Oldani wins his first professional victory, López keeps the Giro lead

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GENOA, Italy — Italian cyclist Stefano Oldani claimed his first professional victory by winning the 12th and longest stage of the Giro d’Italia while Juan Pedro López retained the pink jersey on Thursday.

Oldani, who rides for Alpecin-Fenix, edged compatriot Lorenzo Rota by half a bike length, and Dutch cyclist Gijs Leemreize finished third at the end of the 204-kilometre (127-mile) course from Parma to Genoa.

The three riders were looking for their first World Tour victory and were suspicious of each other.

Leemreize opened his sprint first, but Oldani kicked off and held on for the win.

Oldani broke down in tears of joy after crossing the line. He was the second Italian to win in as many days after an 11-day wait in their home race.

“For sure it wasn’t easy,” Oldani said. “I knew Rota, he’s my friend, so I knew he was also fast, so I had to be careful… it wasn’t that easy to deal with but in the end I got through. I still can’t believe it, I couldn’t stop crying before because I worked really, really hard for this. It seems magical that I did.

The trio were part of a big breakaway that finally got back on the road after a frantic start with many attempts to escape the peloton.

The group was more than five minutes ahead of the first of three third category climbs, the Passo del Bocco.

It was the first time the climb had featured in the Giro since Belgian cyclist Wouter Weylandt died during the race in 2011. The race honored Weylandt on the descent where he crashed.

Rota, Oldani and Leemreize attacked the 25-man group on the breakaway on the second categorized climb of the day and quickly built a lead, which they worked well together to maintain on the tough final ascent.

Bauke Mollema led the chasing group across the line, 57 seconds behind Oldani. The peloton was more than nine minutes behind.

López maintained his 12-second lead overall over Richard Carapaz and João Almeida. The 24-year-old Spaniard, who rides for Trek-Segafredo, has worn the maglia rosa since finishing second in Stage 4 on Mount Etna.

“My goal was to try and win a few stages, but now I’m living a dream, nine days in the maglia rosa, it’s amazing,” López said.

Friday’s 13th stage is the last for the sprinters, although there is a steep third-category climb in the first half of the 150-kilometre (93-mile) route from San Remo to Cuneo.

One of the best sprinters won’t be there as Caleb Ewan retired before the start of Thursday’s stage. The Australian has struggled since his crash on opening day and has always said he would leave the Giro before the finish in order to focus on the Tour de France.

The Giro ends in 10 days in Verona.

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