Hello there, and welcome along as we head deeper into the second week of this Giro d'Italia. Yesterday's gravel stage was a brutal re-introduction for the riders after the first rest day, and while the Zoncolan and the high mountains come later in the week, it's not like today is a straight-forward one; fewer than 212 kilometres await, featuring around 4000 metres of elevation gain.
Here's the scene at the start. Recognise it? After yesterday's Strade Bianche-inspired stage, we're in Siena, in the iconic square where that race finishes. The sun is shining and the roll-out is coming up at 11:20 local time, so in around a quarter of an hour.
Before we get going, now's the time to catch up on yesterday's action, and there was a lot of action. It was perhaps not as 'epic' as that gravel stage back in 2010, but it was nevertheless the most important and captivating day of the race so far, with winners, losers, and an earpiece ripped from its home.
Another breakaway day?
It's been a fruitful Giro so far for the escape artists - 5 of the 10 road stages have seen success from the day's break - and today's long and hilly affair provides yet more fertile terrain.
The sheer weight of climbing will make this a tough outing for the GC riders but whether we'll see fireworks in between the gravel stage and the Zoncolan is another matter. Even if the Cat-2 climbs pass quietly, there'll be enough fatigue in the legs to spark some action on the steep final climb and descent, but it's likely to be a few minutes behind the day's winner.
Here we go. The riders roll out of Siena's Piazza del Campo. We have a short neutral section before the race proper kicks off at 11:30.
It was a tough day at the office yesterday for Remco Evenepoel - perhaps the hardest day of his career given how easy he has made most things look so far. He didn't speak at the finish, only issuing quotes through a team press release, but he has been speaking at the start in Siena, and we'll bring you his thoughts very shortly. In the meantime, here's our story from yesterday.
A bit of an extended neutral zone, by the way, but we're nearly there, and the breakaway hopefuls are already queuing up behind the director's car.
Finally the race is waved underway. Here come the first attacks... or should I say attack. Just the lone Bardiani-CSF rider on the move here.
It's Filippo Fiorelli for Bardiani, and there's no real response behind.
It's a flat start but we've got a small climb coming up shortly, which could be a launchpad for other attackers.
Androni kick off the counter-attacks
Crash at the back of the bunch. Fabio Sabatini (Cofidis) is caught up with a few others.
Marc Soler (Movistar) has also been caught up in that. He's back in the cars chasing.
Andrea Pasqualon (Intermarché) has punched clear of the chase to reach Fiorelli, but the peloton is not far back at all.
Everything comes back together as the road tilts uphill and now Fiorelli tries again.
Soler is still chasing, some way down. The peloton is going at quite a pace as the race waits to settle, so that wasn't a good time to have a problem.
Davide Formolo (UAE Team Emirates) is trying to force the issue now. He lost six minutes yesterday and plummeted down the GC.
Geoffrey Bouchard (AG2R), wearing the blue mountains classification jersey, accelerates now.
Alessandro De Marchi (Israel Start-Up Nation) fancies this one, too.
It doesn't look good for Soler. He looks in a bit of pain and certainly isn't chasing full gas. He's still behind the Movistar car and has no teammates dropping back.
As I write that, we see Albert Torres drop back for him. He needs a break to go and the peloton to ease, and quickly.
Soler is 11th overall at 3:19 from Bernal. He appeared to be having a good ride yesterday but lost a fair bit of ground late on, not long after attacking himself.
Nothing going clear of the peloton for the time being.
Soler looks like he could abandon here. He's talking through the car window with his director. That car is now at the back of the race having been overtaken by pretty much every other team car.
The road is still rising uphill and we have plenty of riders looking interested but nothing really going away.
200km to go
Attack from an Astana rider.
And now Remi Cavagna (Deceuninck-QuickStep) jumps on it.
The Astana rider is Samuele Battistella. He and Cavagna are away here.
Soler and Torres have been joined by Gino Mader (Bahrain Victorious) and Alex Dowsett (Israel Start-Up Nation). But they're still behind the Movistar car.
