L'Aquila - Australian Richie Porte took the Giro d'Italia overall leader's pink jersey on Wednesday following the 11th stage, the 262 kilometres ride from Lucera to here.
Porte, a 25-year-old former swimmer and triathlete, replaced Kazakh veteran Alexandre Vinokourov in pink in a stage won by Russian Evgeni Petrov - celebrating his birthday early as he turns 32 on May 25 - in torrential rain that saw the stage disrupted by a river breaking its banks.
Vinokourov and Australian Cadel Evans suffered badly in the wretched conditions losing over 12 minutes to Spain's 2008 Tour de France champion Carlos Sastre, who put behind him his disappointing tour so far in which he has fallen three times, to leapfrog the two of them in the overall standings.
Sastre had got away with around 60 other riders at the 35km mark before the really bad weather set in and at one point the breakaway group had built up a near 20 minute lead.
Both Vinokourov and Evans' teams worked frantically to limit the damage proving costly as both lost two riders apiece.
The business end of the race saw a battle between Germany's Linus Gerdemann and Belgium's Jan Bakelants, but his challenge came to an end when he fell on the drenched surface 1800 metres from the finish line.
Petrov, though, was to deny Gerdemann victory as he crept up on him to cross the line first to record his first success in the race in a career that has rarely tasted the heights that he experienced when crowned junior world champion in 2000.
Thursday's 12th stage is a 206km ride from Citta Sant'Angelo to Porto Recanati on the Adriatic Coast.
Stage Twelve Results:
1. Evgeni Petrov, Russia, Katyusha, 6 hours, 28 minutes, 29 seconds.
2. Dario Cataldo, Italy, Quick Step, 5 seconds behind.
3. Carlos Sastre, Spain, Cervelo, same time.
4. Bradley Wiggins, Britain, Sky, :07.
5. Alexander Efimkin, Russia, La Mondiale, same time.
6. Linus Gerdemann, Germany, Milram, same time.
7. Jerome Pineau, France, Quick Step, same time.
8. David Arroyo Duran, Spain, Caisse d'Epargne, same time.
9. Xavier Tondo Volpini, Spain, Cervelo, same time.
10. Jan Bakelandts, Belgium, Omega-Lotto, same time.
Overall Standings (After 11 of 21 Stages):
1. Richie Porte, Australia, Saxo Bank, 45:30,16.
2. David Arroyo Duran, Spain, Caisse d'Epargne, 1 minute, 42 seconds behind.
3. Robert Kiserlovski, Croatia, Liquigas, 1:56.
4. Xavier Tondo Volpini, Spain, Cervelo, 3:54.
5. Valerio Agnoli, Italy, Liquigas, 4:41.
6. Alexander Efimkin, Russia, La Mondiale, 5:16.
7. Linus Gerdemann, Germany, Milram, 5:34.
8. Carlos Sastre, Spain, Cervelo, 7:09.
9. Laurent Didier, Luxembourg, Saxo Bank, 7:24.
10. Bradley Wiggins, Britain, Sky, 8:14.