Navardauskas Wins Stage 11 of Giro d'Italia 2013
Oss took second at 1:08, and Stefano Pirazzi (Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox) finished third at 2:59. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) remains the maglia rosa.
Because the early part of the course was downhill, escapes were difficult. It was not until 75 km, as the field approached the base of the Category 2 Setta Ciampigotto, that the break of the day formed. Navardauskas, Oss, Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Leonardo Duque (Colombia), Juan Jose Cobo (Movistar), Guillaume Bonnafond (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Jackson Rodriguez (Androni Giacattoli-Venezuela), Paul Martens (Blanco), Cayetano Sarmiento (Cannondale), Johan Le Bon (Francaise des Jeux), Vladimir Gusev (Katusha), Serge Pauwels (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Jens Keukeleire (GreenEdge), Yaroslav Popovych (RadioShack-Leopard), Salvatore Puccio (Sky), Patrick Gretsch (Argos-Shimano), Evgeni Petrov (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff), Frederik Veuchelen (Vacansoleil-DCM), and Danilo Di Luca (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia) sallied off of the front. Within 10 km, the fugitives led by four minutes, and their advantage grew to five minutes by 98 km. Astana rode tempo up the climb, and the break's lead fell to 4:15 with 80 km left.
With 75 km remaining, Astana stopped chasing. The break continued to charge up the climb, and its lead grew to 5:45. One km from the summit, Pirazzi attacked, and Pauwels, Rodriguez, Cobo, and Bonnafond joined him. On the descent, the other break members rejoined the quintet.
On the descent, Gretsch attacked. With 43 km to go, the German led the chase group by 0:45. The peloton, which Astana had resumed riding tempo for, was 5:33 in arrears.
With 34 km left, Gretsch led the chasers by 1:33. About nine km later, Di Luca attacked his companions, but they reeled him in. He tried again, and this time, Bonnafond countered. Navardauskas and Oss caught and dropped the Frenchman and set out after Gretsch.
With 20 km to go, Navardauskas and Oss were within 0:40 of Gretsch. Two km later, they caught and dropped him. The German, however, did rejoin the pair.
With 15 km remaining, the leading trio were 1:30 ahead of the chase group and 6:13 ahead of the bunch. Gretsch was dropped three km later. With 10 km left, the chasers began to attack each other. Behind, Blanco began to increase the peloton's pace.
Navardauskas made two attacks, the second of which dropped Oss. He led the Italian by 0:35 with three km left. Astana took command of the bunch but did not force the pace. With 200 m left, the Garmin-Sharp man began to celebrate his victory.
Navardauskas's win, the biggest of his career, is a fillip to the morale of Garmin-Sharp, which has had to set stage hunting as a goal since its GC man, defending champion Ryder Hesjedal, dropped out of contention. The Lithuanian saw today's stage as one that he could win.
"Everyone," Navardauskas said, "could see that there was a good chance of a breakaway forming today. That's why it took so long for the breakaway to form. The first part of the stage was on a descent and into a headwind, so it was difficult to open a gap. When we hit the long climb, the racing changed. The breakaway formed, and everyone knew it would get away. The best guy in the general classification was 10 minutes down, so the contenders could take it easy in view of the big stages that are approaching.
"[Oss] is a good rider. He was in the breakaway, so he clearly had good legs. I didn't know how strong he was going to be on the last climb. We worked together until the climb began. While he was leading, I tried to see how he was feeling. I accelerated a couple of times to see how he would respond, and then I saw that I had better legs. I made one attack, then a harder one, and then I saw I was alone. Then I tried to pace myself. The gap was never huge, and right until the end I thought he would get a second wind."
In the overall, Nibali leads Cadel Evans (BMC) by 0:41 and Rigoberto Uran (Sky) by 2:04. Stage 12 will not change this state of affairs. The 134-km run from Longarone to Treviso will feature two Category 4 ascents, but the last 30 km will be flat. A bunch sprint should decide the stage. Who will win it? Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step)? Matthew Goss (GreenEdge)? Elia Viviani (Cannondale)? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!