Arnaud Demare collected his fourth win of the 2020 Giro d'Italia as he bossed yet another sprint at the end of stage 11.
The French national champion held off Peter Sagan and Alvaro Hodeg in the finale to stretch his lead in the points leader’s ciclamino jersey, though Sagan’s fourth second place of his debut Giro will surely have felt less frustrating than those last week given his superb solo win 24 hours earlier.
The sprint finish saw no change in the general classification, in which Portuguese rider Joao Almeida continues to lead by 30 seconds from Wilco Kelderman, with Pello Bilbao, Domenico Pozzovivo and Vincenzo Nibali bunched up close behind.
The largely flat 182km stage from Porto Sant’Elpidio to Rimini meant it was essentially nailed on for a sprint, a day after the more rolling road to Tortoreto gave Sagan the canvas for one of his greatest victories out of the breakaway.
Demare’s Groupama-FDJ team let others do the work on the road in to Rimini but moved up in the final kilometre to lead their man down the final approach to the line.
Fernando Gaviria was the first to light it up but Demare responded and none could get past him, Sagan glued to his wheel but lacking the acceleration to get alongside.
"My three lead-out men delivered me in a perfect position and I felt a lot of strength in my legs to launch my sprint," Demare said.
"Coming to the Giro I didn’t think I’d get four stage wins. Hats off to my team mates!"
The rolling profile of Thursday’s stage 12, starting and finishing in Marco Pantani’s hometown of Cesenatico, should lead to a more intriguing day in the battle for pink.
However, a relatively flat run to the line will make it difficult to make any moves stick.
"Tomorrow is a very undulating stage," Almeida said. "There will be some attacks but we will be prepared."
Wednesday’s stage took place with much of the peloton still processing the events of the previous morning, when both the Mitchelton-Scott and Jumbo-Visma teams withdrew from the race following positive tests for coronavirus on the rest day.
Team Sunweb had continued without Michael Matthews after he too returned a positive test.
The team said on Wednesday the Australian had returned a negative result on a follow-up "rapid test", raising the possibility of a 'false positive’. However, the PCR test used on the rest day is generally more reliable than a rapid test so that result is leading.