Lanciano(Italy), Oct 14 As the storm clouds cleared and a rainbow appeared above Tortoreto, Peter Sagan the triple former world champion with the rainbow bands around his sleeves pulled off a ride for the ages, soloing to a first win since the 2019 Tour de France to pick up his first-ever stage victory in the ongoing Giro d'Italia.
The finale of Tuesday's 177km Stage 10 was peppered with steep ramps and hampered by some almighty downpours - but one man could soon see clearly once the rain had gone.
After the frustration of three second places in his debut Giro, Bora-Hansgrohe's Sagan finally struck gold, riding clear of the day's breakaway with 12km remaining and withstanding the chase behind as the GC favourites battled for pink supremacy in the wake of an untimely puncture for Denmark's Jakob Fuglsang.
Sagan held on to take an emphatic win by 19 seconds over the American Brandon McNulty (UAE-Team Emirates) while, right behind, Portugal's Joao Almeida (Deceuninck-QuickStep) won the sprint for third place from a select group of GC favourites to add another four seconds to his lead at the top of the standings.
But for Astana's Fuglsang, the deficit on the pink jersey was far dearer than a handful of bonus seconds.
With the stage overshadowed by the withdrawals of both Mitchelton-Scott and Jumbo-Visma, as well as the Australian Michael Matthews of Team Sunweb, following a raft of positive Covid-19 tests on Monday's rest day, the Giro needed a spectacle to help keep morale high in the ongoing race being broadcast on Eurosport network.
Sagan duly delivered - forcing his way into the day's break, defying a fierce pursuit by the Groupama-FDJ team of triple stage winner Arnaud Demare, holding on over a series of double-digit ramps, before powering clear of fellow escapee Ben Swift of Ineos Grenadiers on the final climb.
Maximum points in the intermediate sprint and at the finish saw the 30-year-old Slovakian reduce the gap to just 20 points in his magliaciclamino battle with Frenchman Demare. More importantly, Sagan now joins the elusive club of riders with stage victories in all three of cycling's Grand Tours.
( With inputs from IANS )
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