Giro d'Italia (st. 16)
Physical misfortune for Tom Dumoulin (SUN) costs him more than 2' on Nairo Quintana, 3rd in Bormio and now just 31" behind the Maglia Rosa. Nibali (TBM) wins stage, gets to 41" from Movistar Team leader
The Queen stage of the 2017 Giro d'Italia -222km between Rovetta and Bormio, including the hellish climbs of Mortirolo (Cat-1), Stelvio (Cima Coppi) and Umbrailpass (Cat-1)- turned suddenly from a balanced fight between the GC contenders to complete runaway, as a result of a call of nature for race leader Tom Dumoulin (SUN), stopping by the side of the road just before the foot of the last ascent.
The Movistar Team, which had sent three of their riders to the front in Andrey Amador, Winner Anacona and Gorka Izagirre at the Mortirolo climb, following a first hour of racing exceeding 50km covered, saw their riders getting back to the GC group -Nairo had until then been supported by De La Parte, Herrada, Rojas and Sutherland- as Bahrain-Merida and Katusha picked up the pace.
An acceleration with 5km from the top of the Umbrailpass, as Dumoulin approached from almost 1'30" lost to within one minute, left Quintana in the lead of a shrunk favourites' group, alongside Nibali (TBM), Pozzovivo (ALM) and Zakarin (KAT). The Italian later countered that move with an attack just before the summit, which Nairo followed to open the gaps on his rivales – most notably Pinot (FDJ), who was already more than 30 seconds behind.
At the fast downhill, Nibali took his chances and gained a decisive few seconds on Nairo, the Colombian taking 3rd at the finish (2" behind the Italian and Spaniard Mikel Landa, who was chased down halfway through the descent). Behind them, Dumoulin resisted after his misfortune, only conceding 2'06" on Quintana -2'10", including the four-second bonus for Nairo- and staying 31" ahead of the 'Cóndor' to retain the Maglia Rosa. Nibali, in turn, now sits 1'12" down in 3rd place, just 41" after Nairo.
The telephone squad thus gained massive terrain in the first of five big mountain days in the Giro – prior to Sunday's ITT showdown from Monza to Milano. Wednesday will bring another long day (219km), with the early climbs of Aprica (Cat-2) and Tonale (Cat-2), yet with no big vertical gains in the last 40km to Canazei. The Movistar Team will start their day down to eight riders after Daniele Bennati withdrew from the race, the man from Arezzo having also tried to make part of the early breaks before pulling out.
"It was a good day for us, with great teamwork. We knew we could gain some time back at the finish today, and this stage brought things back in a very important way. We’re much closer and that gives us morale and calmness. We hope to continue climbing up the ladder in the remainder of the race. My legs felt good, and I only conceded that little time with Nibali into the final descent. I didn’t want to take so many risks because the downhill was really fast. Let’s hope our legs continue to do as well or even better during this week.
“We thought that sending riders ahead was a good strategy, so we could take advantage if the pace picked up and start pushhing too. That’s what we tried to do with Andrey – and the rest of the team was always taking care of me. By one reason or another, the leader just lost contact with our group. I didn’t attack nor accelerate when he went through that moment; to me, it seemed like a show of respect, because he had been sportsmanlike with me when I crashed on Sunday. We respected that, but other teams wanted to make their own race, not profiting from that misfortune but just going for their own interests.
“The pace had been really high all day, and after such a long and hard stage, all contenders were pretty much equal – which means, pretty much dead tired. Of course I'd liked to take five minutes on the leader (smiles), but the reality was different to what we wanted. Many times, will and might are not the same thing. All in all, we're satisfied with our result from today. We must continue to fight against Dumoulin but also keep an eye on Nibali. He’s close to us, he’s at home, he’s really stepping up his game – we must continue to stay close to him."
Picture (c): BettiniPhoto.net