(Reuters) - Italian rider Lorenzo Fortunato of Eolo-Kometa ground his way up the steep slopes of Monte Zoncolan on Saturday to claim his maiden career win on stage 14 of the Giro d'Italia, a gruelling 205-kilometre ride that began in Cittadella.
Scaling gradients of over 20% in the final three kilometres, Fortunato was egged on by fans on the mountainous route as he inched towards the finish line and completed the stage after five hours, 17 minutes and 22 seconds.
Jan Tratnik of Bahrain Victorious looked to challenge him close to the finish but did not have the legs and finished 26 seconds behind, while Alessandro Covi of UAE Team Emirates finished third.
"I'm very happy for today. The team is the best," Fortunato said. "The breakaway went easy all day but at the start of the Zoncolan I attacked and stayed behind Tratnik. My legs are very good and I'm very, very happy."
Ineos Grenadiers' Egan Bernal finished fourth to extend his general classification lead over Simon Yates to one minute and 33 seconds to retain the race leader's pink jersey despite a late challenge from the Briton.
"I think that I'm in a really good position now. I don't need to attack on every mountain stage," Bernal said.
"I just need to be calm and patient. Finally I followed Yates and I tried to make an acceleration in the final and I think that I did a good race."
Sunday's stage 15 is a 148-kilometre ride from Grado to Gorizia.
(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Hugh Lawson)