Giro d'Italia: Bradley Wiggins survives testing ninth stage as Maxim Belkov takes solo win
By Matt Westby. Last Updated: 13/05/13 1:56pm
Maxim Belkov launched his lone bid for victory 55km out
Sir Bradley Wiggins retained fourth place overall at the Giro d'Italia after surviving a testing and rain-soaked ninth stage won by Russia's Maxim Belkov.
The Team Sky leader once again struggled desperately on wet roads and fell more than a minute behind race leader Vincenzo Nibali on the descent of the second of the day's four categorised climbs.
However, he managed to regain contact with all of his major rivals, thanks to the help of his team-mates, and crossed the finish line in Florence in the main bunch.
Belkov (Katusha) claimed the biggest win of his career after forming part of an early, 12-man breakaway and then forging on alone for a superb 55km solo triumph.
Nibali (Astana) retained the pink jersey after spending much of the stage of the front of the peloton and heads into tomorrow's first rest day with a 29-second lead in the general classification over Cadel Evans (BMC), who also finished safely in the bunch.
Hesjedal falls away
Wiggins stays 1min 16sec adrift of Nibali, but reigning champion Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) has fallen to 11th, 3min 11sec back, after being dropped on the final climb.
Wiggins will be relieved not to have followed the Canadian down the leaderboard having put in another subdued display in which he descended at a crawling pace and failed to show the climbing prowess needed if he is to challenge Nibali in the mountains later in the race.
Stage nine saw the peloton navigate a 170km, medium-mountain route from Sansepolcro to Florence that took in a climb from each of the four categories.
Twelve riders, including Belkov, broke clear early on and with Juan Manuel Garate (Blanco) the best-placed among them in the general classification at 5min 42sec back, they stood a good chance of staying clear.
Sensing the opportunity, Robinson Chalapud (Colombia) and Stefano Pirazzi (Bardiani Valvole - CSF-Inox) attacked out of the group on the day's first climb, the category-two Passo della Consuma, and were soon joined by Belkov.
The Russian was dropped on the second climb, the category-one Vallombrosa, but despite heavy rain starting to fall, he caught and then overtook his two fellow escapees on the descent and was not seen again.
Back in the pack, the 20km descent on now treacherous roads caused anxiety for all of the riders, but no one more so than Wiggins, who lost contact with the front of the bunch and then dropped over a minute behind by the 40km-to-go mark.
With his two Colombian colleagues, Rigoberto Uran and Sergio Henao, staying at the head of the peloton, it took the Briton 15km to regain contact, thanks largely to the efforts of his remaining team-mates on the flat section that followed the downhill.
Wiggins promptly took up station at the back of the bunch and stayed there all the way to Florence, having been unable to move up alongside Nibali and Evans on the two remaining climbs.
Hesjedal fell off the pace 12km from home and ended up losing a damaging 1min 6sec, but there was no letting up from Belkov, who held off the challenge of Colombian duo Carlos Betancur (Ag2r-La Mondiale) in second and Chalapud in third.
Stage nine result
1 Maxim Belkov (Rus) Katusha, 4:31:31
2 Carlos Betancur (Col) Ag2r-La Mondiale, +44
3 Jarlinson Pantano (Col) Colombia, +46
4 Tobias Ludvigsson (Swe) Argos-Shimano, +54
5 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing, +1.03
6 Benat Intxausti (Spa) Movistar, same time
7 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Vini Fantini, st
8 Mauro Santambrogio (Ita) Vini Fantini, st
9 Damiano Caruso (Ita) Cannondale, st
10 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana, st
24 Bradley Wiggins (GB) Team Sky, st
1 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana, 34:19:31
2 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC, +29sec
3 Robert Gesink (Ned) Blanco, +1.15
4 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Team Sky, +1.16
5 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre-Merida, +1.24
6 Sergio Henao (Col) Team Sky, +2.11
7 Mauro Santambrogio (Ita) Vini Fantini, +2.43
8 Przemyslaw Niemiec (Pol) Lampre-Merida, +2.44
9 Rigoberto Uran (Col) Team Sky, +2.49
10 Tanel Kangert (Est) Astana, +3.02
Red (points classification) - Cadel Evans (BMC)
Blue (mountains classification) - Stefano Pirazzi (Bardiani Valvole - CSF-Inox)
White (best young rider) - Wilco Kelderman (Blanco)