Alaphilippe recatures old glories with epic Giro win

Double world champion Julian Alaphilippe has produced a memorable reminder of his dazzling talent to win stage 12 of the Giro d'Italia with an epic ride.

The two-time world champion broke away alongside Mirco Maestri with two thirds of the 193km stage still to go, dropping the Italian in the latter stages and held out for a maiden stage victory.

"I didn't plan it, I was expecting a big group to be in the breakaway," Soudal-Quick-Step's Alaphilippe said.

Alaphilippe went alone with less than 15km left when Maestri ran out of steam and, with Quinten Hermans and Jhonatan Narvaez closing in, the French rider had the legs to make it to the line, with Narvaez taking second ahead of Hermans.

"Until the last kilometre I had to keep pushing. It was my dream to win a stage in the Giro and I did it. I'm really happy.

"I hadn't planned on a 125-kiolmetre breakaway," Alaphilippe said. "It's a splendid victory after a rough period."

The French star clocked slightly more than four hours over the route from Martinsicuro to Fano, which started flat along the coast but then cut inland for four fourth-category climbs.

It was Alaphilippe's first victory in the Giro, to go with his six stage wins at the Tour de France and one at the Spanish Vuelta — plus his back-to-back world titles in 2020 and 2021.

Race leader Tadej Pogacar and the peloton finished more than five minutes back, with no change to the general classification standings.

Two-time Tour de France champion Pogacar remained 2 minutes 40 seconds ahead of Daniel Martinez and 2:56 ahead of Geraint Thomas as he attempts to win both the Giro and the Tour this year.

"If there wasn't the overall standings to worry about, I would have thought about trying to win this stage," Pogacar said.

"Alaphilippe showed that he's back. What he did is actually incredible. Only champions are capable of actions like that."

Australian veteran Simon Clarke (Israel-Premier Tech) finished seventh on the stage,   while his compatriot Ben O'Connor remained fourth in the overall standings, still 3:39 behind Pogacar, 59sec behind Martinez and 43sec behind Thomas.

Stage 13 on Friday follows an entirely flat route from Riccione to Cento, with another opportunity for a first Australian stage winner of the tour to emerge, with Kaden Groves having already enjoyed two runner's up spots.

Then there's an individual time trial on Saturday, followed by three consecutive mountain legs.