Italian Matteo Rabottini’s brave 150km breakaway ride was rewarded with victory in the 15th stage of the Giro d’Italia on Sunday, the 172km run from Busto Arsizio to Lecco.
Spanish rider Joaquim Rodriguez regained the overall leader’s pink jersey from Canada’s Ryder Hesjedal, following the second successive mountain stage, after he came in second having caught Rabottini 350 metres from the finishing line.
Rodriguez – who distanced his main rivals two kilometres from the finish – holds a lead of 30 seconds over Hesjedal with a week remaining of the race.
The overall leader’s compatriot Alberto Losada took third in the stage, coming in ahead of the first group of favourites in a stage that took place in rainy conditions.
Rabottini admitted that his morale had tumbled when he realised that Rodriguez had joined him.
“Winning a sprint after an escape of more than 150km is unbelievable,” said the Italian.
“When Rodriguez got back alongside me, I all but lost hope. But I stuck to him and I did well to. I came to the Giro, like all the riders, with the hope of winning a stage. I succeeded and it is the most wonderful day of my life.”
Rodriguez for his part said he had done well to recover from a terrible day on Saturday’s stage and was looking forward to the coming week.
“I suffered a lot on Saturday but I was capable today of reclaiming the pink jersey,” said the 33-year-old, who has won just the one top class stage race the 2010 Tour of Catalonia.
“I was fearful of the bad weather but finally it wasn’t too bad for me.
“I am very happy with the gaps (in the overall standings). With the pink jersey, it brings added responsibilities but we are entering the final week and the stages are more suited to my strengths.
“I am not afraid of the climbs to come. I know the Mortirolo and the Stelvio (the 20th stage), but not the Alp of Pampeago (19th stage).”
Rabottini had broken away with Frenchman Guillaume Bonnafond and went over the top of all four climbs at the head of affairs while veteran Italian Damiano Cunego – the 2004 Giro champion – at one stage was in pink as he led a counter attack.
Rabottini, 24 and son of a former professional rider Luciano, overcame falling on the descent of Culmine di San Pietro and was able to hold on despite only having a two-and-a-half minute lead over Cunego and his group going into the final climb and less than four minutes on the peloton.
Even though there is a rest day on Monday it was not enough to dissuade Luxembourg star Frank Schleck (shoulder problem), Italian champion Giovanni Visconti (breathing difficulties) or Australia’s Graeme Brown from calling it a day during the stage.
Tour of Italy results after the 15th stage from Busto Arsizio to Pian dei Resinelli:
1. Matteo Rabottini (ITA/FAR) 5h15:30, 2. Joaquim Rodriguez (ESP/KAT) at 0:00, 3. Alberto Losada (ESP/KAT) 0:23, 4. Sergio Henao (COL/SKY) 0:25, 5. Michele Scarponi (ITA/LAM) 0:25, 6. Ivan Basso (ITA/LIQ) 0:25, 7. Stefano Pirazzi (ITA/COG) 0:29, 8. Roman Kreuziger (CZE/AST) 0:29, 9. John Gadret (FRA/ALM) 0:29, 10. Amets Txurruka (ESP/EUS) 0:29, 11. Mikel Nieve (ESP/EUS) 0:36, 12. Ryder Hesjedal (CAN/GRM) 0:39, 13. Dario Cataldo (ITA/OPQ) 0:39, 14. Benat Intxausti (ESP/MOV) 0:44, 15. Johann Tschopp (SUI/BMC) 0:52, 16. Paolo Tiralongo (ITA/AST) 0:54, 17. Thomas De Gendt (BEL/VAC) 1:11, 18. Daniel Moreno (ESP/KAT) 1:11, 19. Damiano Cunego (ITA/LAM) 1:11, 20. Gianluca Brambilla (ITA/COG) 1:17.
1. Joaquim Rodriguez (ESP/KAT) 65h 11min 07sec, 2. Ryder Hesjedal (CAN/GRM) at 0:30, 3. Ivan Basso (ITA/LIQ) 1:22, 4. Paolo Tiralongo (ITA/AST) 1:26, 5. Roman Kreuziger (CZE/AST) 1:27, 6. Michele Scarponi (ITA/LAM) 1:36, 7. Benat Intxausti (ESP/MOV) 1:42, 8. Sergio Henao (COL/SKY) 1:55, 9. Dario Cataldo (ITA/OPQ) 2:12, 10. Sandy Casar (FRA/FDJ) 2:13, 11. Rigoberto Uran (COL/SKY) 2:56, 12. Thomas De Gendt (BEL/VAC) 3:16, 13. Domenico Pozzovivo (ITA/COG) 3:17, 14. Johann Tschopp (SUI/BMC) 3:24, 15. John Gadret (FRA/ALM) 3:24, 16. Daniel Moreno (ESP/KAT) 3:33, 17. Damiano Cunego (ITA/LAM) 3:45, 18. Mikel Nieve (ESP/EUS) 4:20, 19. Gianluca Brambilla (ITA/COG) 4:45, 20. Sergio Pardilla (ESP/MOV) 5:31.