Giro d'Italia (st. 19)
Movistar Team leader dropped 2km before Agnello summit, loses 3rd place overall by 43” to Kruijswijk (TLJ) as Dutchman crashes, struggles into final climb. Nibali (AST) wins in Risoul; Chaves (OGE) jumps into overall lead before Saturday's showdown on Vars, Bonette, Lombarda
The third-to-last stage in this year's Giro d'Italia – 162km from Pinerolo to Risoul – got back Vincenzo Nibali (AST) into overall contention after a resounding victory as he took Alejandro Valverde out of the provisional overall podium. The Colle dell'Agnello, 'Cima Coppi' of the 2016 race, played a massive role in the stage already since a push from Orica-GreenEdge into the second part of the ascent led an attack from Esteban Chaves -2nd in the GC until today-, which isolated race leader Kruijswijk (TLJ) and dropped Alejandro with 2km from the top.
Valverde, supported into the last part of the climb and the subsequent descent by Rory Sutherland, José Joaquín Rojas and an outstanding José Herrada, flew past Kruijswijk as he lost balance against a wall of snow and later had to change bikes. Also Ilnur Zakarin (KAT) crashed during the downhill, forced to abandon with suspected collarbone injuries.
Despite a furious pursuit before the decisive 12km climb towards Risoul, Valverde couldn't bridge back to Nibali, who took the better from Chaves to increase his margin against 'Bala'. From one minute on the foot of the climb, to almost two and a half minutes at the finish, Alejandro Valverde now sits 43" behind the podium and 1'48" after the Maglia Rosa. Vars, Bonette and Lombarda, all Cat-1 climbs, will decide the overall outcome in the Giro as the final chance looms for 'Bala', who also gave his best in Andalo when the GC was nearly lost for him.
The real bad news for the Movistar Team in today's racing came from back at the top of the Agnello. Carlos Betancur, completely empty after flu caught days ago left him with general discomfort and gastrointestinal problems, had to abandon just 48 hours before the end in Turin. A sad end to Charlie's first Grand Tour in Movistar Team colours.
Chente García Acosta (courtesy Eurosport; audio): "As we said prior to the stage, everything could really happen today, as you could see. Alejandro was dropped back into the Agnello, but thanks to Herrada's help, we got to just twelve seconds' distance behind Nibali and Chaves into the descent, so close to catching them. However, race circumstances combined to the amount of motorcycles into the Giro made that impossible, in a very strange way. We had to struggle until the very end.
"I suspected Nibali could react this way today. He's a very obstinate rider, even more when he's hurt in his pride. He knew how to manage his energies to focus everything on today's finale, despite struggling for a bit into the Agnello, to hit back in Risoul. Another big stage could happen tomorrow in the Giro; let's see how our lads recover."