The mountains are finally here in the Giro with two consecutive mountaintop finishes over the weekend. Today's stage was a relatively short 164km jaunt that passed over three major climbs - the Alpe Novies, the Bielmonte, and finishing atop the Oropa Sanctuary. Unlike the gradual climb to Montecassino earlier in the week, the road leading up to Oropa Sanctuary had steep portions, particularly in the middle of the climb where it tips up to 8.5%.
The day started off as many proper mountain stages do, with a breakaway of gigantic proportions just waiting to be whittled down over the day's progression of climbs. This time there were 21 riders up the road, including former GC hopeful Nicholas Roche. The breakaway's gap went out substantially and, by the time its remnants were summiting the Bielmonte, it was clear the stage winner would not come from the peloton. Skirmishes flew on the penultimate climb as Roche attempted to go for it alone and, back in the peloton, Pierre Rolland and Ryder Hesjedal hit out in an attempt to pre-empt fireworks on the final ascent.
Neither of the early bids were successful as groups reformed on the run in to the final climb and on its lower slopes. Albert Timmer (Giant-Shimano) launched early from the break before the climb and ground his way up most of the climb with a gap over 30 seconds, but as the gradient steepened near the top it was clear his legs were protesting mightily. Jarlinson Pantano (Colombia) and Dario Cataldo (Sky) bridged up and then dispatched Timmer and seemed to have the stage win in their sights until Enrico Battaglin (Bardiani CSF) made an impressive effort to bridge up to the final group in the final slopes before winning the sprint across tame cobblestones for the win. The win was the second in a row for the smaller Italian team and Battaglin's second career Giro victory.
In the maglia rosa group Nairo Quintana showed glimpses of form returning after a cold and crash hampered him in the last week, jumping clear with Dominico Pozzovivo in the steep middle portion of the climb. Later, Cadel Evans managed to gap Rigoberto Uran as well, but neither gap was substantial. As the stage ended, Uran had ceded 25 seconds to Quintana, 20 to Pozzovivo, and 5 to Evans and maintained the pink jersey by 32 seconds over Evans. Quintana was the big winner of the day, finally catapulting into the top ten to end the day 6th on GC at 3:04 down, a gap small enough to still entertain possibilities of taking the lead over the next four mountaintop finishes.
1 Enrico Battaglin (Ita) Bardiani-CSF 4:34:41
2 Dario Cataldo (Ita) Team Sky 0:00:00
3 Jarlinson Pantano (Col) Colombia 0:00:07
4 Jan Polanc (Slo) Lampre-Merida 0:00:17
5 Nicolas Roche (Irl) Tinkoff-Saxo 0:00:22
6 Albert Timmer (Ned) Team Giant-Shimano 0:00:26
7 Emanuele Sella (Ita) Androni Giocattoli 0:00:28
8 Mattia Cattaneo (Ita) Lampre-Merida 0:00:33
9 Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Belisol 0:00:39
10 Ivan Santaromita (Ita) Orica Greenedge 0:00:54
1 Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team 57:52:51
2 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:00:32
3 Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff-Saxo 0:01:35
4 Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale 0:02:11
5 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team 0:02:33
6 Nairo Alexander Quintana Rojas (Col) Movistar Team 0:03:04
7 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:03:16
8 Wout Poels (Ned) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team 0:04:01
9 Steve Morabito (Swi) BMC Racing Team 0:05:07
10 Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) Trek Factory Racing 0:05:13