Gorka Izagirre (3rd), Rory Sutherland (4th) fight for stage win until very end of their breakaway to Canazei; Rolland (CDT) takes solo victory. Uneventful day for Nairo Quintana keeps Movistar Team leader in 2nd overall, 31" behind Tom Dumoulin (SUN)
The hungover of Tuesday's Queen stage of the 2017 Giro d'Italia was calm, yet demanding, for Nairo Quintana. The 219km route from Tirano to Canazei was tough on its opening phase, as the break was built through the climbs of Aprica (Cat-2) and Tonale (Cat-2), turning easier only as a massive, 40-rider breakaway eventually opened up the road.
Rory Sutherland and Gorka Izagirre made part of a move which split several times with attacks, several of those created by both the Aussie and the Basque as the field shrank to 25 and later on to just 13 units. Despite Sutherland making part of a seemingly decisive, four-man attempt alongside Busato (WIL), Woods (CDT) and Bernard (TFS) with 12km to go, that move made increasingly strong as Gorka, Rui Costa (UAD) and Tejay Van Garderen (BMC) bridged back, a late push from DDD made the junction possible – and gave a crucial chance to Pierre Rolland (CDT) so he could go solo with 7km to go.
The Frenchman's acceleration was strong enough to take the win over the group, where Gorka (3th) and Sutherland (4th) came close to a third stage win for the Movistar Team in this year's Giro. The bunch, led by QST and TLJ in respective GC top-ten efforts, reached the line with a 7'54" deficit on the winner, the overall remaining intact as Dumoulin, Nairo (+31") and Nibali (TBM, +1'12") stay as the top three in the fight for pink.
The 'Corsa Rosa' will bring another grueling course on stage 18, the lumpiest day in the Dolomites with the ascents of Pordoi (Cat-1), Valparola (Cat-2), Gardena (Cat-2), Pinei (Cat-3) and Pontives (Cat-1) – the latter just four thousand meters away from the end of a 137km trek from Moena to Ortisei.
Gorka Izagirre: "It's bitterwseet in the end. It really wasn't the goal to get into the breakaway to win the stage, just like in Peschici, but there were so many riders going off the front and we had to keep some people into such moves. It was difficult to win, because with so many teams having three, four, even five riders in, you can't fight with the same strength when you're only two. Plus, I feel like we were kept an eye on by many today.
"Rory and I did very well covering the attack in those final kilometers, but you can't go past every move. Rolland just made the right one. I was keeping the wheel of Rui Costa, but it wasn't done just by following one dangerous rival, because there were many top contenders into that group.
"I'm getting to feel really strong in this Giro. Tomorrow will be a crucial stage, one of those that decide the overall outcome. It should be really tough for all of us, whatever the race scenario. I've got good legs and will give my best to help Nairo out."
Rory Sutherland: “It was a hard stage, especially after yesterday. We wanted to be represented in the breakaway, but Gorka and myself were in in the beginning just to make sure that we kept things under control if anything happened in the back, if the classification riders caught up or if anything happened. Then it became kind of certain that we were actually going for the victory.
"With about 80km to go it started getting pretty hard, with lots of gaps and attacking. Gorka and I covered all of those well, even in the finale. Then, it's Murphy's law that the one attack that goes and you don’t chase is the one that makes it to the finish line. However, we can be proud of the day, I think. It’s frustrating to not be able to pick up a win when you’ve got that opportunity, but that’s the beauty of cycling.
"We now go on to tomorrow and another hard day. It’s back to work for Nairo, even if today was the same but in a different situation, keeping the team present in the break. Tomorrow will be another important day in the GC, and hopefully we can move closer to that pink jersey.”