The peloton bunches up but Nicolas Roche (DSM) sets off in pursuit now.
Soler now pulls up alongside the ambulance. He points to his lower back on the left-hand side.
More attacks coming from the bunch now as we zip downhill.
Cavagna and Battistella are still out in front but there's a large group bearing down on them now.
Soler grabs an ice pack - or something like that - from the doctor and shoves it up the back of his jersey.
That large breakaway group isn't going clear. The peloton is right at hand and it's still all together, minus Soler.
More moves from Eolo and Bardiani.
Attack from Jacopo Mosca (Trek-Segafredo) on the faster part of this early downhill.
Mosca cuts through these bends so well, and so fast. He's away with Mikkel Honoré (Deceuninck-QuickStep)
The pair hit the next little uncategorised climb but the peloton is close at hand.
186km to go
Mosca and Honoré are joined by an Astana rider but they look around and see the bunch right there.
De Marchi is down. The ambulances are there and the stretcher is out. This doesn't look good.
Pieter Serry is on the move now. After Evenepoel's struggles yesterday, his Deceuninck-QuickStep teammates seem to have been given much more freedom for manoeuvre today.
De Marchi is being tended to at the road side. He's supine, and about to be placed onto the stretcher.
Mollema is on the move as the next wave of accelerations come.
A large group of around 30 riders have managed to clip away.
Ineos appear at the head of the main peloton.
Bouchard is in this move and he's trying to cut it down to size as the road continues to rise.
Jai Hindley (DSM) appears to be in this group. He's more than 7 minutes down on GC but obviously finished runner-up last year so they won't want to let him stroll back into the picture.
Bouchard has an Israel rider for company as they reach the top of that small climb. They start descending but the rest of the group is not far behind, and the peloton not far behind that.
De Marchi is placed into the ambulance. Nothing more to report but we hope that he's ok as we await an update from his team.
It's Bevin who's with Bouchard. They're staying clear on this fast section.
We haven't got a time check on Soler, but he's still behind the Movistar car with Torres.
And now the Movistar car speeds off. Maybe they've been warned about spending too much time in the slipstream. Soler is carrying on for the time being.
Mader is also back there with him, shaking his head. He won stage 6 but finished dead last yesterday, and is clearly struggling with something.
175km to go
37km on the clock already and Bouchard and Bevin continue together out front. They're being hunted down now by a duo of Lotto Soudal and Bardiani, but the peloton is still going fast just behind.
Statement from Israel Start-Up Nation on De Marchi
"Unfortunately, De Marchi crashed out of the race. Dema is conscious, but cannot continue the Giro. We will update once we have more information."
Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) attacks from the bunch now and zips over to Bouchard and Bevin.
But the peloton is right there, and more accelerations are coming.
The road is rising once again and the peloton has split.
Around 40 riders have been cut off the back of the bunch as they head around a hairpin.
Chaos here as the front of the bunch represents one fluid mess.
Victor Lafay (Cofidis), winner of stage 8, is keen again today.
It doesn't look much on the profile but these early undulations are causing some damage and all add up to a total elevation gain that exceeds 4000m.
Downhill again now. We have an intermediate sprint coming up at KM75 before the categorised climbing begins.
Roche tries again, attacking from a reduced bunch where riders are all over the place, struggling to find their teammates.
The three-time world champ wears the ciclamino jersey as leader of the points classification, and he could extend his lead at that intermediate sprint.
Sagan joins Roche but more riders set off in pursuit now.
A large group goes clear in pursuit of Sagan and Roche.
Back together. Roche and Sagan are caught by that group, but that group itself is barely away from the bunch anymore.
An hour on the clock and we've already covered 48km.
The figures alone - 212km, 4000m of elevation - make this a brutal day out, but the way it's being raced only intensifies things. If we carry on like this, it could be one of the most demanding days of the entire race.
Androni kick off the next wave of attacks.
It's a light downhill section and Eolo send a rider off now.
This is a rapid downhill and they reach 80km/h. The bunch is splitting again.
Riders are just spilling out of the main bunch as the gradient eases.
