May 15 (Reuters) – Lithuania’s Ramunas Navardauskas gave Garmin-Sharp a boost with a solo summit finish win on stage 11 the day after team leader Ryder Hesjedal lost all hope of repeating last year’s overall Giro d’Italia success.
Navardauskas, who was part of a long-distance break of 20 through the Dolomite mountains, shed his closest pursuer, Daniel Oss of Italy, five km from the finish line, to claim his first Grand Tour stage victory on Wednesday.
Italy’s Stefano Pirazzi was third while Vincenzo Nibali of Italy finished safely in the main pack of contenders 5 minutes and 41 seconds behind Navardauskas, to retain his overall lead ahead of Australian Cadel Evans and Colombia’s Rigoberto Uran.
“We’ve not been so lucky in this race,” Navardauskas, who became Lithuania’s first ever leader of the Giro last year when he headed the race for one day, told reporters.
“Ryder has had some bad days, and has not been so fortunate, so as a team we wanted to try and turn things around today. All of us wanted to get in a move.”
“It was a long day off the front, but I got in the right break and managed to turn it round for the team. I couldn’t be happier.”
After taking Canada’s first ever Grand Tour win last year in the Giro, Hesjedal suffered badly on Tuesday’s first high mountain stage and lost nearly 20 minutes and all chance of a repeat victory.
On Wednesday’s 182km mountainous stage, Hesjedal finished a further 13 minutes down on his victorious team mate and eight behind the main pack of overall contenders.
But when riding slowly up the final ascent of Vajont the Garmin-Sharp leader repeatedly made a thumbs-up sign when team sports director Charly Wegelius told him Navardauskas had already won.
“It’s incredible, extraordinary, he’s done so much work for me and it’s nice to see him get an individual reward,” Hesjedal told reporters.
After his own chances of victory evaporated Hesjedal said, “we wanted to open up the race for the guys (team mates) to take their chances and it was a perfect opportunity”.
Asked about his own chances of making it to the finish, or even trying to win a stage himself, Hesjedal added: “I really don’t know. Today was a lot better than yesterday, a lot easier to ride.”
“Today was a good day for us. I’m not really thinking about tomorrow.”
Race leader Nibali described the stage – which finished in the Vajont valley as part of its 50th anniversary commemorations for the area’s 1963 dam disaster in which nearly 2,000 people died – as “straightforward for us.
“My team decided to let the break (of non-favourites) go and then keep things under control behind. But there will be harder days to come.”
The Giro finishes in Brescia on May 26. (Editing by Ken Ferris)