at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
Plan dei Resinelli - A spectacular solo mountain breakaway netted Italy's Matteo Rabottini the first Giro stage win of his career despite a dangerous downhill crash on Sunday.
The 24-year-old Rabottini outsprinted Spain's Joaquim Rodriguez, who caught the Italian 100m from the line, to take the mountain top win at Plan dei Resinelli while Rodriguez took the overall lead.
Spain's Alberto Losada was third, 23 seconds back.
Overnight leader Ryder Hesjedal of Canada finished 12th, 39 seconds down, allowing Rodriguez to move back into the overall lead he had lost to the Canadian on Saturday.
His shorts ripped and his bright yellow Farnese Vini-Selle Italia kit blackened with road dirt after he skidded and fell heavily on a rainsoaked descent, Rabottini nonetheless stayed ahead of the field in the latter half of the stage before taking the biggest win of his career.
“It's the happiest day of my life,” the third-year professional nicknamed Rambo said. “When Rodriguez caught me so close to the line I all but lost hope.
“But I dug deep and somehow managed to find the strength to come past him again.”
Rabottini admitted that staying away alone to the finish after such a hard crash and such a long breakaway had been “a very, very hard thing to do.”
“Fortunately I had (team manager Luca) Scinto next to me in the team car giving me advice and keeping me calm, and I managed to do it.”
After losing the race lead at Cervinia on Saturday, Rodriguez was equally pleased at bouncing back and dropping all the other favourites with a lone attack two kilometres from the line.
“I was really surprised to do so well today, it was so cold and the weather was so horrible, I thought it was going to be a day to forget,” he said.
“Taking the race lead again is a responsibility, but it was a responsiblity when I had it before. I know what it entails.”
“I am still here in the top spot, and above all I'm going into the third week and the really hard mountain stages in the lead, and that's something to be very pleased about.”
Asked if he let Rabottini win the stage, Rodriguez said: “I don't let people win races, and I didn't let Rabottini.”
Rodriguez leads by 30 seconds over Hesjedal, whilst double Giro winner and Italian favourite Ivan Basso is third at one minute and 22 seconds.
Amongst the abandons on Sunday's rainy, cold stage was Luxembourg's Frank Schleck, third in the Tour de France last year, who quit after just 32 kilometres.
Riding with a shoulder injury since a high-speed crash on stage 11, he was lying 15th overall at the time.
Before the start a minute's silence was held in memory of the victims of the earthquake that struck central Italy during the night.
Monday is a rest day but racing resumes Tuesday with a hilly stage from Limone sul Garda to Falzes. The Giro d'Italia finishes in Milan on May 27. - Reuters