Dries De Bondt (Alpecin-Fenix), in the break yesterday, is on the move again.
A five-rider group has formed around De Bondt.
The Eolo rider who helped drive that move clear on the descent, is Vincenzo Albanese. Also in the five-man group are Diego Ulissi (UAE), Simone Ravanelli (Androni), Honoré, and De Bondt.
Breaking: Marc Soler abandons
Movistar: "We sadly have to confirm Marc Soler will not continue in the Giro d'Italia following his crash early on stage 12. More info later."
A real blow for the Tour de l'Avenir winner, who was here with his first real shot at Grand Tour leadership. He was going well enough, lying just outside the top 10.
Dowsett has also abandoned. He has stomach problems and that's two Israel riders out in the first 90 minutes today. They also lost Krists Neilands earlier in the race and their leader Dan Martin plummeted down the GC yesterday. Not the best time for that team.
Meanwhile a counter-attacking group has gone clear of the bunch and is about to make contact with those five leading riders.
147km to go
Breakaway finally going
The peloton comes back together and bunches up. They're knocking it off and letting this go.
George Bennett (Jumbo-Visma) made it into that break. He's the best-placed rider in there but is 21 minutes down. Full composition to come.
Here's who's in the break
George Bennett (Jumbo-Visma), Gianluca Brambilla (Trek-Segafredo), Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates), Chris Hamilton (Team DSM), Geoffrey Bouchard, Andrea Vendrame (AG2R Citroën), Mikkel Honoré (Deceuninck-QuickStep), Simone Petilli (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert), Guy Niv (Israel Start-Up Nation), Victor Campenaerts (Qhubeka Assos), Dries De Bondt (Alpecin-Fenix), Vincenzo Albanese (Eolo-Kometa), Simone Ravanelli, Natnael Tesfazion (Androni-Giocattoli-Sidermec).
Bardiani have missed this and have sent Giovanni Visconti up the road. He's now in no-man's land.
142km to go
The peloton are at 3 minutes back already. They'll surely be happy to have a breather after that start, so we'll see if the break are able to build an advantage that will ensure them the stage win.
Another abandon - Gino Mader has called it a day after his earlier struggles.
Here's our story on De Marchi
138km to go
Visconti makes it across. The breakaway eases having established itself firmly now, and that allows the Italian to ping his way into contention.
Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) is still in no-man's land, trying to chase down this break.
Ineos take it up in the peloton now. They have Puccio on the front, with Bernal second wheel and three more riders behind him. The gap is at four minutes. Are they keeping a lid on it already? We'll soon find out.
Another abandon. Fausto Masnada (Deceuninck-QuickStep) has climbed off, according to race radio. Not sure what the issue is there but that's a blow for Evenepoel, who loses one of his key mountain domestiques.
The break are riding through Florence and are about to hit the intermediate sprint.
135km to go
De Bondt is first through the sprint, ahead of Honoré and Petilli.
Immediately, we have our first categorised climb. It's the cat-3 Monte Morello, and it measures 7.6km at 6.6 per cent, with double digit gradients in the middle.
Here's a closer look at the climb.
Ganna hits the front of the peloton now as Ineos have seven riders on the front. They have let the gap rise to 5:10.
The break hit those steep ramps and Brambilla attacks with Niv.
The break reforms. Edet made it in just as they started the climb.
Bouchard, wearing the blue jersey, makes his move near the top of the climb, in search of more mountains points.
Ganna is setting a strong tempo in the climb. They're still at 5:15 behind the break.
Over the top of the climb and Bouchard claims the maximum 9 points, followed by De Bondt and then his own sweeping teammate Vendrame.
A rolling plateau now before we drop down towards the first of the two cat-2 climbs
124km to go
The gap has edged out to 5:45.
118km to go
Ineos are continuing their effort now but they knocked it off for a little while, and the breakaway have gone out to 7 minutes.
Deceuninck-QuickStep have given an update on Masnada. He has tendinitis in the knee.
The breakaway hit that descent now, and Campenaerts is on the move with Tesfatsion.
