition.
Tao Geoghegan Hart (Ineos Grenadiers) finishes in the same group which should, by my calculations, see the Briton climb up to 13th on general classification after Ilnur Zakarin (CCC) lost some time today.
Jhonatan Narváez (Ineos Grenadiers), the 23-year-old Ecuadorian, has taken the biggest win of his career after holding on to deny Mark Padun (Bahrain-McLaren) who suffered that mechanical issue at the worst possible time. Simon Clarke (EF Pro Cycling) rolls over the line over five minutes down on Padun to take third spot.
It appears that this will be a third stage win for Ineos Grenadiers following the two taken by Filippo Ganna — the opening-day time trial and his own solo attack on stage five. Jhonatan Narváez now leads Mark Padun by 43sec.
Barring disaster, Jhonatan Narváez is going to win this stage. His lead has increased to 25sec.
Jhonatan Narváez gains on Mark Padun, the Ineos Grenadiers rider's advantage up to 15sec.
Jhonatan Narváez is holding on at around 10sec. Mark Padun is rolling on his bike, possibly starting to flounder following that huge effort. But can the boy from Ukraine recover and find himself a second wind? Back in the group of general classification contenders, Domenico Pozzovivo has finally taken a jacket of gilet from his team car. He must be f-f-f-f-f-f-reeeeezing.
Mark Padun is closing in on Jhonatan Narváez, the gap has been whittled down to just 10sec. That's some effort from the Bahrain-McLaren rider.
Jhonatan Narváez is, understandably, constantly peering over his shoulder keeping an eye out for Mark Padun who is attempting to chase him down. The Ineos Grenadiers rider leads the pursuit race by around 25sec, while Simon Clarke appears to be out of it at 3min 5sec. The peloton is 6min 50sec behind Narváez.
Ukraine rider Mark Padun is in pursuit of Jhonatan Narváez, but the Ineos Grenadiers rider whose last victory came in Italy at last month's Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali is looking strong.
Jakob Fuglsang is reunited with team-mate Manuele Boaro after the Italian drops back from the group formerly known as the breakaway.
Mark Padun is forced to stop and take a bike change after appearing to puncture. Jhonatan Narváez pushes on, but can the Ineos Grenadiers rider become the second Ecuadorian to win a stage at this year's Giro following Jonathan Caceido's stage win on Mount Etna in the opening week? Simon Clarke is over 2min down.
25km to go
Domenico Pozzovivo rises out of his saddle two or three times, accelerating in an attempt to shake off his rivals as they near the summit of the San Giovanni in Galilea. The Italian, however, is unable to gain an inch which will come as a hiuge blow to his team-mates who have spent most of the day riding hard on the front.
27km to go
Joao Almeida still has Deceuninck-Quick Step team-mates James Knox and Fausto Masnada for company in the group of general classification riders, while Tao Geoghegan Hart is doing a fine ride at round sixth wheel in the group. Jhonatan Narváez and Mark Padun have increased their advantage on Simon Clarke to 2min 10sec.
30km to go
Jhonatan Narváez goes over the summit of the San Giovanni in Galilea first ahead of Mark Padun . Both add a few points to their totals in the mountains classification, but neither will be thinking about that right now. With a stage at the Giro d'Italia up for grabs, which neither have managed before, they have to work together to ensure Simon Clarke does not catch them and nick the stage from under their noses.
32.5km to go
Jhonatan Narváez and Mark Padun have gained a few more seconds on Simon Clarke, while the peloton now trails by 7min 17sec. Narváez and Padun are onto the final climb of the day.
34km to go
Simon Clarke takes a bike change; Jakob Fuglsang has managed to get back into the group containing the big general classification contenders.A number of riders have been spotted attempting to warm their hands, though in these conditions that is nigh on impossible.
35km to go
Simon Clarke has not given up and is in pursuit of stage leaders Jhonatan Narváez and Mark Padun, though he trails by around 30sec. The chasing group is another two minutes down the road, while the peoloton is 6min 25sec behind the leading pair. Next up is the final climb of the day, the 4.7km long San Giovanni in Galilea. Once over the top it is a long, and fast descent towards Cesenatico.
38.5km to go
He's not had the best of luck at this year's race, and yet again Jakob Fuglsang has suffered a mechanical issue. The Dane drops back to his team car before taking a bike change. Unfortunately, the Astana team leader has no team-mates to assist him in chasing back on.
41.5km to go
Jhonatan Narváez and Mark Padun lead the stage by 50sec ahead of Simon Clarke . A little further back Jesper Hansen and Simon Pellaud have pushed on from the chasing group.
