Giro d'Italia (st. 20)
Nairo Quintana gives his all through Foza climb and down to Asiago, finishes 5th to keep his Maglia Rosa: 38" over Nibali (TBM), 43" to Pinot (FDJ), 53" against Dumoulin (SUN) before 29km ITT to Milan decides GC outcome in Giro d'Italia
The 2017 Giro d'Italia will come closer than ever to the decisive, 29.3km ITT from Monza to Milan on Sunday. Nairo Quintana and the whole Movistar Team fought as hard as they've done over the three weeks of racing to keep improving their position at the Italian grandtour's final mountain stage -190km from Pordenone to Asiago, including the grueling climbs of Grappa (Cat-1) and Foza (Cat-1)- and took a few seconds on Tom Dumoulin (SUN), their strongest rival for a time trial where the 'Cóndor' will leave everything on the road to try and win the race against most odds.
Well covered by his seven team-mates until the foot of the first climb, the Boyacá-born cyclist found sensational support from Víctor de la Parte and Andrey Amador through most of the day's uphill sections. The two kept the pace lively through many parts of the Grappa; kept him away from trouble at the subsequent descent; and picked up the pace from the foot of Foza to even cover an initial acceleration from Nibali (TBM), which only the GC contenders could eventually match. The 'Shark' and Nairo went ahead together with 7km from the top of the ascent, seeking for a previous move from Pozzovivo (ALM) and Zakarin (KAT), and later joined by Pinot (FDJ), the trio tried to break the pace of Dumoulin, who always remained at a few seconds' distance.
Following a fast few kilometers immediately after the summit, which saw the pursuit trio making their margin grow up to 30" on Dumoulin, Jungels (QST), Mollema (TFS) and Yates (ORS), the junction between the first two groups broke cooperation inside the front and boosted the stragglers' chances. In the end, only 15" separated the five-man lead, with Pinot victorious and Nairo in 5th, and the second group. The gaps for the TT thus remain really short: 39" for Quintana over Nibali; 43" on Pinot; 53" to Dumoulin; 1'15" against Zakarin; and 1'30" over Pozzovivo. A one-on-one fight that will decide the fate of all contenders after three weeks of exhausting efforts.
Nairo Quintana: “Better in this place than behind! (smiles) We tried everything and this is what we got. It's difficult in such situations to try and convince the whole group to work as hard as you in the finale, even if everyone inside that move was equally interested on pushing. The only important thing now is that we've got the Maglia Rosa, which was our initial goal heading into the final TT – though we'd of course have liked to enjoy a bigger margin – and we'll give our best tomorrow with what's left.
"Many times in a three-week stagerace, you're made of pure suffering, even if it doesn't look so from the outside. It's really difficult to either attack or defend yourself against top-quality riders. It was such a difficult day for me. Once we got ahead of the Dumoulin group I pushed with all that I had, trying to open a gap on him because he's the biggest candidate for the win tomorrow. I wasn't really thinking about the sprint, the day's win or the bonus seconds, but just on distancing him as much as I could. He also had some people taking turns behind and the gap got quite smaller than we initially built after the top of the climb.
"Sunday's TT will be much different to the first one in this Giro. It's a pan-flat course, perfectly suited for specialists. I just hope to defend myself well. We haven't got that much time on our rivals, but sometimes things turn out well for me on such courses, and obviously, I'll do my best. The physical condition seems to be level within us, and I feel like gaps won't be really big. Dumoulin is the most dangerous rival, and Nibali and Pinot also do well on TTs. However, should things go just normal tomorrow, I shouldn't lose too much time. I also rely on fatigue: after 20 days of grueling racing in this Giro, I should stand a little more of a chance against them."