As promised, we have more on that big talking point from yesterday - Almeida refusing to drop back for Evenepoel. This morning Evenepoel looked to defuse the situation, suggesting there was poor signal and Almeida didn't hear he was dropped. However, Almeida himself suggested differently, with some remarkable comments... “Do I feel disappointed? I'd rather be silent than saying what I think."
100km to go
Meanwhile, back in the race, the break head into the final 100km with a lead of 7:40 over the Ineos-led peloton. They're now on the flatter ground ahead of the first of the big climbs.
The breakaway reach the foot of the Passo della Consuma, the first of our two cat-2 climbs. It's long, at 17.1km, with an average gradient of 5.7 per cent.
Here's a closer look at the climb.
The breakaway take a lead of just over eight minutes onto the climb
Here's a shot of the break
Lunch time in the peloton.
It's all calm in both groups on this climb.
It was a sunny start but the rain has resurfaced at this Giro.
The roads are wet and Bernal is putting on a rain cape.
87km to go
The gap has stabilised at 8 minutes on the climb.
One rider not being talked about much is Damiano Caruso. He came here to work for Mikel Landa but has taken on the leadership baton and now finds himself third overall after a quality ride yesterday. He has been a domestique for most of his career but has top-10s in all three Grand Tours to his name - the latest being last year's Tour de France, where he snuck into 10th while working impressively for Landa, who was fourth. There are understandably question marks over how long he can keep this up, and how he adapts to the leadership role, but he certainly has the quality to form part of the fight for the podium.
Anyway, here's Caruso's reaction after yesterday:
The breakaway are into the final part of the Passo della Consuma. They're all riding together for now but the next climb is where we might see some more action.
Puccio is leading the peloton on the climb. The gap has risen over the nine-minute mark now.
Bouchard takes it up and calls his teammate Vendrame up as they near the top of the climb.
Vendrame comes through and raises the pace, Bouchard in the wheel.
Bouchard has 60 mountains points. Albanese is next best from this break, on 16, while no one else is in double figures.
The banner at the top of the climb comes into view and Bouchard sets off. De Bondt goes after him but not with any real intention of contesting it. Petilli is third over the line.
Here are the updated KOM standings after that climb
1. Geoffrey Bouchard (Fra) AG2R Citroën Team 78
2. Egan Bernal (Col) Ineos Grenadiers 48
3. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo 23
4. Giulio Ciccone (Ita) Trek-Segafredo 20
5. Kobe Goossens (Bel) Lotto Soudal 18
The rain is falling harder as the break take on a plateau beyond the top of the climb before they begin the descent.
75km to go
The peloton is still 9 minutes in arrears as they come towards the top of the Passo della Consuma themselves.
Everyone's putting on rain capes now, getting ready for the descent.
It's pelting down on the descent now and this is going to be treacherous.
Bouchard only grabbed a cape beyond the summit and there are nervy moments as he takes his hands of the bars and grapples to get his arms in on this soaking descent.
Ganna is leading the bunch to the top of the climb. They reach the summit 9:15 down.
The break head down the fast part and kick up spray as they do so.
Verndrame is pushing on from the break.
Campenaerts and Testaftsion have been distanced on the descent.
Puccio leads the peloton down, Ineos still with their full team on the front.
Brambilla, Hamilton, Ravanelli, and Honoré have joined Vendrame off the front of the main break.
Albanese has also forged across to that group.
The break is in pieces now. Bennett and Ulissi are not far off that front group of 6. Visconti, Edet, Petilli and De Bondt are chasing together. A little further back are Bouchard and Niv, while Campenaerts and Tesfatsion are some way off the back.
Bennett and Ulissi make contact to make it eight out front.
62km to go
They're onto the second cat-2 climb. It's the Passo della Calla, and it's 15.3km at 5.4%.
Here's a closer look
Bouchard and Niv have joined the chase group containing De Bondt, Petilli, Visconti, and Edet. They're 38 seconds down already.
Tesfatsion has chased onto that chase group. Campenaerts is now alone off the back.
Tesfatsion now attacks that group.
Tesfatsion is almost across this gap. Great effort.
