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Peter Sagan delivered a hard-fought victory for Bora-Hansgrohe on stage 10 of the Giro d’Italia as Egan Bernal retained the pink jersey in Foligno.

After Sagan’s teammates rode hard on the front for much of the 139km stage from L’Aquila to drop several sprint rivals, the three-times former world champion made it pay as he held off Fernando Gaviria and Davide Cimolai to claim his second career Giro stage win.

They came across the line in a much-reduced sprint well ahead of the main favourites after a late crash for Max Kanter split the group, but with the incident inside the last three kilometres no time gaps were awarded.

That meant the Ineos Grenadiers’ Bernal stayed out in front, though his advantage was trimmed by one second to 14 after Deceuninck-QuickStep’s Remco Evenepoel pipped him in the battle for time bonuses at the second intermediate sprint. EF Education Nippo’s Hugh Carthy remains sixth, 45 seconds down, with Simon Yates of Team BikeExchange in ninth a further 11 seconds back.

A sprint finish was always expected on the final stage before the first rest day, a predominantly downhill run away from the Apennine mountains, but Bora used the climbs there were in the second half of the day to set up the win.

One by one the likes of Dylan Groenewegen, Tim Merlier and Giacomo Nizzolo fell away from the peloton, but Gaviria, Cimolai and Elia Viviani stuck around to ensure Sagan still had work to do at the end.

“I have to say thanks to all my teammates,” Sagan said. “They did an impressive job, it was full gas for the last time climbs and we dropped some sprinters. It was not enough to drop everyone, but in the end I won and I’m very happy so thanks to all my teammates.”

It is Sagan’s first sprint win in the Giro after he took his first stage with a solo effort last year – also on stage 10 – and the Slovak moved past Merlier to top the points classification following the withdrawal on Saturday of Caleb Ewan.

Bora’s pace put the pain on everyone, not least the general classification riders who had been hoping for an easier day after Sunday’s dramatic finish on the gravel climb at Rocca di Cambio.

“It was really hard,” Bernal said. “Bora, I think they did a really great job in the climbs, it was a really, really hard pace. I think everyone was full gas. It was harder than we expected in the morning but finally we saved the day so we are happy because of that.”