Giovanni Visconti won the 15th stage of the Giro d’Italia on Sunday after a mountain finish in the snow following a 149km ride from Cesana Torinese, Italy, to Col du Galibier, France.
The Italian from the Movistar team held off a charge from the depleted peloton, made up of race favorites, to take his maiden Giro stage by 42 seconds from Carlos Betancur and Prezemyslaw Niemiec.
Ahead of the second and final rest day, Vincenzo Nibali held onto the leader’s maglia rosa after coming home in seventh, 54 seconds down.
The finishing line had been brought 4km down the mountain due to the adverse weather conditions at the top of the Galibier, but given the thick sheet of snow around the riders as they tackled the final climb, and snow flakes peppering their faces, that would have been something of a relief.
Having broken clear of his six fellow breakaway companions on the penultimate climb up the Telegraphe, Visconti reached the Galibier with a couple of minutes on his chasers.
The 30-year-old Sicilian held on up to the finish at 2,301m, alongside a monument to former Italian champion Marco Pantani, before collapsing exhausted after the finishing line.
“There are no words to describe that — I’m delighted, I’m delighted,” said Visconti, who was briefly banned for three months last year due to his links to disgraced doctor Michele Ferrari.
“Today, we saw who I am, not what I’ve shown this last year. I was born the same day as Marco Pantani, January 13. Maybe today he helped me,” Visconti said.
Any hopes of fireworks among the overall contenders failed to materialize on the draining final climb.
Nibali briefly stretched his legs, but gained little and was quickly reeled back in before the favorites all came home in the same bunch.
Australian Cadel Evans remains second, 1 minute, 26 seconds back, with Colombia’s Rigoberto Uran third, 2:46 in arrears.
“They were extreme conditions, I tried to shake things up at the end, but it was very difficult because of the cold,” Nibali said.
“It really was very cold. It was an important day, but the result is good. I have a good advantage, although it would have been better if I’d gained a bit of time. Evans is still very close and Uran still needs to be taken into consideration,” he said.