58km to go
He makes it! Nine riders out front now.
Bouchard, Visconti, and Edet are the next three on the road, and they're closing in as well.
Meanwhile the gap to the peloton has gone out to 11 minutes as they safely make their way down that descent. It's becoming clear that this is another breakaway day at the 2021 Giro.
That trio makes it up, so that's 12 in front now. Niv, Petilli, De Bondt, and Campenaerts are the only riders from the original break not present.
Here's a shot of the race leader Bernal a little earlier. That pink jersey is currently obscured by a black rain cape, though we might soon see it again as the rain is easing.
Ganna has taken it back up in the peloton on the lower slopes of the climb.
There may have been an error with the timings as the gap has quickly bounced back down to 9:30.
Bennett grabs another jacket from his team car. He only had a gilet on there. You'd think after his struggles in the cold and wet conditions earlier in the race - which took him off the GC and allowed him to be in this break in the first place - that he'd be wrapped up to the nines.
Petilli has made it across to the front, and Niv isn't far away either.
We see a flash of pink as it's changing rooms at the head of the peloton, but it's gone again. Bernal has removed his cape but has put on a team-issue short-sleeve outer jersey, plus arm warmers.
Niv is back in the break. That's 14 of the original 16 out front now.
And Bernal now puts his cape on over those layers. This is a cat-2 climb, so it tells you how easy they're going and how little GC action we'll be seeing here.
Problem for Bennett, who loses contact with the break. He's going back to the team car again.
Another abandon, this time Kobe Goossens (Lotto Soudal).
Lotto Soudal: "Kobe hurt his right hand due to a crash earlier in the race. Further scans will be taken to reveal the exact injury."
List of abandons today: Soler, Mader, De Marchi, Dowsett, Masnada, Goossens.
Brambilla, arms out, looks the keenest in this break, never far from the front, looking to push things on.
They're into the final few kilometres of the climb and the gap to the bunch is up to 10 minutes.
Dries De Bondt...welcome back. The Belgian champion is the latest rider to find his way back to the front of this race, and that tells you that things haven't kicked off on this climb. Only Campenaerts left from the original break.
More question marks over the live timings as it kicks out suddenly to 12:20. Either way, the winner is coming from this front group of 15 riders.
50km to go
Into the final 50 and Puccio leads the peloton, 12 minutes behind the break, where it looks like it'll come down to the final climb.
The break come towards the top of the climb.
De Bondt starts sprinting. He has been second at both climbs so far.
De Bondt knocks off his effort just shy of the summit, and he appears to let Bouchard through. He sort of points to gesture the king of the mountains through at the last... odd. Not that Bouchard is complaining. 18 more points for him.
KOM result at Passo della Calla
Bouchard - 18 points
De Bondt - 8
Vendrame - 6
Visconti - 4
Brambilla - 2
Bennett - 1
And here are the updated overall mountains classification standings after that one
1. Geoffrey Bouchard (Fra) AG2R Citroën Team 96
2. Egan Bernal Gomez (Col) Ineos Grenadiers 48
3. Dries De Bondt (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix - 24
4. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo - 23
5. Giulio Ciccone (Ita) Trek-Segafredo - 20
Honoré presses on as the break head downhill. It's the descents that have split that group up so far, and now Niv, Edet, and Ulissi are distanced.
Campenaerts has been reabsorbed back into the peloton.
40km to go
The peloton reach the top of the Passo della Calla, still led en masse by Ineos Grenadiers. They're 10:15 behind the break.
Over at the Ruta del Sol, Miguel Angel Lopez has put in a dominant display on the Puerto de Onsares summit finish, taking his first win for Movistar and taking the leader's jersey.
35km to go
Honore is hunted down on a plateau. With him in the lead are Bennett, Brambilla, Vendrame, Visconti, Hamilton, Ravanelli, Albanese.
The descent is shallower now on the way down into Santa Sofia, where we'll have a bonus sprint ahead of the final climb.
Two riders are chasing down this front group of eight and are about to make contact.
And those two are De Bondt and Edet. They're across, so 10 out front once again.