45km to go
Domenico Pozzovivo has two NTT team-mates on the front of the peloton, while Joao Almeida has a few Deceuninck-Quick Step pals. Must admit, Deceuninck-Quick Step have done a great job here today protecting the maglia rosa. By contrast, Vincenzo Nibali and Jakob Fuglsang are isolated — that may turn out to be costly. Tao Geoghegan Hart (Ineos Grenadiers), the highest-placed Briton at 14th is here, as is Wilco Kelderman (Sunweb) who started the day in second.
51.5km to go
All change on the front where Simon Clarke has been replaced on the front by Jhonatan Narváez (Ineos Grenadiers), Mark Padun (Bahrain-McLaren). There are an awful lot of rain jackets on show today which would suggest it is quite nippy out on the road.
54km to go
Simon Clarke, all wrapped up in his arm and leg warmers, has clipped off the front. Can the Aussie go all the way and claim a third individual stage for EF Pro Cycling? Coincidentally, the last two stages won by the team with the duck on their jerseys came in wet weather — Jonathan Caceido on Mount Etna and Ruben Guerreiro last Sunday. Can Clarke make it a hat-trick here today?
56km to go
On what looks like an incredibly slippery descent, Dutchman Etienne van Empel (Vini Zabu-KTM) suffers terrible misfortune and is forced to stop to get a wheel change. Van Empel had been in the breakaway since the start today and had managed to regain contact with the leading group before he was caught out by this mechanical. Horrible conditions and the rain is still teeming down.
63.5km to go
The gap between the peloton and the breakaway has dropped to just 5min on the 9.1km slope of the Madonna di Pugliano which, as you can see, is a climb of two halves. Interesting to note that Vincenzo Nibali (Trek-Segafredo) has shifted up the bunch and got himself onto the wheel of Domenico Pozzovivo. The NTT rider is a marked man today, but having put his entire team to work today it is clear for all to see that he is hoping to try something in this stage. Little wonder then that the wily old shark that is Nibali made that move. The maglia rosa of Joao Almeida has a few Deceuninck-Quick Step team-mates, including James Knox and Pieter Serry alongside him.
Similarly to Nibali who has just one team-mate in the peloton that has now reduced to around 20 riders, Jakob Fuglsang is all alone, riding isolated.
The breakaway's lead is down to 4min 45sec.
70km to go
It is turning into a quite horrible looking day out in Emilia-Romagna, the rain is falling heavier now and it is looking ominously dark. Cesare Benedetti has been dropped by the leading group which now comprises François Bidard (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Manuele Boaro (Astana), Simon Clarke (EF Pro Cycling), Jesper Hansen (Cofidis Solutions Crédits), Jhonatan Narváez (Ineos Grenadiers), Mark Padun (Bahrain-McLaren), Simon Pellaud (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec) and Joey Rosskopf (CCC).
72.5km to go
Hello, who's this? Cesare Benedetti managed to bridge over to stage leader Simon Pellaud. A minute or so later Joey Rosskopf joined to make it a leading trio, 6min 19sec ahead of the NTT-led peloton.
75km to go
Having added another nine points to his tally in the mountains classification atop the Perticara, Simon Pellaud rolls off the front of the breakaway. The Swiss is descending at speed on these narrow and twisty roads, having rained earlier there are patches of dampness. NTT, meanwhile, are continuing to set a decent pace on the front of the peloton as they continue to nibble away at the advantage of Pellaud. Down to 6min 7sec now.
80km to go
I don't think Domenico Pozzovivo has had much of a look in over the last week or so in our liveblog, which has probably been a little bit of an oversight on my part. He's one of those riders that you often see mentioned as a possible winner of grand tour, though I've rarely seen any evidence to suggest he may actually bag one. That said, he has finished in the overall top 10 on six occasions — from the previous 19 he has started — but this Giro may represent his best chance yet.
With a weakened field following the departures of Geraint Thomas, Simon Yates and Steven Kruijswijk — coupled with the fact that the starting list was already not the strongest we have ever seen — makes this a very open race. The diminutive Italian climber is riding mob-handed today, other than Victor Campenaerts who is in the breakaway, he has his entire team shepherding him up this gnarly looking Perticara climb. The peloton trails the break by 6min 22sec.
87.5km to go
The breakaway's lead drops a little further to 7min 31sec.
