Giro d'Italia (st. 19)
Whole Movistar Team work hearts out for Quintana at incredibly-paced day 19 in Giro: early attack into Sappada descent creates wear and tear before Dumoulin (SUN) cracks at final climb; Dutchman now 38" behind Nairo, with six riders within 1'30"
It was many stages in one, and another true show of dedication and consistency by the Movistar Team. Nairo Quintana got back to the first place of the Giro d'Italia after extraordinary work from the telephone squad, and now wears pink just 48 hours before the race ends in Milan. Stage 19 – 191km from San Candido to the Cat-1 Piancavallo climb, including three other ascents and its fast, tricky descents in the beginning of the race – made race leader Tom Dumoulin (SUN) crack and saw all big GC contenders suffer. From that suffering emerged the 'Cóndor' to get the Maglia Rosa back, almost two weeks after his solid display on the Blockhaus.
The Movistar Team pushed hard with several of their members at the descent of the non-rated Cima Sappada, 65km into the stage, taking advantage from bad positioning from Dumoulin inside the bunch at the downhill. A furious fight between all GC teams in the forthcoming 40 kilometers ended up well after the foot of the Cat-2 Sella Chianzutan climb, where a 20-rider group, including Dumoulin and rivals Nairo, Nibali (TBM), Pinot (FDJ), slowed their pace again and left room for most of the original, early escapees to continue with their action.
José Joaquín Rojas and José Herrada joined a breakaway which included eventual stage winner Mikel Landa (SKY), the Movistar Team duo dropping back at the climb to support Nairo. Víctor de la Parte and Winner Anacona pushed hard from the bottom of the Piancavallo and made Dumoulin crack, the Dutchman losing meter by meter to end up with more than a minute at the top. Ahead, Quintana resisted thanks to Herrada and Rojas, and only conceded 12" to Pinot, first GC contender over the line, and 6" to Pozzovivo (ALM) and Zakarin (KAT), who jumped away from the field a couple of kilometers after the Frenchman.
The overall classification remains a tight game as Quintana, Dumoulin (+38"), Nibali (+43"), Pinot (+53"), Zakarin (+1'21") and Pozzovivo are within a minute and a half's distance before the Milano TT (Sunday) and the last mountain stage on Saturday: 190km between Pordenone and Asiago, which will feature the infamous Monte Grappa (Cat-1), 68km from the end, and the Foza (Cat-1) ascent, crested just 15km from the finish.
Nairo Quintana: “It was a very, very hard day, where all the efforts from Thursday and the stages before ended up paying off. We've spent the whole Giro working our hearts out to take the overall win, and we had to keep trying again today.
"We took a long shot at that descent with most of the team, and also pushed hard into the final climb, initially with a strong relay from Winner Anacona and then with Rojas and José Herrada, who gave all they had at their own moments. The impressive job by the whole team was evident again this time, and I can't thank them enough and recoginise all that they do for me, not only riders but the whole staff, sports directors… We planned a good strategy, we delivered and we were able to make the race leader crack and remain close to the rest of GC contenders.
"You've always got doubts about what wheel should you follow on that final climb. I knew I had to keep an eye especially on Nibali, but sometimes, it's up to other rivals to leave you behind and create gaps which are really difficult to close. However, you also need to measure your efforts well. Sometimes, a pedal stroke too much means precious seconds that you lose at the end.
"We just hope to keep this strong line tomorrow and defend ourselves well. The TT on Sunday – well, that's a final battle, one-to-one, where we must leave everything that we've got. There's a lot of pressure on our shoulders, our rivals are also really strong, but we've got the Maglia Rosa at the moment and we will try to defend it with honour. We've got a veteran group, we're consistent, experienced, and I trust my whole group of team-mates to defend ourselves well tomorrow."
Picture (c): BettiniPhoto.net