Bouchard is chasing with Tesfatsion and Petilli. Niv and Ulissi are further back.
The Bouchard trio is 13 seconds behind the front group.
26.5km to go
Bouchard, Petilli, and Tesfatsion are on the verge of getting back in. Bouchard has struggled with his rain cape today - he was a late-comer to cycling so has a legitimate excuse - and he fails to get it off as Petilli accelerates away.
25.5km to go
Now the three of them are onto the back of that breakaway group. So that's 13 out front. Niv and Ulissi are further back, while Campenaerts is back with the bunch, 11:30 down the road.
We have an update on De Marchi from his team
"Dema was taken to hospital and was diagnosed with a broken right collarbone and six broken ribs. He also broke his first and second thoracic vertebra. He did not suffer any head injury, but does have to stay in the hospital for at least one night."
Ulissi now makes it back in.
We're just a couple of minutes away from Santa Sofia and the bonus sprint, followed by the all-important final climb.
Bennett removes his cape and hands it to his team car. They're gearing up for the finale now.
Bennett is the highest-profile rider in this break, and the strongest climber on paper. He'll be the favourite from here, but it's so much more complicated than that, given the difficulty not just of this stage so far but yesterday's as well - not to mention tactics in a break of this size.
21km to go
De Bondt clips off to take maximum points at the intermediate sprint and three bonus seconds. No one else is interested.
20km to go
The break hit the final climb. It's the Passo del Carnaio, and it's 10.8km, with an average gradient of 5.1%, but it's an irregular climb, with plenty of steep sections, notably in the middle.
Here's a closer look. It hits 14 per cent in a sustained steep middle section. That average gradient is mitigated by a couple of mini downhill sections.
Brambilla accelerates! He had a couple of subdued years but has looked strong so far in 2021.
Ravanelli, Visconti, Hamilton, Bennett, and Edet are up with Brambilla.
Bouchard claws his way on with Albanese.
Petilli is also up there. Honoré and Tesfatsion have been distanced.
18.6km to go
Brambilla kicks again!
The Italian has certainly not hidden away in this break today. He has a small gap as Hamilton gives chase, Bennett in his wheel.
Petilli and Albanese lose contact after that attack.
Bouchard and Vendrame start to struggle now. As does Ravanelli.
Vendrame has left Bouchard to get himself back with the leaders.
Hamilton takes it up now, moving in front of Brambilla to set the tempo.
Vendrame clocks it and quickly latches on.
Vendrame attacks over the top of Bennett!
Vendrame is the fastest finisher in this group but he's not content to mark the moves and follow the wheels. He responded easily to Bennett's attack and now kicks himself to quickly get a gap.
Vendrame takes a lead onto the first of those mini descents and now the road heads uphill again. The steepest part of this climb is coming up.
Vendrame has 12 seconds in hand. Hamilton leads the chase.
And now Bennett helps out with the chase. Brambilla is up there with him and Hamilton and they're riding away from the rest now.
Visconti and Edet lose contact but the trio in front ease up and so they're not quite dropped yet.
16km to go
Vendrame is hanging on in front of Bennett, Hamilton, and Brambilla. A little further back are Edet and Visconti, while Bouchard chases alone further back. The rest of the break look out of contention at this point.
Vendrame is holding his own here on the hardest part of the climb. He still has 10 seconds.
Ineos lead the peloton onto the climb. They're 11:45 down. The stage win has gone but the capes are coming off as the climb is steep and you never know, someone may try and have a go.
Visconti and Edet have slipped much further back as the chase continues for Hamilton, Bennett, and Brambilla.
Vendrame is in sight but the gradients are so steep that the gap is still 10 seconds. He's on the final part of the steep section.
Bennett raises it behind.
Five seconds now after that acceleration.
Still on the double digits and Vendrame isn't tiring. He finds a few more seconds once again.
That's a strong move from the Australian and he has gapped Bennett and Brambilla.
14km to go
Hamilton reaches Vendrame!
He makes the catch just over the top of the steep section, and now the road tilts downhill for the second of those mini mid-climb descents.
