(Reuters) – Slovenian Jan Polanc seized the leader’s pink jersey at the Giro d’Italia on Thursday as Cesare Benedetti claimed his first professional victory at the age of 31 on the first mountainous stage on this year’s route.
After two pancake flat days, UAE rider Polanc got in a breakaway group on the 158km stage 12 from Cuneo to Pinerolo and finished 25 seconds behind Italian Benedetti.
Benedetti, riding for Bora Hansgrohe, had been dropped on the category one Montoso climb around 35km from home but worked his way back before sprinting to the biggest win of his career.
Polanc then had a long wait to discover how much time the main bunch pre-stage leader Valerio Conte and favorite Primoz Roglic had lost.
He will move on to stage 13 with a four minute seven seconds lead over Roglic with Conti another 44 seconds in arrears.
“It’s a lot of emotion for a rider like me. It’s something I’ve waited for since the day I visited a start village of the Giro d’Italia in 1999. From that day, I dreamt of being a pro cyclist” said Benedetti, the first over-30 rider to win a stage in this year’s Giro.
“After the last bend, it was a bit early to go to the front because of the wind but my legs were still responding. I didn’t celebrate before the line as I’ve learned from the under-17 category to not believe in the win too early and not to be too exuberant.”
Polanc downplayed his chances of winning the race.
“Every rider who takes part in a Grand Tour dreams of a day like this,” he said. “It will be hard to still have the Maglia Rosa in Verona but at least I’ll try to retain it tomorrow.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman,; Editing by Toby Davis and Ed Osmond)