Geraint Thomas surrendered the Maglia Rosa in the Giro d’Italia to Bruno Armirail as Nico Denz secured his second stage triumph within three days.
Denz, who claimed his maiden Grand Tour stage win on Thursday, reacted quickly after Alberto Bettiol attempted to breakaway in the final kilometre on the approach to Cassano Magnago in Italy.
And in a gripping sprint finish, the German Bora–Hansgrohe rider just about held off the advancing Derek Gee to cross the line first in the 194-kilometre stage 14 race, with Bettiol finishing third.
“I felt supergood and so I managed to get again into the breakaway,” Denz said. “We were lucky to close the gap just inside the final kilometre.
“I felt very good and when Bettiol launched his sprint I followed him and then I went full gas until the line. It was a very tough day but it ended well for me.”
Armirail finished 40 seconds down on the leading pack but will be in pink in Sunday’s 195km mountain stage from Seregno to Bergamo after going to the top of the general classification.
The French Groupama rider said: “The plan was more about the stage win (on Saturday). We thought one day the Maglia Rosa could be up for grabs. But we didn’t think it would be today.
“I had tried on stage four and I was disappointed that I wasn’t on a good day. Only once Geraint Thomas crossed the line, it became a reality in my mind but it’s hard to realise.”