Aussie sprinter Groves pipped again in Giro finale

Australia's hopes of a first stage win at this year's Giro d'Italia have again been scuppered after home powerhouse sprinter Jonathan Milan ensured Queensland ace Kaden Groves had to endure another near-miss as runner-up.

Groves, who finished second to Lidl-Trek's Milan on stage four, again found the thunderous Italian too much to cope with on the chaotic denouement of Wednesday's 207km 11th stage from Foiano di Val Fortore to Francavilla al Mare.

Alpecin-Deceuninck's Groves, seeking to add to his five Grand Tour stage wins and pick up his first victory in 2024, was right in the mix again but Milan proved too strong in the run-in after latching on to the "perfect wheel" of attacking Belgian rival Tim Merlier (Soudal Quick-Step), roaring past for his second stage win this year.

Merlier eventually finished second ahead of the fast-finishing Groves but was relegated for having diverted from his sprint line in the final metres, deemed to have dangerously blocked the charge of Colombian Juan Sebastian Molano, who ended up fifth.

It meant the 25-year-old Groves was promoted to second on the day as Milan extended his advantage over the Australian in his defence of the maglia ciclamino - the mauve jersey for the winner of the Giro's points classification.

Milan now has 229 points to Groves' 166 and Merlier's 92.

Once again though, with opportunities for the sprinters running out, it was a frustrating day for 'pocket rocket' Caleb Ewan, the man who had ruled Australian sprinting for so long before Groves' emergence, as he got caught up amid the crazy traffic in the run-in and finished 11th.

Meanwhile, race leader Tadej Pogacar was relieved to avoid a crash in the final kilometre as he came home safely in the bunch, to maintain his two-minute 40-second advantage over Colombian Daniel Felipe Martinez (Bora-Hansgrohe).

Last year's runner-up Geraint Thomas, who is third, picked up two potentially valuable bonus seconds from an intermediate sprint but was still 2:56 behind Pogacar. Australian Ben O'Connor stays fourth, 3:39 down on Pogacar.

Thursday's 12th stage starts flat along the coast but then cuts inland for four fourth-category climbs on a bump 193km route from Martinsicuro to Fano.