Lars Bak took one for himself in the Giro d’Italia’s 12th stage to Sestri Levante. The Dane of team Lotto-Belisol rode free in an escape all day in the undulating roads above Cinque Terre and, with two kilometres remaining shot free. The stage win tops years of tireless work for leaders, including as lead-out man for Mark Cavendish at HTC-Highroad.

“I know if you ride five years like that, it’s not easy to switch your mind and be a winner,” sports director, Bart Leysen told Cycling Weekly. “It’s a big present and he made it, he trained at all times to be ready, first for the Tour de France. However, he got his chance to race here at the last moment.”

Bak will switch to working for André Greipel and Jurgen Van den Broeck at the Tour de France. The Giro, though, is his chance. At the start of the race at home in Denmark, he attacked solo in the first two road stages. He failed. His former team-mates Cavendish and Matt Goss celebrated instead.

After the transfer to Italy, he recovered, worked for the team’s two GC leaders, Bart De Clercq and Françis De Greef, and prepared for his next move.

“He said in the second week, I’m going to try in a breakaway. We knew today would be good day, the GC guys are already thinking of the mountains on Saturday and Sunday,” added Leysen. “It was a perfect day for him.”

“I always believed I could win a big race, it’s always been my dream to win a stage in the Tour de France, always in a Grand Tour – now I’ve done that,” Bak explained in a press conference. “It’s a dream coming true, when you win on the highest level, you cannot be happier.”

Racing into Sestri Levante and along the Ligurian coast, Bak marked his escape companions. Sandy Casar (FDJ-BigMat) raced for the stage, but also for the possibility of taking the pink jersey.

He pulled himself back in as others tried to break free on the descent of Villa Tassani at 11.2 kilometres left. Ivan Santaromita (BMC Racing) attacked, a calm followed, Jan Bakelants (RadioShack-Nissan) tried, again a calm and then, at 1.8 kilometres out, Bak punched.

“Lars stayed calm,” Leysen added. “We explained very well the last two kilometres to Lars, and that’s where he attacked!”

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Giro d’Italia 2012: Live coverage

Giro d’Italia 2012 live text coverage schedule

Giro d’Italia 2012: Stage reports

Stage 12: Bak attacks to win

Stage 11: Ferrari wins Giro stage on ride to redemption

Stage 10: Rodriguez wins thrilling finale to take lead

Stage nine: Ventoso wins in Frosinone as Goss and Cavendish fall

Stage eight: Pozzovivo takes another Giro win

Stage seven: Hesjedal moves into Giro lead

Stage six: Rubiano solos to epic Giro stage win

Stage five: Cavendish bounces back for another stage win

Stage four: Garmin-Barracuda win TTT to take lead

Stage three: Goss wins in Horsens as Cavendish and Phinney crash

Stage two: Cavendish wins in Herning

Stage one: Phinney wins time trial

Giro d’Italia 2012: Photo galleries

Stage 11 photo gallery

Stage 10 photo gallery

Stage nine photo gallery

Stage eight photo gallery

Stage seven photo gallery

Stage six photo gallery

Stage five photo gallery

Stage four photo gallery

Stage three photo gallery

Stage two photo gallery

Stage one photo gallery

Giro d’Italia 2012: Teams and riders

Giro d’Italia 2012 start list

Giro d’Italia 2012: TV guide

Giro d’Italia 2012: British Eurosport TV schedule

Related links

Giro d’Italia 2012: The Big Preview

Cycling Weekly’s Giro d’Italia section