REGGIO EMILIA, Italy — Colombian rider Fernando Gaviria won a bunch sprint at the end of the longest stage of the Giro d’Italia on Thursday to earn his third victory in his first Grand Tour.
Gaviria, who rides for Quick-Step Floors, edged Italian rival Jakub Mareczko at the end of the 229-kilometre (142-mile) route from Forli to Reggio Emilia. Sam Bennett of Ireland was third in the 12th stage.
Overall, Tom Dumoulin remained 2 minutes, 23 seconds ahead of 2014 winner Nairo Quintana and 2:38 ahead of Bauke Mollema.
The 22-year-old Gaviria is the first cyclist to win three stages on his Grand Tour debut since Uwe Raab in 1990, but he brushed off claims he is the best sprinter in the peloton.
"I’m not the best sprinter of this Giro," Gaviria said. "That’s Andre Greipel because he’s got many more wins in his career than me but right now, I’m the sprinter with the best form and the best legs thanks to the preparation. And that’s how I’m here with my third victory."
Dumoulin praised Gaviria’s performance so far.
"It’s been a good day for me. A typical sprinters’ stage," Dumoulin said. "It was faster than I thought. Gaviria seems to be the best sprinter here."
Dumoulin’s lead was never really under threat. The Dutch cyclist crossed the line with the rest of the GC contenders, six seconds behind Gaviria.
Mirco Maestri had been hoping for a first stage win, in his hometown, and he was part of the early break along with Sergey Firsanov and Marco Marcato.
The trio had an advantage of nearly seven minutes at one point but Quick-Step upped the pace as the finish approached and the peloton reeled them in.
Firsanov and Marcato were caught with 11 kilometres remaining and Maestri was also swallowed up five kilometres further down the road.
Friday’s 13th stage is another one for the sprinters, a completely flat 167-kilometre (104-mile) route from Reggio Emilia to Tortona.
The 100th Giro ends in Milan on May 28.