Pozzato gives Italy their first stage win of the Giro
Filippo Pozzato wins, Giro d'Italia 2010, stage 12
After 12 days of racing, Filippo Pozzato finally delivered the first Italian victory of the Giro in Porto Recanati. It was also Katusha's second stage win in two days after Evgeni Petrov's win in L'Aquila.
With the effects of yesterday's epic stage in the rain no doubt evident in the legs, the riders could have been forgiven for sitting back and taking it easy. And that's more or less what they did until the race exploded into life around 12 kilometres from the line.
The finishing circuit around the town of Porto Recanati featured a little hill, the ideal springboard for someone seeking a chance to win the stage. The attacks were inevitable, but the identity of the riders trying to escape was a surprise.
In this extraordinary Giro d'Italia, it is clear that the riders cannot let down their guard for a moment. Stefano Garzelli of Acqua & Sapone lifted the pace and a host of big names followed him. With him went Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana), Damiano Cunego (Lampre), Vincenzo Nibali, Ivan Basso (Liquigas), Pozzato, Marco Pinotti (HTC-Columbia), Thomas Voeckler (Bbox Bouygues Telecom), Jerome Pineau (Quick Step) and Michele Scarponi and Alessandro Bisolti (Androni Giocattoli).
The group worked well together and caused Saxo Bank and Caisse d'Epargne to panic momentarily as they sought to defend the positions of Richie Porte and David Arroyo, the first two riders overall.
The leaders stayed clear to contest the finish. Vinokourov and Basso tried to jump away but were overhauled by Pozzato, obviously the best sprinter in the group, although he was pushed hard to the line by Voeckler. The Italian champion's delight as he crossed the line was obvious - it was his first stage win in the Giro d'Italia.
Pozzato said: "I said this morning that I felt well and had good legs. I knew there would be action on that climb. Voeckler, Garzelli, Basso and Nibali started firing. I got on to that, however, I did not think the classification men would make a move after yesterday's stage.
"I grew up watching this race from the side of the road, watching with my dad. To win a stage is truly beautiful, above all with the Italian jersey."
With the bunch content to enjoy a day of relative calm, Rick Flens of Rabobank attacked after nine kilometres and quickly got a healthy lead. After 18 kilometres, Yuriy Krivtsov (Ag2r) and Olivier Kaisen (Omega Pharma) set out in pursuit but by then Flens' lead was already growing. At one stage the gap was almost nine minutes. It took Krivtsov and Kaisen until the 40 kilometre mark to bridge across to them.
The trio then worked well together but were always doomed once they reached the finishing circuit. Francesco Failli of Acqua & Sapone was first to try his luck from the bunch, then Michele Scarponi of Androni Giocattoli had a go before Garzelli started his move which enlivened the finale.
Although Vinokourov, Nibali, Basso and co gained a few seconds over Sastre, Wiggins and Evans it was an indication that this race is refusing to settle down, with the Monte Zoncolan looming on Sunday.
With four kilometres to go, there was the remarkable sight of the world champion Cadel Evans and a Lampre rider, Daniele Righi, throwing punches at each other after they almost collided. Pozzato said: "Vino and Evans have shown they have weak teams. I think that Evans has become nervous because of this. I think that it's normal but they shouldn't start throwing punches." Tempers are clearly frayed in the bunch after a succession of very difficult days - and we're only just past the halfway mark in the race.
Australia's Richie Porte kept the pink jersey for a second successive day and should be safe until at least Saturday's stage, which goes over the Monte Grappa climb.
Giro stage winners by nationality
Australia (Lloyd, Evans, Goss) 3
USA (Farrar) 2
Great Britain (Wiggins) 1
Belgium (Weylandt) 1
France (Pineau) 1
Denmark (Sorensen) 1
Russia (Petrov) 1
Italy (Pozzato) 1
Stage 12: Citta Sant-Angelo - Porto Recanati
1. Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Katusha in 5-15-50
2. Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom
3. Jérôme Pineau (Fra) Quick Step
4. Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Acqua & Sapone
5. Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana
6. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas
7. Marco Pinotti (Ita) HTC-Columbia
8. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Androni Giocattoli all same time
Overall classification after stage 12
1. Richie Porte (Aus) Saxo Bank in 50-45-15
2. David Arroyo (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne at 1-42
3. Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) Liquigas at 1-56
4. Xavier Tondo (Spa) Cervélo at 3-54
5. Valerio Agnoli (Ita) Liquigas att 4-41
6. Alexander Efimkin (Rus) Ag2r at 5-16
7. Linus Gerdemann (Ger) Milram at 5-34
8. Carlos Sastre (Spa) Cervélo at 7-09
Garmin leads the chase
Filippo Pozzato brings the escape group home
Richie Porte keeps the race lead
Giro d'Italia 2010: Cycling Weekly's coverage index
2010 Giro d'Italia coverage in association with Zipvit