Breakaway carries the day as race heads through spectacular scenery above the Cinque Terre

Lars Bak of Lotto-Belisol, who twice tried to attack for a solo win when this year's Giro d'Italia began in his native Denmark, made it third time lucky today in Sestri Levante this afternoon, attacking his fellow members of a break away group some two kilometres from the finish and staying clear by 11 seconds for the biggest win of his career. FDJ's Sandy Casar was second, with Andrey Amador of Movistar third. Casar, however, the best placed rider in the break, failed to become the first Frenchman since Laurent Jalabert in 1999 to wear the maglia rosa, missing out by 26 seconds as the group containing overall leader Joaquin Rodriguez of Katusha crossed the line a little over three and a half minutes behind the winner.

At 155km, today’s stage was a little over 100km shorter than yesterday’s 258km run in a headwind to Montecatini in Tuscany, won by Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela's Roberto Ferrari, but what it lacked in distance it made up for with a tough profile that included four categorised climbs.

The first of those, La Foce, was encountered around a third of the way into the stage, after a run along the coast from Seravezza to La Spezia, home town of Alessandro Petacchi, winner of 22 career Giro stages but missing from this year’s race.

With a number of teams clearly under orders to try and get men off the front of the peloton, the going was fast from the very start, with the first half hour raced at 55 kilometres an hour.

A group of seven riders finally managed to get away shortly before that first ascent of the afternoon, including breakaway specialist Casar, winner of three Tour de France stages, who for most of the day was virtual maglia rosa on the road as the lead stretched out to seven minutes at one point.

Also in the group, besides Bak, Casar and Amador, were Ivan Santaromita of BMC Racing, RadioShack-Nissan’s Jan Bakelants, Luca Mazzanti of Farnese Vini and Omega Omega Pharma-Quick Step’s Michal Golas.

They were subsequently joined by two more riders, Jackson Rodriguez of Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela, and Vacansoleil-DCM's Martijn Keizer, who for the third time this week managed to be the first rider across the line at the afternoon's intermediate sprint.

Golas managed to get away from his fellow escapees on the day's toughest and penultimate ascent, the Category 2 Valico La Mola, crested some 33 kilometres from the finish. Coming towards the top of the fourth and final climb, the Villa Tassani, however his eight pursuers were eating into the advantage he had built, and he was caught with a little under two kilometres still to go to the summit.

The Omega Pharma-Quick Step rider immediately paid for his earlier efforts by being shot out of the back of the group as Casar and Santaromita, the two men who could potentially end the day in the maglia rosa with the peloton starting that last climb nearly five minutes back down the road.

Casar led the escapees, by now strung out back down the climb, over the summit with a technical descent of 11km potentially standing between him and the maglia rosa, but with the group containing race leader Joaquin Rodriguez of Katusha making up half a minute on the escapees on the climb, it was touch and go whether he would arrive in Sestri Levante with sufficient advantage to take the race lead.

Behind, Paolo Tiralongo of Astana attacked off the front of the main group, swiftly followed by Lampre-ISD’s Damiano Cunego and the pair swiftly established a clear gap over the riders behind them, but led by Rabobank’s Tom Slagter as well as the Liquigas Conondale team massed at the front of the group, the big names in the GC were soon back alongside them.

The upping of the pace by the main group to bridge across to Tiralongo and Cunego ate into some of Casar’s advantage, and he also lost more seconds as the escapees started playing cat and mouse on the way into Sestri Levante ahead of Bak’s decisive attack.

Tomorrow's Stage 13 from Savona to Cervere is likely to be the last chance for the specialised sprinters in this year's race as the Giro heads into the high mountains at the weekend.

Giro d’Italia Stage 12 result

1  BAK Lars             LTB    3:58:20
2  CASAR Sandy          FDJ       0:11
3  AMADOR Andrey        MOV
4  BAKELANTS Jan        RNT  


6  RODRIGUEZ Jackson    AND  

7  TXURRUKA Amets       EUS 

8  KEIZER Martijn       VCD       0:43 

9  GOLAS Michal         OPQ       0:48 

10 FLECHA Juan Antonio  SKY       3:34 

11 VISCONTI Giovanni    MOV  

12 HERMANS Ben          RNT  

13 LAGUTIN Sergey       VCD  

14 BARTA Jan            APP  

15 PAUWELS Serge        OPQ  

16 VERMOTE Julien       OPQ  

17 BRANDLE Matthias     APP  

18 BENEDETTI Cesare     APP  

19 HESJEDAL Ryder       GRM  

20 DE GENDT Thomas      VCD

Overall Standings after Stage 12

1 RODRIGUEZ Joaquin     KAT   51:19:08
2 HESJEDAL Ryder        GRM       0:17
3 CASAR Sandy           FDJ       0:26
4 TIRALONGO Paolo       AST       0:32
5 SANTAROMITA Ivan      BMC       0:49
6 KREUZIGER Roman       AST       0:52
7 INTXAUSTI Benat       MOV       0:52
8 BASSO Ivan            LIQ       0:57
9 CARUSO Damiano        LIQ       1:02
10 CATALDO Dario        OPQ       1:03

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.