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Bouhanni safely negotiates a very tricky finale and survives the hard pace set by Sky on the final climb before launching a powerful sprint to easily hold off Nizzolo and Matthews in the crash-marred finale

Photo: Sirotti

CADEL EVANS

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GIACOMO NIZZOLO

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GIRO D'ITALIA

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GROUPAMA-FDJ

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MICHAEL MATTHEWS

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NACER BOUHANNI

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20.05.2014 @ 18:00 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ) has again stamped his authority on the Giro d'Italia sprints by taking a very comfortable victory in today's 10th stage of the race. The French sprinter survived the brutal pace set by an aggressive Sky team, safely negotiated the many turns in the finale and avoided the big crash inside the final kilometre before launching his excellent sprint to easily beat Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek) and Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEDGE). A very attentive Cadel Evans (BMC) finished 9th on the stage and defended his overall lead.

 

If anyone still doubted who is the fastest sprinter in the Giro d'Italia after the withdrawal of Marcel Kittel, Nacer Bouhanni put all those doubt to rest by producing another splendid and superior performance in today's tenth stage of the race. The Frenchman showed excellent condition, great technical skills and a fast sprint and those three attributes allowed him to take his third win in the race.

 

The completely flat and uneventful stage had a nasty sting in its tail as a small uncategorized climb inside the final 10km threatened to put the sprinters out of contention. With Ben Swift being an excellent climber, it was no surprise to see Sky drop the hammer on the ascent, with Dario Cataldo setting a brutal pace that saw the fast finishers drop lose their positions near the front.

 

As Edvald Boasson Hagen took over for Sky on the tricky descent - with Swift always well-positioned on his wheel - all the rival sprinters were far back. When they hit the flat road inside the final 4km, however, the work was still left to the big Norwegian and as he started to fade, the sprinters were able to move up.

 

Sebastien Chavanel did a fabulous work to move his sprinter back to the front and he stayed safe while Boy Van Poppel took a massive turn on the front for Trek. In the finale, he sent Chavanel to the front to keep the pace high while he stayed in fourth position with big rival Elia Viviani (Cannondale) on his wheel.

 

Giant-Shimano tried to move up and as the many sprinters battled for position in the very technical finale, Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp) slid out in a dangerous turn and brought several riders down, including Viviani, Luka Mezgec (Giant-Shimano) and Davide Appollonio (Ag2r). Up ahead, only a small group remained in contention, with Bouhanni always staying attentively near the front.

 

Albert Timmer tried to launch the Giant-Shimano train but all his teammates had been caught up in the crash. When he started to fade, Giacomo Nizzolo tried to anticipate Bouhanni by doing a long sprint but the Frenchman was quick to react, swiftly moving onto the Italian's wheel.

 

From there, he dropped the hammer and easily passed his rival while Nizzolo narrowly managed to hold off Michael Matthews to take his third second place in the race. Roberto Ferrari (Lampre-Merida) continued his consistent sprinting by taking fourth.

 

Cadel Evans was again safely escorted by his BMC team and he showed great attentiveness by riding up the climb in fourth position. He even stayed ahead of the crash and sprinted his way to ninth place, safely defending his overall lead.

 

He still leads Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) by 57 seconds as they head into tomorrow's very long 11th stage. Over 249km, the route first takes the riders up a category 2 climb before they get a bit of a respite in a flat middle section. In the finale, a very tough category 2 climb will test the field but with 28km from the top to the finish, it is likely to be a day for a breakaway more than the GC riders.

 

A flat stage

After yesterday's rest day, the riders got a gentle reintoduction to racing when the Giro resumed with an almost completely flat 173km stage from Modena to Salsomaggiore Terme. As the riders rolled along the Po valley, there was no categorized climb on the route and only a very small hill inside the final 10km. It was followed by a technical descent and a very technical finish in Salsomaggiore Terme.

 

None of the riders had used the rest day to leave the and so there were no non-starters when the peloton left Modena under a beautiful sunny sky. The stage had all the characteristics of a true sprint stage and so it was no surprise to see that the early break took off pretty early and was made up by some of the usual suspects from the wildcard teams.

 

The break takes off

The riders rolled along at a steady pace until the 4km mark when two riders finally decided to take off. Marco Bandiera (Androni) was keen to add to his lead in the sprints competition and decided that today's stage was a good chance to do so, and he was joined by another rider who has already been in numerous breaks, Andrea Fedi (Neri Sottoli).

