Australia’s Michael Rogers has won the 11th stage of the Giro d’Italia as his compatriot Cadel Evans retained the leader’s pink jersey.
Rogers, riding for the Tinkoff team, came home 10 seconds ahead of the pack at the end of the 249km ride from Collecchio to Savona after breaking clear on the final descent, 20km from the finish.
Simon Geschke of Germany claimed second place in front of Italy’s Enrico Battaglin and Wilco Kelderman of the Netherlands.
For the 34-year-old Rogers, it was a first stage win in a Grand Tour and his first success since his return to the sport following a positive test for clenbuterol last year.
Rogers had always claimed that his positive test was due to eating contaminated food and he was later cleared to return to racing by the International Cycling Union (UCI) in time to compete in the Liege-Bastogne-Liege classic in April.
“It was one of the hardest rides of my life, for sure,” he said.
“At the top of the climb, I realised that most guys in the group were GC contenders and this was the time to jump. So I went. From then on, it was all about keeping my head down, pedalling away and I guess I was a little lucky that the GC guys were probably looking at each other, hesitating a bit.”
The victory for Rogers, who dedicated it to his Italian wife, continues Australia’s fine record in this year’s Giro.
The Orica-GreenEdge team won the opening stage team time trial and Michael Matthews triumphed on the sixth stage, while Matthews held the pink jersey from the second stage until it was seized by Evans after stage eight.
Evans, of the BMC team, will now hope to extend his lead of 57 seconds down to Colombia’s Rigoberto Uran in Thursday’s 12th stage, a 41.9km individual time trial from Barbaresco to Barolo.
“The time trial is always the race of truth,” Evans said. “We have had a difficult first week.
“Now we have also had a very long and intense stage. I think that will probably have a little bit of an effect on the performances.
“For me, it is one of the key stages and on paper, it looks like it suits me. I go into it feeling pretty well, feeling ok.”
There were several falls on Wednesday’s stage, and Germany’s Fabian Wegmann was forced to abandon the race along with Australian Luke Durbridge.
Former leader Matthews pulled out of the race at the start of the day due to injury.