92.5km to go
The breakaway is onto the third categorised climb of the day, the 7.6km long Perticara that has an average gradient of just 5.1 per cent, though there are short parts of it that are very steep. Joey Rosskopf is looking strong and is winding up the pace on the front, causing minor splits in the group. Maximiliano Richeze is the first to pop, while Cesare Benedetti and Victor Campenaerts are struggling.
Further down the road, Ilnur Zakarin (CCC) dropped off the back of the peloton briefly, but managed to claw his way back on. NTT are riding on the front, the suggestion being that Domenico Pozzovivo who started the stage fourth on general classification, 57sec off the pace of race leader Joao Almeida, is teeing up something here today.
100km to go
For what it's worth, I'm surprised to see Maximiliano Richeze in this breakaway. The Argentine national champion is the leadout rider for UAE Team Emirates sprinter Fernando Gaviria so not too sure what he's doing up front on this punchy stage. Either way, he's only one of two riders in the break who has won a stage at the Giro d'Italia before. Richeze, however, he did not get to raise his arms in celebration as he was awarded the wins retrospectively after Alessandro Petacchi was stripped of them following a doping infringement in 2007. The other stage winner here is Cesare Benedetti who took the first and, as yet, only win of his career at last year's race. Coincidentally, that was also during stage 12.
110km to go
The peloton has started to nibble away at the lead the breakaway has, their drop has plummeted to 8min 10sec. With a handful of riders in the breakaway that also have general classification hopefuls back in the bunch, it will be interesting to see if the likes of Manuele Boaro. Victor Campenaerts, Mark Padun are here on behalf of Jakob Fuglsang, Domenico Pozzovivo or Pello Bilbao respectively.
114km to go
The breakaway has crested the Barbotto, with Simon Pellaud adding nine points to his tally in the mountains classification. Topping at at 17 per cent — SEVENTEEN! — riders like Mark Padun and Victor Campenaerts were spotted labouring, almost coming to a standstill.
115km to go
By the way, the highest placed rider on general classification in this 14-man breakaway is Jhonatan Narváez who started the day 43min 44sec behind race leader Joao Almeida (Deceuninck-Quick Step).
As it stands: v.2.0
appears that I forgot to mention how big the gap was between the peloton and the breakaway. Amateur: It is 11 minutes now.
As it stands . . .
Young British rider Matthew Holmes (Lotto-Soudal) was the first rider to go off the front today, but he was soon reined back in before a 12-man group replaced him on the front of the race. A minor shuffling of the pack resulted in that growing to 13 riders — Cesare Benedetti (Bora-Hansgrohe), François Bidard (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Manuele Boaro (Astana), Victor Campenaerts (NTT), Simon Clarke (EF Pro Cycling), Etienne van Empel (Vini Zabu-KTM), Jesper Hansen (Cofidis Solutions Crédits), Jhonatan Narváez (Ineos Grenadiers), Mark Padun (Bahrain-McLaren), Simon Pellaud (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec), Maximiliano Richeze (UAE Team Emirates), Joey Rosskopf (CCC) and Albert Torres (Movistar) — while Héctor Carretero (Movistar) was trapped in no man's land, that area between the breakaway and the peloton.
Following a huge, er, effort the Spaniard who is racing his second grand tour after making his debut at last year's Giro, bridged over.
Carretero didn't seem able to close the gap, constantly being around 1:30 minutes behind the break. Camera then catches a serious sticky bottle from the Movistar team car and suddenly Carretero has bridged across.. Didn't look good... #Giro pic.twitter.com/psJTFXbYIH— Mikkel Condé v2.0 (@mrconde) October 15, 2020
As you can see from the above footage, the race commissaires may have something to say about the extremely sticky bottle Carretero almost took from his team car. After all that hanging around, it turns out the 25-year-old wasn't even thirsty. Fancy that!
And welcome to our live rolling blog from stage 12 at the Giro d'Italia, the 204km run that will loop inland from Cesenatico, the hometown of the late Marco Pantani, before returning to the start town that hugs the coast of the Adriatic Sea. As you can see from the profile, today's route is a punchy affair featuring five categorised climbs — the Ciola, Barbotto, Perticara, Madonna di Pugliano and San Giovanni in Galilea. None are longer than 9.1km.
Here are the leaders in the four main classifications — those awarded jerseys — the maglia rosa (pink), maglia ciclamino (cyclamen), maglia azzurra (blue) and maglia bianca (white).
Given the length and difficulty of today's stage, it was an early start for the remaining 144 riders in the race who rolled through KMO at 10.18am (BST). As it stands, there is a 14-man breakaway leading.the stage. Our liveblog will get under way in earnest at 12.30pm.