 

With a small break up the road, the peloton was in no hurry and after 8km of racing, they were already 3 minutes ahead. At the 16km mark, they were a massive 9 minutes ahead but that was when the peloton decided to up the pace, bringing the gap down to 8.00 after 24km of racing.

 

FDJ and Giant lead the chase

In the peloton, it was FDJ and Giant-Shimano who had taken control of the situation and for most of the day Arnaud Courteille and Tom Stamsnijder swapped turns on the front. While the peloton enjoyed what seemed to be almost a second rest day, the pair had brought the gap down to 5.40 with 114km to go.

 

The monotony was broken when the riders reached the intermediate sprint after 60km of racing. Fedi didn't show any interest in the points and didn't respond to Bandiera's sprint. Hence, the Androni rider extended his lead in the sprint competition.

 

Viviani wins the sprint

In the peloton, the battle was much more heated as Trek hit the front to set up Nizzolo. However, they were passed by the Cannondale train which gave Viviani the perfect lead-out.

 

Viviani narrowly held off Nicola Ruffoni (Bardiani) while Roberto Ferrari took third. Behind, Nizzolo and Bouhanni were involved in a close battle for fourth, with the Italian getting the upper hand.

 

The gap grows

The action had brought the gap down to 4.50 but as Alexandre Geniez hit the front for FDJ, he slowed down the pace. While most of the peloton took a natural break, the gap went back up to 6.45.

 

With 76km to go, Geniez finished his work and again Stamsnijder and Courteille went into chase mode. They were soon joined by Riccardo Zoidl (Trek) and the trio swapped turns to bring down the gap over the next several kilometres.

 

Moser crashes

With 55km to go, the gap was down to 3.40 but the atmosphere in the peloton was still very relaxed. While Moreno Moser (Cannondale) went down in a small crash, Stamsnijder and Courteille continued, with the gap reaching 2.55 with 34km to go.

 

As the peloton passed through the big city of Parma and safely negotiated the many obstacles, the two escapees decided to see if they could surprise the peloton. They upped the pace significantly and as they exited the city, they were more than 4 minutes ahead.

 

Veikkanen hits the front

At this point,  27km remained but that's when the peloton started to react. The battle for position had now intensified and the teams had gathered their troops behind the three hard-working riders.

 

With 20km to go, Jussi Veikkanen (FDJ) also started to contribute to the pace-setting while the day ended for his teammate Courteille. A little later, it was also over for Zoidl but he had done a good work to help bring the gap down to 2.15 at this point.

 

Eijssen abandons

A crash brought down Yannick Eijssen (BMC) and Ivan Rovny (Tinkoff-Saxo) and while the latter was able to continue, the former was out of the race, being transported away in an ambulance. Meanwhile, the speed was really ramping up as Bardiani were now also contributing to the pace-setting.

 

OPQS took control with Pieter Serry before Veikkanen and Stamsnijder took one final turn on the front. Thomas De Gendt (OPQS) took over and his massive turn brought the gap down to less than 1 minute.

 

BMC take control

Nicola Boem (Bardiani) was the next to set the pace while up ahead Fedi made an unsuccessful attempt to get clear on his own. With 9km to go, BMC hit the front to keep Evans safe and Daniel Oss led the peloton back to the escapees.

 

Manuel Quinziato led the peloton onto the climb but as soon as the road started to point upwards,  Sky dropped the hammer. Dario Cataldo set a brutal pace that caused many riders to drop off.

 

Boasson Hagen leads down the descent

As he crested the summit with teammates Swift and Boasson Hagen on his wheel, the sprinters were nowhere to be seen and the Norwegian went straight to the front to keep the pace fast on the descent. Nicolas Roche (Tinkoff-Saxo) tried to attack but Boasson Hagen easily shut it down.

 

As they finished the descent, Boasson Hagen started to fade and Trek realized the danger. Nizzolo was one of the only sprinters to still be in a good position and so Boy Van Poppel upped the pace.

 

Bouhanni gets back in contention

As the Dutchman didn't get any help, most of the sprinters were able to get back to the front and when they passed the 2km to go sign, they seemed to all be there. Sebastien Chavanel took over for FDJ while his leader Bouhanni stayed a little further back.

 

Georg Preidler took a turn for Giant-Shimano before Chavanel again took control. That's when Farrar slid out in a turn, leaving just a select group to battle it out for the win.

 

Timmer tried to launch the Giant train but Bouhanni was swift to react and got onto his wheel. Nizzolo tried to do a long sprint but when Bouhanni launched his own effort, he easily passed the Italian.

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