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Denz wins another Giro d’Italia stage, Armirail is first Frenchman in pink this century

106th Giro d'Italia 2023 - Stage 14

CASSANO MAGNAGO, ITALY - MAY 20: Nico Denz of Germany and Team BORA - hansgrohe celebrates at finish line as stage winner ahead of Derek Gee of Canada and Team Israel - Premier Tech during the 106th Giro d’Italia 2023, Stage 14 a 194km stage from Sierre to Cassano Magnago / #UCIWT / on May 20, 2023 in Cassano Magnago, Italy. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images,)

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CASSANO MAGNAGO, Italy -- Nico Denz sprinted to his second victory in the Giro d’Italia after almost celebrating too early, while Bruno Armirail became the first Frenchman to wear the pink jersey in this century.

Denz lifted his arms in celebration as he crossed the line at the end of Stage 14 but he appeared not to have spotted Derek Gee on his right. However, the German cyclist managed to pip Gee by half a wheel.

Denz, who rides for Bora-Hansgrohe, won Stage 12 for his first victory in a Grand Tour, in his sixth Giro.

“I was satisfied already after the first one and I told people to wake me up because this can’t be true, this must be a dream,” Denz said. “I don’t understand really what’s going on right now to be honest.”

Alberto Bettiol was third, while the general classification riders rolled across the line more than 21 minutes behind Denz at the end of another cold and rainy stage.

That moved Armirail into pink and gave previous leader Geraint Thomas a night off from podium celebrations and news conferences, and an early recovery ahead of a tough day in the mountains.

Armirail became the first French cyclist to wear the maglia rosa since Laurent Jalabert in 1999. The Groupama–FDJ rider has an advantage of 1 minute, 41 seconds over Thomas, and Primož Roglič was two seconds further back.

“The plan this morning was more about the stage win,” Armirail said. “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 the fourth stage and I was disappointed that I wasn’t on a good day. Only once Thomas crossed the line it became a reality in my mind but it’s hard to realize … it’s a dream, I can’t believe it.”

There was one top-category climb near the start at Sierre as the race headed from Switzerland back across to Italy and an almost entirely flat rest of the 120-mile route to Cassano Magnago.

A large breakaway of 29 riders eventually escaped on the approach to the climb.

Four riders got away from that bunch with about 37 miles remaining but they were caught by the chasing group shortly before the line.

“We put in a massive, massive effort to come back in the last 10K,” Denz said. “Everyone was going full, everyone wanted to go for the victory and not for fourth place. Everyone was looking at each other.

“But I thought, I already have a win so I don’t want to do fourth - either I win or I don’t care. Then I just go all in to the line and here I am again.”

Armirail was 53 seconds behind and faced an anxious wait for the general classification group.

Stage 15 has four categorized climbs on the 121-mile route from Seregno to Bergamo.

The Giro ends in Rome in eight days.