By Alasdair Fotheringham
ALTOPIANO DEL MONTASIO, Italy (Reuters) – Colombian Rigoberto Uran moved into third place overall after capturing a solo victory in the Giro d’Italia’s first summit finish on Tuesday.
Italian Vincenzo Nibali strengthened his overall lead after dropping Britain’s Bradley Wiggins and the Netherlands’ Robert Gesink on the final climb.
Sky rider Uran broke away from the group of favorites with eight kms to go to the finish at Altopiano del Montasio to claim his first Grand Tour stage win by 20 seconds from fellow Colombian Carlos Alberto Betancur, with Nibali making a late surge to take third place.
Nibali has now increased his overall lead on Australia’s Cadel Evans, fifth on the stage, to 41 seconds.
“I should have attacked a bit earlier, but I’m still content with this result,” Uran, the 2012 Giro’s best young rider and silver medalist in the London Olympic road race, told reporters.
“After what we achieved last year in the Olympic Games, this is another important day for Colombian cycling.”
Sky’s dark-clad riders set the pace on the front of the bunch over the narrow roads of the race’s first major mountain pass, the Passo Cazon di Lanza, before Uran blasted away from the pack on the 21 kms final climb.
“This morning we talked about it all and we had three cards to play – myself, Wiggins and (Colombian) Sergio Henao. So we decided to ride on the front, be aggressive and attack at the end,” Uran said.
While 2012 Giro champion Ryder Hesjedal of Canada suffered badly on the Giro’s first high mountain stage and lost over 20 minutes, Uran’s team mate Wiggins struggled on the steepest sections of the 21 kms Altopiano del Montasio climb.
However, stage winner Uran, now third overall ahead of his British team mate, played down the importance of the 2012 Tour de France winner’s 37-second time loss on Evans and Nibali.
“He’s doing fine, it’s great if there are two of us ahead in the overall classification rather than one,” Uran said.
“It’s a very hard stage and we don’t know what can happen. I just hope a Sky rider wins overall.
Nibali said Tuesday’s stage had been one of the most complicated in the race.
“A lot of riders suffered more than usual because this stage came straight after a rest day and I am very satisfied with what I’ve done,” he said.
“They tried to isolate me and put me under pressure, so it’s good I was able to take some seconds on almost everyone.”
Niblai said Uran was one of his most difficult rivals, adding: “He’s going really well, he’s going to be very dangerous.”
After Tuesday’s first high mountain stage, Wednesday features the race’s second summit finish on the second category climb of Vajont. The race finishes on May 26 in Brescia.
(Editing by John Mehaffey)