Colombia’s Fernando Gaviria underlined his status as the 100th Giro d’Italia’s top sprinter after powering to an impressive fourth victory at the end of stage 13 on Friday.
Gaviria, of the Quick Step team, looked out of contention during a hectic dash for the finish but produced a ferocious late burst to stun Ireland’s Sam Bennett (Bora) at the end of a mainly flat 167km ride from Reggio Emilia to Tortona.
Dutchman Tom Dumoulin, of Sunweb, finished close behind in the race leader’s pink jersey to maintain his 2min 23sec lead over race favourite and 2014 champion Nairo Quintana (Movistar).
But before the race for the ‘maglia rosa’ moves back into the mountains on Saturday’s 14th stage to the summit finish at Oropa, Gaviria enjoyed another day of glory on his race debut.
The Giro sprint field may be missing the likes of German Marcel Kittel, Briton Mark Cavendish and Slovakian Peter Sagan, but Gaviria, a former two-time world champion in track cycling’s omnium event, has been beaten only twice in five sprint finishes so far.
He lost out to German giant Andre Greipel on stage two and finished runner-up to Australian Caleb Ewan after a photo finish decision on stage seven.
Elsewhere, best for UAE Team Emirates were Robert Ferrari (4th), Sacha Modolo (7th), Matej Mohoric (25th) and Jan Polanc (35th).
Geraint Thomas has withdrawn from the Giro d’Italia, Team Sky have announced.
The Welsh rider has been struggling with injuries since his crash on Sunday, which saw him slip out of general classification contention.
Thomas, co-leading Team Sky in a Grand Tour for the first time, suffered shoulder and knee damage when a stationary police motorbike caused a crash late on during stage nine.
Thomas had been lying second overall at the time of the incident but lost over five minutes and slipped further back in stages 11 and 12.
“I’ve been suffering since my crash on Sunday,” Thomas said. “I’ve had an issue with my shoulder which is manageable, but my knee has also been getting worse each day.
“Obviously it’s never nice to leave a race early, especially when it’s your main goal of the season, but I have to look at the bigger picture. I’d love to continue, but it would be a case of trying to survive each day rather than racing.
“I’ll turn my attention to the Tour de France now, and I want to arrive there with the same good form I started the Giro with.”
It is the latest disappointment in Italy for Team Sky.
Sir Bradley Wiggins suffered crashes, illness and mechanical issues before withdrawing in 2013, Richie Porte was essentially knocked out of contention on stage 10 in 2015 after taking illegal assistance for a puncture, and Mikel Landa – who was also caught up in Sunday’s crash – fell ill early in last year’s race.