Francisco Ventoso claimed an impressive stage win on a tough uphill finish on stage six of the Giro d’Italia.
The Movistar rider edged out stage two winner Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-ISD) at the line in Fiuggi after the Italian appeared to concede the stage victory in a bizarre turn of events.
Roberto Ferrari (Androni Giocattoli) rounded out the podium after a frantic finale that saw the peloton chasing down a plucky breakaway group with the outcome always in doubt.
The break’s surviving member Kristof Vandewalle (Quick Step) was reeled in on the long drag up to the spa town after attacking his counterparts nine kilometres from home.
The bunch sprint benefitted overnight leader Pieter Weening with the Rabobank rider able to hang on to his slender two-second lead going into the first mountaintop finish of the race on Friday.
There was no surprise to see five men head up the road after 12km on a stage many believed was perfectly suited to a breakaway.
Yet with the presence of the experienced Yaroslav Popovych (RadioShack) in the break, a joint effort from Rabobank and Farnese Vini formed to peg the quintet at little over five minutes.
As their fellow escapees dropped off the pace one by one it was left to the Popovych, Vandewalle and Frederik Veuchelen (Vacansoleil) to hold out on the energy-sapping run to the line in a nail-biting game of cat and mouse.
Local boy Stefano Pirazzi (Colnago) was the first rider to blink as he looked to bridge across to the men in the break in what was the precursor to a large number of attacks, with each team looking to send men up the road in a bid for victory.
Up ahead Vandewalle attacked on the final section of false-flat in a defiant late dig, only to be swept up with 1.9km remaining to set up a sprint that saw Team Sky’s young Italian Davide Appollonio place an impressive fifth.