- Associated Press - Saturday, May 24, 2014

OROPA, Italy (AP) - Enrico Battaglin sprinted to victory on a tough uphill finish to claim the 14th stage of the Giro d’Italia on Saturday as the race hit the first of the high mountains.

The Italian came from behind to overtake Jarlinson Pantano in the final 50 meters and edge out Dario Cataldo on the line after a climb to the sanctuary of Oropa, the scene of Marco Pantani’s memorable victory in 1999.

Pantano finished seven seconds behind.

“I didn’t believe I could do it until the last kilometer. My legs were at their limits, I was tired too,” Battaglin said. “Then I saw that others too were breaking down. Then I gained some meters immediately, I gritted my teeth and I passed them in the last 20 meters. It is a superb win for me, what a fight.”


Rigoberto Uran of Colombia retained the overall lead but saw his advantage cut on the 164-kilometer (102-mile) route from Aglie.

Cadel Evans - who wore the pink jersey earlier in the race - gained five seconds and is now 32 seconds behind Uran. Rafal Majka is third overall, 1:35 behind.

“We lost a few seconds, but it’s no worry,” Uran said. “The team is doing well, I’m calm. But the Giro is still very open.”

It was the second of three stages dedicated to Pantani, the Italian cyclist who won both the Giro and Tour de France in 1998. He was found dead in a hotel room on Valentine’s Day in 2004, and a coroner ruled he died from cocaine poisoning.

As the Giro entered the final week, the race entered the mountains and Friday’s route had four categorized climbs including the steep final ascent.

The breakaway of the day was formed of 21 riders but the peloton were happy to let them go, with none of the escapees less than half an hour behind Uran in the overall standings.

The first two weeks of the Giro had been littered with crashes on wet roads, and even though the day was dry there was another crash with around 102K (63 miles) remaining as the peloton went through a roundabout. No one was seriously injured but Kanstantsin Siutsou later quit the race.

Pieter Weening - who won the ninth stage - also retired during the day.

The gap to the breakaway group went up to more than 10 minutes because of the crash but was back down to 9:29 at the start of the category 2 climb up to Alpe Noveis.

And the peloton had gained more than two minutes at the top of the ascent after a gradient of up to 16 percent.

Nicolas Roche escaped from the break on the highest climb of the day, up the Bielmonte, which has a ski station at the summit. As he crested the top, he had 10 seconds on the remainder of the original break, which was down to 12 cyclists.

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