Stage 13 was the final chance for the sprinters in the 2017 Giro d'Italia, and there was no doubt the day would end in a fast, bunched and highly chaotic dash to the line. However, before Jasper Stuyven could turn his thoughts to the sprint, he had to keep team leader Bauke Mollema protected, especially when a side wind kicked up in the final 20 kilometers.
With Mads Pedersen, 21, pulling at the front, Stuyven settled in behind, Mollema shielded on his wheel, and when, kilometer after kilometer, Mads never relented his position - or pace! - Stuyven let the young power-horse have free rein.
"It was really an impressive ride from Mads," said Stuyven of his young Danish teammate. "He was so strong; I saw a lot of guys pulling off, and he just kept riding there in the wind. Yeah, it was really impressive, and of course, it was more to keep Bauke safe, but I could take advantage of it."
When it was apparent that Mollema would safely make it through to the three-kilometer safety zone, Stuyven turned his attention to the finish, and made another solo stab at upsetting the sprinting pedigree at this year's Giro.
"Then with 5.5kms to go, at the big roundabout, I could start to go for my own way," continued Stuyven, "and I followed some wheels. I think I was good – I had to do a little acceleration into the wind just before the left-hand corner, but I think it was also good to get it going in the slightly downhill. But yeah, Gaviria was on a higher level."
Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors) was on another level. The Colombian came from far back and, in a turn of unbelievable speed, blasted through a hole on the right side to grab his fourth win of the race. Stuyven, in a prime position on Sam Bennett's (Bora-Hansgrohe) wheel, sprinted to third.
"Yeah, third place," Stuyven said, hesitated, then added," Yeah, it's not bad. Of course you want to win, but if you look at how everything goes, I have to be happy with it. But on the other hand, I am still aiming for that victory."