The road tilts uphill again and Hamilton surges from the saddle. Vendrame sits happily in the wheel.
Bennett is clawing this back now.
They're back. So we have four together out front in contention for the stage win today: Bennett, Brambilla, Vendrame, and Hamilton.
All calm in the peloton as they hit the steep section.
11.5km to go
Still 2 leg sapping kilometres before we reach the top of this final climb
After the summit we have a nasty little descent before the flatter final 3km.
The four leaders are riding together for now. Vendrame is the big favourite if they do stay together.
No attacks up front on the final part of this climb. The steeper stuff has gone and it's hard to make a difference on these shallower gradients.
Bennett leaves a little gap, forcing Brambilla through.
It's not the biggest attack and Hamilton swiftly brings him to heel.
Brambilla goes now!
Bennett jumps on it. Small gap to the other two.
That's the top of the climb. Brambilla leads over the KOM point, followed by Bennett. Small gap to Hamilton and Vendrame. Visconti is chasing at 45 seconds but is surely out of this now.
Ciccone attacks from the peloton!
It looked like we weren't going to have any GC action but the Italian attacks on the double digit gradients. Ineos take it up.
9km to go
Brambilla attacks up front!
It's raining Trek attacks. Brambilla has gone on a small ramp beyond the KOM point. meanwhile Nibali has gone with Ciccone.
Hamilton shuts down the Brambilla move. He has been very keen - too keen? - to shut down gaps on this climb.
Ciccone and Nibali are clear of the bunch, although Ineos appear to have this under control.
Now the descent begins. It's a rapid one.
Bennett leads the way down. It's patchy with previous rainfall.
A couple of really tight hairpins are made all the more treacherous by this slightly and inconsistently damp surface.
Bennett has opened a small gap.
Ciccone and Nibali reach the slight downhill and now Moscon attacks to mark them.
The four leaders are still pretty much together although Hamilton and Vendrame appear to be the less aggressive descenders.
Ciccone and Nibali are back in the bunch. Ineos take it up again.
4km to go
The four leaders come off the main descent and onto flatter terrain.
It will start to rise slightly in the final couple of kilometres. Brambilla takes it up.
Vendrame is the strongest finisher but this could equally come down to tactics and a well-timed attack that leaves the others hesitating.
3km to go
Vendrame finds himself on the front and looks over nervously.
Brambilla is waiting at the back of the group now.
Bennett looks keen to force Brambilla though again.
Bennett and Brambilla look at each other. They're marking each other out of the race!!
2.5km to go
Hamilton and Vendrame are away!
Vendrame attacks Hamilton!
We keep talking about his sprint but he attacked on the climb and he's attacking again here. Wow
Hamilton is working his way back.
1.5k to go
Hamilton makes contact again.
Brambilla and Bennett have thrown this away.
Vendrame now puts Hamilton on the front. Just over 1km to go.
1km to go
Into the barriers and now Vendrame moves to the front. Flamme rouge!!
Brambilla is leading the chase behind but it's too late.
Vendrame keeps the pace solid as they come into the final 600m
Vendrame looks over his shoulder. Here we go! Two up sprint
Vendrame leads it out. Yet to launch
Another look over the shoulder
Vendrame opens it up!
Hamilton can’t come round
Vendrame sits up and punches the air
Andrea Vendrame (AG2R Citroën) wins stage 12 of the Giro d’Italia
Bennett waves his arm in frustration at Brambilla as they come to the line. Third place to the Italian.
Visconti trails in fourth place.
Bouchard comes home in fifth, celebrating his teammate's win. A perfect day for AG2R after he extended his KOM lead.
Petilli and Edet are the next home.
Back in the bunch, Nibali attacks on the descent.
Problem for Moscon.
Moscon crashed! And there we see why Nibali does this. He's unlikely to gain significant time but he puts enough pressure on those behind to tease out any weaknesses and force some errors.
It's how he won the 2016 Giro and it's how Evenepoel lost his chance of winning Il Lombardia last year. He doesn't want riders to crash but it's proper racing, making things happen.
