Nairo goes on the attack at Gardena (over 50km from Ortisei's finish) and Pontives climbs, yet remains at same 31-second distance from Maglia Rosa holder Dumoulin (SUN) after stage 18 in Giro d'Italia. Great work from Amador & Anacona at finale after overall good Blue performance
The Movistar Team and Nairo Quintana got as much offensive as they could during Thursday's stage 18 in the Giro d'Italia, one of the most demanding courses in this year's race as no less than five rated climbs were covered on the short 137km journey from Moena to Ortisei in the Dolomites. The work by the whole telephone squad started almost right from the bang at the initial Passo Pordoi (Cat-1), as Andrey Amador and Winner Anacona went for an early, 19-man break that ended up victorious -Tejay Van Garderen (BMC) took the day's honours-. Meanwhile, the rest of the Movistar Team took care of their leader before abruptly picking up the pace at the third ascent, the Passo Gardena (Cat-2).
53km from the line, just over three before the summit, Quintana launched his first attack and soon caught up with Amador and Anacona, who were riding under two minutes ahead at the foot of the climb. Their collective effort couldn't, unfortunately, leave behind race leader Tom Dumoulin (SUN), who accelerated as the KOM banner approached and brought the other race contenders with him. At that point, a prodigious labout from both Winner and Andrey started to keep the tempo steady and avoid any attacks before the last climb, Pontives (Cat-1).
Quintana accelerated again with 7km remaining; however, a strong push from Sébastien Reichenbach (FDJ), the top domestique for Thibaut Pinot, made another junction possible between Nairo and the GC group, and even served as launchpad for Pinot's late attack together with Zakarin (KAT) and Pozzovivo (ALM). Nairo, Nibali and Dumoulin, who didn't go past them, conceded 58 seconds at the finish. The GC thus stays the same on its first three places -Dumoulin leads from Quintana (+31") and Nibali (1'12")-, yet gets significantly closer on places four, five and six, with Pinot, Zakarin and Pozzovivo at 1'36", 1'58" and 2'07" respectively.
The Giro will head on Friday towards its final mountain-top finish in Piancavallo (Cat-1; 15.5km at 7.3% average), closing a 191km stage nineteen through the Friuli region. It will be – together with the Monte Grappa and Foza ascents on Saturday – the last chance for Quintana and his team-mates to continue seeking for the Maglia Rosa.
Nairo Quintana: “We had to attack, and the whole team has worked as expected to make my accelerations possible. It was a fast, hard stage, and my team-mates did a great job to liven it up. We tried one way and another, moving off the front several times and playing our cards, but it was not possible to put time on the leader. Dumoulin defended himself well and also found some circumstantial rivals at times, riders who were working for their own interest but happened to favour the leader's chances.
"We both finished again with the same time, but one can hope that these hard stages might have had an effect on his legs. I did also try to put some responsibility on his shoulders after the final climb so he chased down the move by Pozzovivo and Pinot – after all, he's the race leader, even if those attacks were also gaining time on us. As I said before, Dumoulin has proved to be in really great condition.
"The physical numbers are looking good for me, but to be honest, everyone here is on top of their game, it's pretty much equal between all of us. There are two days still remaining and we must continue to try, long before the finish if possible, even though Friday's finish will be quite different. There's no other thing we can do but putting our pieces together and conitinue to attack."
Picture (c): BettiniPhoto.net