Arnaud Demare clinched his fourth stage win of the 2020 Giro d'Italia to increase his points classification lead as he pipped Peter Sagan in a tense finish in Rimini on Wednesday.

On the unusually flat stage 11 along the Adriatic coast, Demare (Groupama-FDJ) produced a consistent performance that allowed for him to enjoy a late burst to add to his wins on stages four, six and seven.

Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) had looked to be on course for a second successive stage win after his first ever in the Giro on Tuesday, but his decision making in the final stages ultimately cost him.

While he initially opted to focus on following Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) with less than 300 metres to go, Demare squeezed ahead and crossed the line a full length clear of Sagan.

Demare keeps hold of the Maglia Ciclamino, while Joao Almedia remains in control in the general classification battle with a 34-second lead, as the top three stayed out of trouble on a 182-kilometre route that was set up for the sprinters.

Frenchman Demare paid tribute to his team-mates, saying: "Impressive, really impressive. They had to bring the breakaway back and set a really high pace.

"It feels amazing. Of course, I didn't think I could get four stages here. I was looking for a stage win and I'm so happy.

"I really want to congratulate the whole team because it's their victory as well. They believed in me, everyone has worked really hard and the work is paying off."

Following Tuesday's spate of coronavirus-enforced withdrawals, there was an air of uncertainty heading into stage 11, but it was business as usual once the action started.

UAE Team Emirates and Cofidis looked dangerous in the mid-section but the latter were hamstrung shortly after the breakaway split with around 36km to go – Elia Viviani sent tumbling as a motorbike clipped him from behind.

In the latter stages Deceuninck-Quick-Step, UAE Team Emirates and INEOS Grenadiers riders came to the fore as Sander Armee (Lotto Soudal) began to flag at the front.

Demare and company arrived at the scene late on, and although they briefly lost the lead with under 2km to go, Miles Scotson and Jacopo Guarnieri expertly launched their team-mate to seal a dramatic win.

 

STAGE RESULT

1. Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ) 04:03:52
2. Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) +00:00
3. Alvaro Hodeg (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) +00:00
4. Simone Consonni (Cofidis) +00:00
5. Rick Zabel (Israel Start-Up Nation) +00:00

CLASSIFICATION STANDING

General Classification 
1. Joao Almeida (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) 43:41:57
2. Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb) +00:34
3. Pello Bilbao (Bahrain-McLaren) +00:43

Points Classification 
1. Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ) 220
2. Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) 184
3. Filippo Ganna (INEOS Grenadiers) 51

King of the Mountains 
1. Ruben Guerreiro (EF Pro Cycling) 84
2. Giovanni Visconti (Vini Zabu-Brado-KTM) 76
3. Jonathan Castroviejo (INEOS Grenadiers), Filippo Ganna (INEOS Grenadiers) 45

WHAT'S NEXT?

Stage 12 sees the riders start and finish in the port town of Cesenatico, with the 204km route seeing them head into the mountainous hinterlands.

Peter Sagan produced a stunning solo display to win a chaotic 10th stage of the Giro d'Italia.

The Bora-Hansgrohe rider earned the first Giro stage victory of his decorated career with a daring effort on the 177-kilometre route from Lanciano to Tortoreto.

Deceuninck-Quick-Step's Joao Almeida extended his lead at the top of the general classification to 34 seconds on a day that started with a spate of coronavirus-enforced withdrawals.

It was not a happy outing for Jakob Fuglsang as he lost over a minute to Almeida, the Astana rider suffering a mechanical to fall well off the pace.

Despite Sagan's triumph, which means he has now taken stage honours at each of the Grand Tours, Arnaud Demare still has hold of the Maglia Ciclamino.

"I'm very happy, finally," said Sagan. "I've been trying since when we started the season again with Strade Bianche, San Remo, the Tour de France – I was a lot of time on the podium or top five but my last victory was last year in the Tour de France, already a long time ago.

"For sure I did not have the plan [to go solo]. When I already accepted second, third, fourth place, and I let it go and I don't try anymore – and now the victory comes. I'm very happy for that.

"Finally, I won in my style, I do the race, do some show, take the victory – it's something special."

Sagan was aggressive from the outset, leading a breakaway that was at one point five minutes ahead of the peloton.

Rain and a devilish course made for drama aplenty, but Almeida kept himself out of trouble to maintain a firm grip on his Maglia Rosa amid a chasing pack that was disrupted by sporadic breaks.

INEOS Grenadiers rider Ben Swift had been the only man to keep pace with Sagan heading into the last 20km, but the Slovakian proved too strong for the Briton.

The three-time world champion negotiated some horrendously steep climbs and a nerve-wracking descent in the wet to cross the line 19 seconds ahead of nearest rival Brandon McNulty.

