MONTALCINO, Italy (AP) — Swiss cyclist Mauro Schmid won the 11th stage of the Giro d’Italia on Wednesday for the first victory of his professional career, and Egan Bernal extended his overall lead on the tricky gravel roads.
There were four unpaved sections that made up half of the final 70 kilometers (43.5 miles) of the Wine Stage of this year’s race and Remco Evenepoel — one of the Giro favorites — struggled.
Evenepoel had been second overall, 14 seconds behind Bernal. But he was dropped on the third gravel section and Bernal took the opportunity to up the pace in the peloton. Evenepoel crossed the line more than two minutes behind Bernal.
Bernal, a former Tour de France champion, now holds a 45-second lead over Aleksandr Vlasov. Nobody else is within a minute of him, with third-place Damiano Caruso 1:12 behind.
“Today we rode well and I increased my lead in the GC but the Giro is still long, all the big climbs are still to be ridden,” Bernal said. “I’m confident but I have to keep my feet firmly on the ground.”
Schmid, who rides for Qhubeka Assos, was part of an early breakaway on the 162-kilometer (101-mile) route from Perugia to Montalcino. He and Alessandro Covi attacked from the break with 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) remaining and the 21-year-old Schmid won a sprint finish, edging the UAE Team Emirates rider by one second.
“Actually I cannot believe it,” Schmid said. “I was only selected for the Giro team about two weeks before the race. My preparation was good but at the beginning of the season, I was not even thinking about riding a Grand Tour.
“In the last two stages I suffered a lot, but today I really wanted to go on the attack because I really like riding on gravel. In the breakaway, I felt I had good legs and I went for it.”
Harm Vanhoucke was third, 26 seconds behind Schmid.
Bernal led the peloton over the line, more than three minutes later, and ahead of all his main rivals.
Thursday’s 12th stage features four categorized climbs on the 212-kilometer (132-mile) route from Siena to Bagno di Romagna.
The Giro finishes on May 30 in Milan with an individual time trial.
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