Movistar rider wins gripping stage as 2012 race heads into the mountains

Andrey Amador of Movistar this afternoon won a three-way sprint for the line in Cervinia to win Stage 14 of the 2012 Giro d'Italia from fellow breakaway members Jan Barta of NetApp and Alessandro de Marchi of Androni Giocattoli. On the first high mountain stage of this year's race, Garmin-Barracuda's Ryder Hesjedal finished fourth, nearly half a minute ahead of overnight leader Joaquin Rodriguez of Katusha, to take back the maglia rosa following a gripping final few kilometres to the summit finish.

The maglia rosa wasn’t the only jersey to change hands today, with Team Sky’s Rigoerto Uran, who finished sixth, moving into the lead of the best young rider’s classification, although Michal Golas of Omega Pharma-Quick Step remains in the lead of the mountains classification and Mark Cavendish finished inside the time limit to retain the points jersey.

It had been Amador himself who had led the race onto that long, 27 kilometre final climb, the second of the two big ascents that featured in the second half of today’s stage as the Giro headed into the Alps with the finish at an altitude of 2,001 metres in a town dominated by the Matterhorn – to the Italians, Monte Cervino.

There was little chance of seeing the famous peak of the 4,478-metre mountain, shrouded in the same clouds that hung over the race for a mainly cold, wet day.

Sunshine started breaking through as the 25-year-old Costa Rican, born to a Russian mother, headed up the early part of that climb alone, but the latter part of the ascent was covered in mist.

Amador had an advantage of 6 minutes over the peloton as he headed into the final 12km of today’s 206km stage from Cherasco, and soon after was joined by De Marchi, another member of the eight man break that had got away after more than an hour had been raced. Barta reoined the pair with 7 kilometres left.

Earlier, Barta had led the race over the day’s first big climb, the Col de Joux, but as he headed nervously downhill, he was overtaken by Amador on the decsent, the Movistar rider more prepared to take risks but managing to keep upright each time his bike threatened to slide out from under him on the slippery road markings.

Once Barta had rejoined Amador and De Marchi for the final kilomtres of that last climb to Cervinia, although the trio’s advantage over the peloton began to tumble, it was just sufficient to ensure they wouldn’t be caught as Hesjedal led the charge behind.

In the main peloton, former mountains jersey winner Jose Rujano of Androni Giocattoli had attacked off the front of the main bunch on the Col de Joux. That move by the Venezuelan prompted Lampre-ISD team of defending champion Michele Scarponi, awarded last year’s race after Alberto Contador was stripped of the title, sending Damiano Cunego after him.

Cunego roared past Rujano on the way down, and was the first of the big names onto that final, 27-kilometre climb to the finish, Astana ratcheting up the pace at the front of the main group to try and negate the threat posed by the Italian, winner of the 2004 edition of the race.

Although he was joined by Movistar’s Marzio Bruseghin and Euskaltel’s Amets Txurruka, the attack was reeled in with Liquigas Cannondale, working for two-time Giro champion Ivan Basso, taking over at the front of the main bunch as it headed up the final climb.

Indeed, all three would have been dropped by what was a very select GC group by the finish, with Astana’s Roman Kreuzigeur also losing six seconds to the likes of Scarponi and Basso, ahead of what promises to be a second tough day in the mountains tomorrow.

With just one potential stage left for the sprinters in this year’s race – next Thursday’s Stage 18 from San Vito di Cadore to Vedelago – there were some notable absentees this morning in the shape of Cavendish’s former HTC-Highroad team mates, Matt Goss of Orica-GreenEdge and Rabobank’s Mark Renshaw, while Saxo Bank’s JJ Haedo and Goss’s colleague Brett Lancaster also failed to take the start.

Cavendish, who on Thursday swapped the rainbow bands of the world champion for the maglia rossa of points classification leader, was present, however, having stated his intention after winning in Cervere yesterday to take the jersey all the way to Milan. It's going to be a tough week, but he can at least chalk off the first day of it now.

Prior to the start of the stage, the peloton had held a minute’s silence in memory of the victims of this morning’s bomb explosion outside a school in the city of Brindisi in Puglia, killing one 16-year-old girl and leaving another fighting for her life, which has left Italy in a state of shock.

Giro d’Italia Stage 14 result

1  AMADOR Andrey          MOV  5:33:36
2  BARTA Jan              APP     0:00
3  DE MARCHI Alessandro   AND     0:02
4  HESJEDAL Ryder         GRM     0:20
5  TIRALONGO Paolo        AST     0:46
6  URAN URAN Rigoberto    SKY     0:46
7  RODRIGUEZ Joaquin      KAT     0:46
8  DE GENDT Thomas        VCD     0:46
9  SCARPONI Michele       LAM     0:46
10 GADRET John            ALM     0:46
11 SCHLECK Frank          RNT     0:46
12 POZZOVIVO Domenico     COG     0:46
13 BASSO Ivan             LIQ     0:46
14 HENAO Sergio           SKY     0:49
15 INTXAUSTI Benat        MOV     0:52
16 KREUZIGER Roman        AST     0:52
17 MORENO Daniel          KAT     0:52
18 PARDILLA Sergio        MOV     0:52
19 NIEVE Mikel            EUS     0:55
20 CATALDO Dario          OPQ     1:16

Overall standings after Stage 14

1  HESJEDAL Ryder         GRM 59:55:28

2  RODRIGUEZ Joaquin      KAT     0:09

3  TIRALONGO Paolo        AST     0:41

4  CASAR Sandy            FDJ     1:05

5  BASSO Ivan             LIQ     1:06

6  KREUZIGER Roman        AST     1:07

7  INTXAUSTI Benat        MOV     1:07

8  URAN URAN Rigoberto    SKY     1:19

9  SCARPONI Michele       LAM     1:20

10 POZZOVIVO Domenico     COG     1:21

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.