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Rubio Takes Disorderly And Shortened Stage 13 After Shocking Pinot Attacks

Colombia’s Einer Rubio gave his Movistar team a first win on the Giro d’Italia in four years in a weather-shortened Stage 13 at Crans Montana. Rubio exploited a huge rift between breakaway companions Thibaut Pinot and Jefferson Cepeda to take a thrilling win in the Alps as Geraint Thomas survived a fourth day in the pink jersey.

Emotions ran high in the Swiss ski resort of Crans Montana as Colombia’s Einer Rubio (Movistar) dug deep and kept a low profile on the final climb of a shortened Stage 13 of the Giro before catching out his fellow escapees Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) and Jefferson Cepeda (EF Education-EasyPost) with a magical turn of pace at the finish.

French veteran Pinot and Ecuador’s Cepeda tore strips off each other and bickered incessantly during a thrilling showdown in Switzerland, trading more blows than 10 rounds of Rocky Balboa versus Apollo Creed. But Rubio ignored the sideshow and kept his own tempo to ride back in contention before leaving both riders with egg on their faces in a dramatic conclusion to a stage that almost never happened.

Heavy rain and flash flooding in the Italian Alps caused the scheduled first climb – the San Bernardo pass – to be pulled from the profile. Instead, the riders were taken by bus to the foot of the Croix de Coeur climb for a 75km stage which sizzled from the outset and, perhaps, served up more drama than the initial 199km parcours may have produced.

Rubio, Pinot and Cepeda were the strongest of an initial seven-man group which at one point had a gap of four minutes over the peloton – putting Pinot within touching distance of the virtual pink jersey.

At the end of an emotionally draining and perhaps psychologically damaging day for the French veteran, Pinot – whose relentless attacks lit up the final ascent and delighted his significant fanbase – ended up not with pink, but back in the blue jersey he conceded last week at Gran Sasso. Baby steps.

Britain’s Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) chalked off another day as the race leader to come home alongside his GC rivals to retain his two-second lead over Slovenia’s Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) in what is proving to be a tight fight for pink. Portugal’s Joao Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) stayed in third place at 22 seconds after a day of attrition between the race favourites.

In addition to the maglia azzurra, Pinot’s swashbuckling (but entirely self-inflicted) second place saw him return to the top 10 in the general classification at the expense of Aurelien Paret-Peintre (AG2R Citroen), whose brother Valentin took fifth place on the stage behind the impressive Canadian debutant Derek Gee (Israel-PremierTech).


Earlier, a surreal scenario had unfolded at the start of the day’s racing as the riders got a thorough soaking as they rode through the neutral zone at Borgofranco d’Ivrea before they coming to an abrupt stop and jumping on their team buses.

Following discussions with the riders, the Giro organisers elected to shorten the route, with the new parcours wiping off 130km but retaining the two significant climbs of the Croix de Coeur and summit finish at Crans Montana.

An official statement from the organisers read: “Given the adverse weather conditions, especially on the Italian side, the commission decided to meet the athletes’ requests by applying the Extreme Weather Protocol.

“Stage 13 will be shortened with the new KM 0 being set at Le Chable, at the bottom of the Croix de Coeur. The final part of the stage remains unchanged. The race will follow the original timetable.”

One rider who did not take part in the prolonged bus transfer was Denmark’s Mads Pedersen of Trek-Segfredo, the Stage 6 winner at Napoli withdrawing from the Giro with a bad cough.

When the race started more than three hours later, there were fireworks from the outset – including a broken chain for the early pace-setter Karel Vacek, who was forced to stop and wait an eternity for his Team Corratec-Selle Italia car for a new bike.

By the time the race passed through Verbier after an explosive opening 5km, things had settled with a seven-man group coming together in the wake of Jefferson Cepeda’s initial attack. As well as the Ecuadorian from EF Education-EasyPost the break featured Valentin Paret-Peintre (AG2R Citroen), Thibaut Pinot and Bruno Armirail (both Groupama-FDJ), Derek Gee and Matthew Riccitello (both Israel-PremierTech), and Einer Rubio (Movistar).

Pinot led a quartet over the summit of the Croix de Coeur after his team-mate Armirail and the Italian Riccitello were distanced on the steeper section near the top. Paret-Peintre, too, was forced to close a gap on the narrow and twisting descent, which saw the leaders stretch their lead considerably over a peloton eager to take no risks.

The in-fighting commenced on the flat valley road to the foot of the final climb with Pinot chastising Cepeda for refusing to pull. Pinot had already argued on the previous climb with the Canadian Gee, who urged his more experienced counterpart to rein in his attacks and work with, not against, the break.

Pinot would have been better served listening to the 25-year-old, whose strong performances in this Giro have seen him come second in two stages. Instead, Pinot attacked at the start of the Cat.1 ascent to Crans Montana – and then repeated this all the way up the climb.

After each attack, Cepeda was able to ride back into contention – with that man Rubio keeping a back seat and going about his business calmly and effectively. With around 5km remaining, Pinot and Cepeda shared yet more choice words before the Ecuadorian fixed his rival with a hard stare as he pulled clear.

For the viewers at home, the constant yo-yoing on the front was irresistibly exciting – but the physical and mental battle clearly took its toll on the two main protagonists as their constant accelerations cancelled each other out as tensions continued to rise.

Rubio, meanwhile, silently got on with his race – and when the time came, the 25-year-old delivered the killer blow to secure the biggest win of his career and his Movistar team’s first on the Giro in four years.

“I knew that Pinot was really strong. Cepeda as well. So I just has to leave them to play their game – that was the strategy,” Rubio said. “Maybe it will sink in soon. I came here thinking I could win a stage. I’ve struggled with the bad weather but I managed to achieve my dream today.”

Back with the GC favourites, a high-tempo being set by Ineos Grenadiers duo Thymen Arensman and Laurens De Plus nullified any threat. Hugh Carthy (EF Education-EasyPost) put in the first significant attack around the time his team-mate Cepeda first rode clear ahead.

Carthy joined forces with Italy’s Lorenzo Fortunato (Eolo-Kometa) before riding to sixth place on the stage – coming home, for all his efforts, just six seconds ahead of the group of GC favourites, which was led home by Joao Almeida (UAE Team Emirates).

Primoz Roglic, Geraint Thomas’s closest challenger, was happy to ride alongside his Jumbo-Visma train and let Ineos burn all the matches in the main pack – the Slovenian clearly playing the long game and content to wait until the tough final week to overturn the slender two-second deficit he has on the Welshman.

Ireland’s Eddie Dunbar (Team Jayco-AlUla) put in a last-ditch effort in the final kilometre but he was caught after the pink jersey led the chase behind. They came home 1:35 down on the man of the moment, Rubio, whose canny riding saw him thwart both Cepeda and Pinot, the latter left in tears as his bid for a final Giro stage win before his impending retirement continues.

Saturday’s Stage 14 of the Giro sees the riders leave behind Switzerland via the Cat.1 Passo del Sempione ahead of a long, flat ride to the finish Cassano Magnano after a whopping 194km in the saddle.

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