Movistar Team leader to tackle Saturday's individual time trial in Saltara as new leader of the 2013 Giro, following a vibrant finale on stage seven in Saltara with rain and plenty of difficult climbs
PICTURES | 2013 Giro d’Italia gallery
For the very first time in two and a half years with their current sponsor, the blue Movistar Team jersey will be happily overlooked by one of the most prestigious colours in cycling: the pink of the Giro d’Italia, now on the shoulders of Beñat Intxausti. The telephone squad’s leader reached the race’s leadership at the end of stage seven, a difficult, mid-mountain, 176-kilometer course between Marina di San Salvo and Pescara who witnessed a breathtaking finale. The final 50k, with almost no flat between lots of ups and downs, were joined by pouring rain to make a hellish course where crashes decimated the elite group, where Intxausti always kept the front safely.
The last climb of the day -San Silvestro, just 8km from the finish- dropped previous leader Luca Paolini (KAT) as well as SKY’s leader Bradley Wiggins, who was helped by team-mate Rigoberto Urán, 2nd in the overall. Ahead of the trio, Intxausti kept his position and flied to the enormous prize of the ‘maglia rosa’, a fair prize to the excellent level shown by Movistar Team in the first week of racing. The 27-year-old Basque rider -in his first GT leadership, after several close calls in mountain stages in the Vuelta and also the Giro (2nd in Lago Laceno last year)- will roll down the start ramp tomorrow last for the 54.8km ITT from Gabicce Mare to Saltara. Intxausti is in the lead of the standings, still not shaken as almost twenty riders are within a minute of pink.
REACTION / Beñat Intxausti: “I’m super happy. This tastes a bit different from a real victory, but it’s really important because grabbing the leader’s jersey in a Grand Tour is something unique. It’s the reward for so many years of work, for all the work I did myself as well as the team, because all my team-mate did a superb work. The finale was really hard because of the rain. Nibali attacked and then crashed, I didn’t know really well is Urán was behind, but I did know Paolini had been dropped… At the end, I saw I could take the lead, but then there were some bonus seconds at the finish and I didn’t believe it until I got confirmed after crossing the line. It’s a joy different from the one you get by winning a race, but I did enjoy quite a lot with this maglia rosa.
“For me, this is a big achievement due to all that I had to take to come here. The goal was getting pink at the team time trial and we came really close, but we made it maybe in the least awaited day. This won’t change my goals and we will race the same way, trying to get a stage win and reaching as high as possible overall. I don’t know still the gaps for tomorrow’s time trial, but we were all close before today and keeping the maglia will be hard, especially with the likes of Nibali or Hesjedal. But I’m confident I’ll do well. I remember all team riders, also the staff… my family, always supporting me, going through all ups and downs together with me, and I wanted to dedicate this to Xavi Tondo and my grandpa, who left us two years ago. They might be the two happiest people right now.”