Superb Movistar Team covers Nairo Quintana's back until final kilometer of Rifugio Panarotta climb. Colombian rider in maglia rosa with three stages left
PHOTO GALLERY | Movistar Team extremely committed in Panarotta stage
The Movistar Team led one of the biggest group demonstrations in this year’s Giro d’Italia during Thursday’s stage 18 in the Corsa Rosa. For almost the whole 171km from Belluno to the top of the Cat-1 Rifugio Panarotta climb -the route also including another big ascent in the Passo San Pellegrino (Cat-1), plus the Redebus (Cat-2)-, the telephone squad had one of their riders at the head of the bunch, protecting Nairo Quintana’s chances to lead the Colombian into a third visit to the podium to receive the maglia rosa, relatively comfortable until the end of the day.
An exceptional Fran Ventoso kept the tempo high in the first two climbs, helped out by Malori and Eros Capecchi, who later drove the group at a decent pace through the opening slopes of the last ascent. With no stage-winning chances for the main favourites -as a 14-rider break got away including eventual winner Julián Arredondo (TFR)-, the first kilometers of Panarotta were dominated by the Blues, with Capecchi, a strong Antón -who left the group with only about ten riders in-, and eventually Castroviejo, able to stay with the main favourites even after several attacks from Rolland (EUC) and later dropping with 4km remaining to finish alongside Cadel Evans (BMC).
A late attack by Fabio Aru (AST) gave him a few meters over Nairo, who controlled any nervousness to only sprint into the last slope, calm and focused on the last two mountain stages: tomorrow’s TT up the Monte Grappa (27km) and Saturday’s gruelling climb towards the Monte Zoncolan. The GC remains unchanged, with 1’41” between Quintana and countryman Rigoberto Urán (OPQ), plus 3’29” over third placed, contested by four riders -Rolland, Aru, Majka (TCS) and Pozzovivo (ALM)- in just thirty seconds’ distance.
REACTION | Nairo Quintana: “Today’s stage was all about controlling the situation well, and just like everyone could see, the team worked phenomenally and kept me really calm. We controlled the gaps with the breakaway so they didn’t go too far and I kept well the pace into the climb – it was actually softer than we expected, but there were some attacks, especially from Rolland. I controlled the situation with those that worried me and let others pay attention to their own interests and follow the other wheels.
“The Giro is far from over. There are still two hard mountain stages ahead and it won’t be decided before the last finish line in Trieste. Physical problems are over for me, and I think I can do well in the TT tomorrow and defend the maglia rosa without losing any time, which is the most important. It’s a time trial I like. It has pretty hard slopes and suits me well. I don’t know if it’s better for me or Urán, because it has some flat sections in the beginning, but I’m feeling great. Yet, it won’t be only Rigoberto: also Pozzovivo or Rolland can contest the win tomorrow.
“I’m really happy with these days in the lead of the Giro. I feel the support of the ‘tifosi’ – you see they love you and are happy you’re leading the race. This Giro d’Italia looks like made for Colombians. I’m really happy with Arredondo’s victory – he also wears the KOM jersey, which identifies Colombian riders.”