By Alasdair Fotheringham
LAGO LACENO, Italy (Reuters) May 13 – Italian climber Domenico Pozzovivo claimed an impressive solo win in Sunday’s mountainous finale at Lago Laceno, while Canada’s Ryder Hesjedal retained the overall lead.
Cheered on by dozens of supporters waving his photos from his nearby home town of Policoro, the Colnago-CSF rider broke away 6.5 kilometers from the finish on the second-category Colle Molella climb.
“I hope this victory, my first in the Giro, inspires other riders from the south of Italy to try to turn professional in these difficult financial times,” Pozzovivo told reporters.
“There are just two pros from my region and I’d like there to be more.
“The last two kilometers seemed never ending but my heart told me I could win it because this stage is the closest the Giro comes to my home.”
Thirteenth overall after his strong mountain performance, Pozzovivo – who describes himself as a piano-playing amateur meteorologist – he did not rule out going for the overall victory.
“I’m usually strongest in the third week of a Grand Tour, so that’s a good sign. This Giro route is tough but not as inhumane as previous years, so that may suit me too.”
Spain’s Benat Intxausti finished second, 23 seconds back, on the long, hot 229-km stage from Sulmona to Lago Laceno. Spain’s Joaquim Rodriguez led a group of 23 riders for third.
Hesjedal said he had struggled on the relentlessly steep slopes of the Colle Mella, a climb deep in the Picentini mountain range which is home to some of the last wolves in Europe.
“It was a tough day, the tempo that was set on a three kilometer climb at 10 percent was tough. I had to buckle down and try and defend the jersey.
“If it worked out I was able to stay in contact and that was it.”
Overall Hesjedal leads Rodriguez by nine seconds, with Saturday’s seventh-stage winner Paolo Tiralongo in third.
The Canadian should have fewer problems on Monday’s shorter, flat 166-km run from San Giorgio del Sannio to Frosinone.
The Giro d’Italia finishes on May 27th in Milan.