Rimini (Italy), October 15: A fourth stage win for Frenchman Arnaud Démare saw the in-form Groupama-FDJ rider extend his lead at the top of the maglia ciclamino standings in Stage 11 to the beach resort of Rimini.
One day after Peter Sagan ended his drought, normal service resumed for the Slovakian, who had to settle for a fourth second place after the 182km stage along the Adriatic coast. Having closed the gap to 20 points, Sagan now trails Démare by 36 points in the two-horse race for the purple jersey.
Once again, Démare benefitted from a flawless leadout from his Groupama-FDJ train, the 29-year-old launching from the wheels of teammate Jacopo Guarnieri on the home straight and never looking back.
Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) beat the Colombian Alvaro Hodeg (Deceuninck Quick-Step) for second place while the Italian Simone Consonni (Cofidis) and the German Rick Zabel (Israel Start-Up Nation) completed the top five.
Despite some hard work from his UAE-Team Emirates outfit, the misfiring Colombian Fernando Gaviria could only muster seventh place, while tenth-place Elia Viviani's chances were not done any favours when the Italian sprinter from Cofidis was knocked off his bike by a race motorcycle with 32km remaining.
The last man standing of a five-man break that formed shortly after the start in Porto Sant'Elpidio, Belgium's Sander Armée was swept up with 6km remaining after almost going the distance for Lotto Soudal.
On a the day which belonged to Démare and his Groupama-FDJ team, there was no change in the overall classification as Portugal's Joao Almeida (Deceuninck Quick-Step) retained the pink jersey with a 34-second lead over the Dutchman Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb).
BREAK BECOMES ONE-MAN ARMÉE
The Giro d'Italia's first finish in Rimini since 1960 may have seemed destined for only one outcome, but five riders did their best to go off-script as the race headed up the coast of Le Marche towards the popular seaside resort in Emilia-Romagna.
In what was almost an all-Italian affair, the Belgian Armée joined fellow veteran Marco Frapporti (Vini Zabu-KTM) and Grand Tour debutants Mattia Bais (Androni Giocatolli-Sidermec), Fabio Mazzucco and Francecso Romano (both Bardiani-CSF) in an early move whose gap peaked around the four-minutes mark.
Behind, Démare showed his intent by mopping up maximum remaining points in the intermediate sprint at Pesaro ahead of Sagan as the Frenchman's Groupama team kept a lid on the breakaway alongside representatives from Cofidis and UAE-Team Emirates.
Bais looked the most active of the escapees, the 23-year-old skipping clear on the only categorised climb of the day, the Monte San Bartolo, to get some TV time for his sponsor and add yet more breakaway kilometres to his tally.
With 36km remaining, Bais - the rider with the most amount of breakaway kilometres in his legs having ridden over 400km off the front of his debut Giro - joined forces with Armée, the only of the escapees to have won a stage on a Grand Tour before.
The peloton was trailing the two leaders by around two minutes when a race motorbike clipped Viviani's back wheel on the acute exit of a narrow roundabout, knocking the wind out of the Italian's sails and forcing him into a protracted battle to ride back into contention with his Codifis teammates.
Armée, a stage winner in the Vuelta in 2017, dropped Bais with 20km remaining with two minutes still to play with. Out of contract for the 2021 season, the 34-year-old put himself in the shop window with a brave ride which was only thwarted once Gaviria's UAE team put in a long shift on the front as the peloton entered the outskirts of Rimini.
Some dangerous road furniture and innovative traffic calming measures made for a stressful final few kilometres, but with 2km remaining it was Groupama-FDJ who muscled out UAE and Israel Start-Up Nation to occupy the nose of the peloton.
And it was business as usual from thereon in. Despite the withdrawal of their Dutch lieutenant Ramon Sinkeldam, the French team was able to deliver Démare to the home straight before Guarnieri slingshot his man to a fourth victory in what is proving to be a highly fruitful Giro for the Frenchman.
Démare became only the seventh rider this century to win at least four stages at a single Giro - and the first Frenchman since Hinault in 1982.
The focus should shift from purple to pink on Thursday with the 204km Stage 12 that could prove to be ideal ambush territory for some of the GC favourites. With five punchy lower-category climbs peppering the parcours in and around Cesenatico, Almeida will be on red alert as he bids to hold on to the maglia rosa for ninth day.
All the action from GIRO D'ITALIA Stage 12 Cesenatico - Cesenatico will be LIVE on Eurosport and Eurosport HD from 4:00 PM IST onward on October 15, 2020.