Cycling: Kiwi George Bennett falls short in bold bid for Giro d'Italia stage victory

Kiwi rider George Bennett has taken 10 minutes out of the Giro d'Italia frontrunners, after an audacious bid for victory on the 12th stage.

Bennett began the three-week classic as his Jumbo Visma team's best general classification hope, but the slightly built Nelsonian quickly fell out of contention during two cold, wet days in the first week.

Reduced to hunting stage wins, Bennett has been prominent in breakaways during the second week and almost managed his first individual Grand Tour success with a third placing on the 212km hill section from Siena to Bagno di Romagna.

Trailling overall race leaders by 21 minutes, he was part of a 16-strong group allowed to build a massive advantage, but fell off the pace, as he wrestled with a rain jacket in inclement conditions.

A strong climber, Bennett clawed back into contention, and eventually finished 15 seconds behind Italian Andrea Vendrame and Aussie Chris Hamilton's sprint finish. 

He was also beaten across the line by Italian Gianluca Brambilla, who was subsequently relegated for crowding the Kiwi off his racing line in the final metres.

Race leader Egan Bernal followed 10 minutes behind, defending his pink jersey in the bunch, but Bennett was able to halve his deficit and improve his overall placing to 23rd.

With several huge mountain stages looming over the last week, the NZ road champion may still be a chance to challenge the top 10, currently eight minutes ahead. 

Bennett was part of Jumbo Visma's team time trial victory at the 2019 Tour de France and finished eighth overall in the 2018 Giro.

Sprinters will feature in Friday's 198km run to Verona, before the racers hit the treacherous Dolomite mountains.