 

STAGE RESULT

1. Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) 04:01:56
2. Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates) +00:19
3. Joao Almeida (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) +00:23
4. Ben Swift (INEOS Grenadiers) +00:23
5. Jai Hindley (Team Sunweb) +00:23

CLASSIFICATION STANDING

General Classification 
1. Joao Almeida (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) 39:38:05
2. Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb) +00:34
3. Pello Bilbao (Bahrain-McLaren) +00:43

Points Classification 
1. Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ) 167
2. Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) 147
3. Filippo Ganna (INEOS Grenadiers) 51

King of the Mountains 
1. Ruben Guerreiro (EF Pro Cycling) 84
2. Giovanni Visconti (Vini Zabu-Brado-KTM) 76
3. Jonathan Castroviejo (INEOS Grenadiers), Filippo Ganna (INEOS Grenadiers) 45

WHAT'S NEXT?

Stage 11 sees the riders continue up the Adriatic coast on a relatively flat 182km route from Porto Sant'Elpidio to Rimini.

Arnaud Demare held off Peter Sagan and Davide Ballerini to win stage four of the Giro d'Italia on the day that pre-race favourite Geraint Thomas was forced to withdraw.

Team INEOS rider Thomas sustained a pelvis fracture when riding over a drinks bottle prior to the start of stage three and announced on Tuesday he was unable to continue.

That decision was taken shortly before an eventful leg in Villafranca Tirrena, with Groupama–FDJ's Demare sneaking in ahead of Sagan and Ballerini in a photo finish.

Bora-Hansgrohe's Sagan launched his sprint with a little under 200m to go, with Demare to his left, but he finished a matter of millimetres behind his rival.

Italian riders Ballerini, Andrea Vendrame and Elia Viviani completed the top five.

"I think it was a millimetre," Demare said in his post-race interview. "I had luck on my side. I often train for sprints behind my dad's scooter. It helped me for today.

"I wasn't sure if I had won when I crossed the line."

Joao Almeida finished the stage safely in the front group and extended his overall lead over closest challenger Jonathan Caicedo to two seconds, having taken bonus seconds on the second intermediate sprint.

The tense finish was somewhat overshadowed by a nasty crash involving Vini-Zabu riders Luca Wackermann and Etienne van Empel, who appeared to be taken out by barriers blown into their path by a low-flying race helicopter.

Diego Ulissi's late attack proved fruitful as the UAE Team Emirates rider saw off Peter Sagan to clinch stage two of the Giro d'Italia. 

Ulissi broke free from the peloton with around one kilometre to go on the final climb of the 149km route from Alcamo to Agrigento on Sunday. 

Sagan stuck with Ulissi until the final sprint but was unable to prevent the Italian claiming a seventh career stage win at the Giro. 

"It was a very hard climb, I did my maximum but Ulissi was stronger," Sagan said afterwards. "It was pretty hard, three kilometres at full gas." 

There was another strong performance from Team INEOS' Geraint Thomas, who maintained his lead over fellow general classification contender Simon Yates. 

Thomas is third in the overall standings, 23 seconds behind his INEOS team-mate Filippo Ganna, who has the lead following victory in Saturday's time trial. 

However, Ganna's full focus is now on supporting team leader Thomas. 

"The climb was really hard," Ganna said. "I've conserved the [Maglia Rosa] jersey, I'm really happy. From tomorrow, I'll work for the team because it's a really hard day and it can decide the jersey. 

"[My role] is to support G [Thomas], obviously. I'm here for that and happy to support him."

Mads Pedersen clinched the UCI World Championship title in stunning fashion with a scintillating sprint finish at the culmination of a gruelling men's elite road race.

With favourites such as Peter Sagan, Julian Alaphilippe and Alejandro Valverde having fallen off the pace throughout a shortened 262km route due to adverse weather, it was youngster Pedersen who triumphed against the odds in Harrogate.

Matteo Trentin looked in prime position with 200m to go, but made his move too early, with Pedersen jumping straight onto his rivals' wheel before bursting off to secure a first-ever road race gold for a Danish rider.  

Trentin followed in second with Stefan Kung completing the podium - three-time champion Sagan, who had made a late push off the front of the peloton, coming over in fifth after Gianni Moscon, who dropped off the leading pack with six kilometres remaining.

"Unbelievable! We didn't expect this when we started this morning. At first [the aim] was to survive, survive, survive," the 23-year-old Pedersen told BBC Sport.

"When I saw the finish line I hoped the pain would be gone and I could do a good sprint. After six-and-a-half hours on the bike there is not much left.

"You have to be focused and stay in front. Don't get any bad luck. It's every rider's dream to wear that jersey. For me to do it now is unbelievable."

Defending champion Valverde abandoned the race with more than 50km remaining, telling Spanish media: "It's a world championship for mad men."

Another favourite cracked with 12km to go, Mathieu van der Poel finally deciding he could no longer keep pace with the lead group, which was soon trimmed to four when Moscon gave up his chance for a medal. 

Tao Geoghegan Hart came in as the leading British rider, finishing 26th, while Geraint Thomas finished far out of contention in Yorkshire.

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