Italy's Vendrame sprints to Giro 12th stage win, Bernal holds pink jersey

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Italy's Andrea Vendrame sprinted to his first major win on a bruising 12th stage of the Giro d'Italia on Thursday, with Colombian Egan Bernal holding onto the leader's pink jersey.

AG2R Citroen rider Vendrame pipped Australia's Chris Hamilton, his final breakaway companion, on the line after the 212km ride from Siena in Tuscany to Bagno di Romagna.

New Zealander George Bennett and Italy's Gianluca Brambilla both missed out on the final sprint, finishing 15 seconds behind the leading pair.

Bernal, the 2019 Tour de France winner, retained his overall race lead, with the Ineos rider crossing the finish line among the peloton, 10 minutes off the pace.

"What an incredible feeling," said Vendrame.

"For an Italian winning a stage on the Giro is the most fantastic thing that can happen in my career.

"Now the team will be more relaxed and I hope we'll win more."

The stage was played out among a dozen riders who led going into the fourth and final climb of the day, the Passo del Carnaio, with a 12-minute advantage on the peloton.

Vendrame attacked with 18km to go before being caught just before the summit by Hamilton, Bennett and Brambilla, but regained his advantage on the descent.

The 26-year-old held on for his first World Tour stage win, and third professional success after a stage on the Circuit de la Sarthe and the Tro Bro Leon, in Brittany.

Brambilla was furious at missing out on the chance for a second Giro stage win, five years after his last at Arezzo.

"I've nothing to say, ask George Bennett," said the Italian, who was also penalised for his irregular sprint and relegated from third to fourth behind the New Zealander.

Bernal holds a 45-second lead on Russian Aleksandr Vlasov of Astana with Italian Damiano Caruso, riding for Bahrain, third at 1min 12sec.

"It was a difficult stage but I can count on a very solid team," said Bernal, who remains wary of former two-time winner Vincenzo Nibali.

Ex-Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana champion Nibali, 36, pulled back seconds on his rivals with a well-timed attack on the final descent.

"He's very experienced, a great rider. We have to be wary of him. He could make you lose the Giro," warned Bernal of the Italian who is positioned 13th overall, four minutes off the lead.

- Multiple fractures -

It was bruising day in Tuscany with a number of riders withdrawing.

Italy's former pink jersey wearer Alessandro De Marchi broke his collarbone, six ribs and two vertebrae.

The Israel Start-Up Nation rider crashed 20km into the stage, and was taken by ambulance to hospital.

"Dema (De Marchi) was taken to hospital and was diagnosed with a broken right collarbone and six broken ribs," his team confirmed.

"He also broke his first and second thoracic vertebra. He did not suffer any head injury, but does have to stay in the hospital for at least one night."

He wore the pink jersey for two days in the first week of racing but had dropped to 62nd overall.

Spanish Movistar rider Marc Soler, who had been 11th overall, fell shortly after the start of the stage and was forced to stop after 50km with a sore back.

Two other riders, De Marchi's British teammate Alex Dowsett, and Swiss Gino Maeder of Bahrain, who won the sixth stage, also pulled out before racing through the Tuscan city of Florence, 62km into the stage.

On Friday, the sprinters have their last chance to impress on the flat 13th stage over 198km from Ravenna to Verona, before heading for the mountains and Monte Zoncolan on Saturday.

The stage will mark the 700th anniversary of the death of Italian literary giant Dante Alighieri whose tomb is in Ravenna, on the Adriatic coast.

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