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Giro d'Italia

Giro d’Italia stage 13: Rubio wins out of break, Thomas retains pink as headwind neutralizes GC action

Rubio tops Pinot, Cepeda in summit finish, Roglič and Almeida don't move in mountain stage shortened under extreme weather protocol.

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Einer Rubio (Movistar) won a three-way climbing duel Friday when he outsprinted Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) and Jefferson Cepeda (EF Education EasyPost) on the Crans-Montana summit finish of the Giro d’Italia.

Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) retained his pink jersey with no losses to his closest rivals after the GC group hit a deadlock on a stage that was shortened to just 75km when riders invoked the extreme weather protocol.

Ineos Grenadiers controlled the bunch all day and riders like Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) and João Almeida (UAE Emirates) didn’t even try to move in a summit finish that pointed direct into a headwind.

“The way the wind was at the end it made it hard for attacks,” Thomas said at the finish.

“I was waiting for some big attacks but I think Primož was probably happy to leave me in the jersey for a few more days and let us control the race and bide his time for the final week.”

Roglič remains two seconds back, with Almeida at 22 seconds.

“The headwind meant if someone was sitting in the wheel it was a lot easier,” Jumbo-Visma workhorse Rohan Dennis said. “If ‘G’ or Primož or anybody attacked, sitting on, you were saving so much energy. So the GC was sort of nullified.”

The only GC action was with Hugh Carthy (EF Education EasyPost) snatching six seconds in the final of the Crans-Montana summit to move up to 11th.

Pinot’s all-attacking antics weren’t rewarded with victory but did vault him up the classification from 15th to 10th.

From 200km … to 75km

There was drama before the stage even started Friday.

With more foul weather on the forecast and three huge summits on the menu, the peloton took a stand.

Meetings Thursday night and ahead of the stage Friday morning between the CPA riders’ group and race organizers RCS resulted in the three-climb, 200km monster being cut to a spicey two-climb 75km parcours.

The rapidly-reconstructed stage saw riders pedal the processional neutralized rollout in Borgofranco before being bussed across the Swiss border to start the stage at Le Chable at the base of the extra-tough Croix de Couer climb.

Pinot, Cepeda throw haymakers, Rubio picks his moment

Pinot and Cepeda threw haymakers on the Crans-Montana.

The new route meant the race pointed uphill from the moment the flag dropped.

The race exploded all over the 15km, 8.6 percent Croix de Coeur after the peloton emerged out of three-hour long transfer and a hasty warm-up routine.

A heavy hitter break of seven emerged at the front after around 10km and split further up what was touted one of the hardest climbs of the race.

Pinot, Rubio, Cepeda, Derek Gee (Israel-Premier Tech) and Valentin Paret Peintre (Ag2r Citröen) got away over the Croix de Coeur summit and held a decent gap down the gnarled, technical descent into the valley.

Pinot started the stage less than five minutes back on GC and so Ineos Grenadiers kept the escape on a leash.

The fivesome hit the 13km Crans-Montana summit finish with three minutes of a gap, and Pinot soon opened up an attacking onslaught.

The Frenchman attacked more than a half-dozen times in the bottom half of the Crans Montana climb but was unable to shake Cepeda and Rubio out of the frame.

Cepeda responded 5km from the line with his own flurry of acceleration but also couldn’t get room in what was a true climbing prize-fight.

The victory was only decided in the final kilometer.

After keeping a lid on his legs all through the climb, Rubio responded to a huge 400-meter sprint by Cepeda that Pinot couldn’t counter, leaving the Colombian climber to rip to his second win of the season.

“This is the great day I’ve been looking for for so long. I’ve worked so hard preparing for this Giro. The weather was so hard for me to cope with,  the rain really affected me yesterday,” he said. “But I knew I had to keep trying, seeking my opportunity, and I had another one today.”

Headwind neutralizes GC action

Ineos controlled, their rivals waited. (Photo: LUCA BETTINI/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Further down the mountain, Cepeda’s teammate Hugh Carthy attacked out of the GC group around 5km from the line.

Meanwhile, the Brit’s classification rival Jack Haig (Bahrain-Victorious) went backward and lost more than three minutes after the Aussie was caught up in a crash Thursday.

The only other GC action came when Damiano Caruso (Bahrain-Victorious) accelerated in the final kilometer to open a small flurry of attacks that didn’t result in any splits.

Roglič, Almeida, and Thomas all finished in each other’s wheels in a stage that was reduced to a statemate.

Racing resumes with Saturday with a stage that could suit any of the sprinters that can survive the day’s early 2,000m Cat.1 climb before the all-flat final 100+ km.

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