Nibali has a small gap on the flat run-in.
Nibali heads under the flamme rouge. He has around eight seconds on the bunch.
Nibali crosses the line. And now the reduced peloton does the same, six seconds later.
1 Andrea Vendrame (Ita) AG2R Citroën Team 5:43:48
2 Christopher Hamilton (Aus) Team DSM
3 Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Trek-Segafredo 0:0:15
4 George Bennett (NZl) Jumbo-Visma
5 Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane' 0:01:12
6 Geoffrey Bouchard (Fra) AG2R Citroën Team 0:01:25
7 Nicolas Edet (Fra) Cofidis 0:01:47
8 Simone Petilli (Ita) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
9 Mikkel Honoré (Den) Deceuninck-QuickStep 0:03:00
10 Simone Ravanelli (Ita) Androni-Giocattoli-Sidermec 0:04:19
General classification after stage 12
1 Egan Bernal Gomez (Col) Ineos Grenadiers 48:29:23
2 Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Astana-Premier Tech 0:0:45
3 Damiano Caruso (Ita) Bahrain Victorious 0:01:12
4 Hugh Carthy (GBr) EF Education-Nippo 0:01:17
5 Simon Yates (GBr) Team BikeExchange 0:01:22
6 Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe 0:01:50
7 Remco Evenepoel (Bel) Deceuninck-QuickStep 0:02:22
8 Giulio Ciccone (Ita) Trek-Segafredo 0:02:24
9 Tobias Foss (Nor) Jumbo-Visma 0:02:49
10 Romain Bardet (Fra) Team DSM 0:03:29
One change on GC, as Dani Martinez (Ineos) falls from 10th, but I'm not sure of those results - I think he finished in the bunch.
Brambilla: "I have nothing to say just ask to George Bennett how to lose a race. Sometimes it's better to watch some racing on TV so you can learn how to do it."
Bennett makes the argument that he's a 58kg climber and has no chance in a sprint, so had to gamble and couldn't take all responsibility to close gaps. More on this developing drama shortly.
Breaking: Brambilla has been relegated
Brambilla did swerve from his line in that finish straight, hence the remonstration from Bennett that I mentioned. The jury have reviewed the footage and knocked him down to fourth, so Bennett is on the stage podium.
The shark took a seven-second bite today. He's now 13th overall at 4:04, up one place but only because Soler abandoned. Let's see if Moscon suffered any damage there.
Let's hear from the winner, Andrea Vendrame.
"I'm super happy because I tried in 2019 but I was second and Chaves won that day, and I tried also last year but I was in a bad position. I have been training hard this year and I made a dream come true. I'm really happy.
"We've been working to try to get the blue jersey for Bouchard and then in the finish we made it so I could try and get the victory. I picked out this stage.
Brambilla was there, he's another fast man. I tried to anticipate, it was good that it was just the two of us. I knew I was the fastest. There was no change in pace, it went how I expected it to go."
That's a huge win for Vendrame - the biggest of his career, and his first since joining AG2R from Androni last year. He won Tro Bro Leon and a stage of Circuit Sarthe in a breakthrough 2019, and AG2R had high hopes for the Italian, who can sprint but also get over a wide range of climbs. He proved his versatility today with a complete performance and a deserved win. It's a big one for his team, too. That's AG2R's second win of the season and the first at WorldTour level.
Here's the peloton crossing the line.
Let's hear from Bernal, who maintains his overall lead
"For sure it felt like a mountain stage. There was a lot of elevation today - I think it was a really hard day for everyone. We are happy because we finished well.
"They [Ciccone and Nibali] attacked on the uphill and we closed the gap because the moto was really close to them, so we closed it really fast. Nibali attacked again on the downhill but we don't want to take the risk to follow him, so I think we did well.
"I think we need a flat stage for sure. Sometimes these kinds of stages are more difficult, so we need to be focused. This is a Grand Tour. For the GC guys this isn't an easy day. We need to go full every day and be really focused."
Full report, results, and photos all in now.
Here's the full story on Brambilla/Bennett
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