Einer Rubio won a shortened and weather-affected 13th stage of the Giro d’Italia for his first victory in a Grand Tour while Geraint Thomas remained in the pink jersey on Friday.
Rubio, who rides for Movistar, had time to raise an arm above his head and point to the sky as he crossed the line just ahead of fellow escapees Thibaut Pinot and Alexander Cepeda. They sprinted for victory after a tough climb to the summit finish at Crans-Montana.
“A big day that I was looking for by working very hard,” Rubio said. “It’s been difficult with the bad weather. But I had to keep going. I knew that Pinot was very strong. I had to finish with him and play it well tactically.
“It will take time for me to realize that I won a stage of the Giro d’Italia. I didn’t believe I’d do it.”
The route had already been changed earlier in the week when the top of the Passo del Gran San Bernardo was cut because of snowfall and a risk of avalanches.
On Friday morning, it was announced that that climb would be removed completely because of adverse weather in Italy, and the riders would instead start past the halfway point and the stage slashed from 199 kilometers to 80 kilometers.
Race organizers said they “decided to meet the athletes’ requests by applying the extreme weather protocol.”
That saw the riders set off at the original start in Borgofranco d’Ivrea but, immediately after the neutral zone, they got off their bicycles and onto team buses which took them to the new start in Switzerland, at the foot of the brutal climb up Croix de Couer.
When the day’s racing eventually started, Pinot immediately attacked and he was followed by Cepeda, Rubio and Derek Gee.
They had an advantage of nearly two minutes on the overall leaders when they crossed the snow-covered summit of the Croix de Couer and extended that to nearly three minutes at the foot of the final climb.
Pinot and Cepeda took turns to attack near the top of the climb but Rubio quietly stuck with them before accelerating in the final few hundred meters.
The main contenders for the overall title rolled across 1 minute, 35 seconds behind. Thomas remained two seconds ahead of Primoz Roglic and 22 ahead of Joao Almeida.
“We stayed calm when a small group went in the first climb,” Thomas said. “We stayed in control with Ben Swift and Pavel Sivakov setting the pace. Great ride by them.
“The way it went at the end made it quite hard to attack. But Primoz is probably happy to leave me in the maglia rosa for a few more days. I expect something more from him next week.”
Saturday’s 14th stage has a top-category climb near the start in Sierre but — after the descent — is then almost entirely flat on the rest of the 193-kilometer route to Cassano Magnago.