By Alasdair Fotheringham
SESTRI LEVANTE, Italy, May 17 – Denmark’s Lars Bak took his first Grand Tour stage win at the age of 32 with a perfectly timed solo attack on stage 12 of the Giro d’Italia on Thursday.
Part of a day long break of nine that attacked early on a 155-kilometre trek across Italy’s Apennines, the Lotto-Bellisol rider Bak went clear 1.7 km from the finish in the coastal town of Sestri Levante.
France’s Sandy Casar finished second, 11 seconds back after the short but punishing hilly stage, and Costa Rica’s Andrey Amador was third.
Joaquim Rodriguez of Spain kept the overall lead for a third straight day.
Three times a national time trial champion and a winner with the defunct HTC squad in the team time trial in the Giro last year and the Vuelta in 2010, Bak said taking the win in his own right was a big landmark in his career.
“I’ve wasted energy in the past, but I tried to save it this time round and race cautiously because I knew the breakaway was going to stay away to the finish,” Bak told reporters.
“I was watching Casar because I knew he was the strongest, always closing down the attacks, but they hesitated just a little when I went and that was enough. I took my chance.
“I have maybe 10 professional wins in my career, and thinking about it I’ve done most of them with attacks in the last few kilometers,” the Dane added.
“I was a little bit back in the group, and when somebody closed down the attack, I went boom – and got 200 then 300 meters before they could react.
“Next I’ll go to the Tour and hopefully I’ll fly to the sky there, too.”
Overall leader Rodriguez said the four consecutive Apennine climbs, hot weather and an exceptionally fast first hour’s racing had made for a tough day.
“The break of the day took a very long time to form, so there was a lot of fighting before things settled down a bit,” the Katusha rider told reporters.
“Today we needed (rival teams) Liquigas and Lampre to help us keep the race under control, and keep the break at the right sort of distance. It wasn’t straightforward.”
Friday’s flat, short 121-km stage from Savona to Cervere will be a last chance for the sprinters to shine before the race moves into the Alps on Saturday.
The Giro d’Italia finishes on May 27 in Milan.