Samuel Sánchez inched closer to pre-race favourite Bradley Wiggins on Tuesday's fourth stage of the Giro d'Italia.
The Euskaltel captain, 14th across the line in Serra San Bruno at the end of a hilly 246km trek from Policastro, profited from gaps that opened up on the short, but wet and slippery descent to the line to claw back 17 seconds on the Team Sky leader.
"It was another dangerous day", he said upon crossing the line. "It was a hard finale, and the rain augmented the risk. Stages like these are stages you need to get through unscathed, be concentrated and at your game. The team did all that very well. Miguel Mínguez and Ioannis Tamouridis got into the break and the rest of the team protected me very well".
The duo he mentions infiltrated the day's seven-man break, pleasing the team' sponsors by putting their logos on the screen for hours.
While the break never looked like making it to the line, Miguel Mínguez made the most of his day in the spotlight with a delightful attack inside the last 50 kilometres.
Having followed Ag2r's Julien Berard's initial acceleration, despite having his shirt full of water bottles as he prepared to aid his team-mates in the likely scenario of being caught, Mínguez proceeded to go it alone with some climbing reminiscent of fans favourites like Amets Txurruka and Egoi Martínez.
The Bilbao-native quickly distanced his breakaway companions and looked to be going strong, but the incessant pace in the bunch was always going to be his downfall.
With 42 clicks to go he was reeled in, paving the way for Enrico Battaglin to sprint to a surprise victory in the slight uphill drag to the line.
Save for Wiggins' slight time loss, the GC saw no big changes.
Results (full results here):
- (1, Enrico Battaglin (Bardiani Valvole), 6:14:19)
- 14, Samuel Sánchez, s.t.
- 33, Jorge Azanza, s.t.
- 82, Egoi Martínez, 6:14
- 104, Gorka Verdugo, 10:25
- 115, Robert Vrecer, 16:53
- 193, Ioannis Tamouridis, 22:55
- 197, Ricardo Mestre, s.t.
- 201, Pablo Urtasun, 25:44
- 202, Miguel Mínguez, s.t.