Giro Stage 19: Quintana, Aru Take Flight

Bryn Lennon - Velo/Getty Images

Movistar's Nairo Quintana extended his mastery of the 2014 Giro d'Italia with another stage victory in the individual mountain time trial to Monte Grappa, setting himself up for one last day of defending his position en route to his first ever grand tour victory. Quintana, riding last and covered head to toe in the leader's pink, staged a tight battle with the race's Sardinian Sensation, Fabio Aru of Astana, but in the end it was Quintana who held the lead at every time check, including the last.

Quintana is now poised in all respects to become the first Colombian winner of the Giro d'Italia, and only the second Colombian to win a grand tour, following the trail-blazing Luis Herrera, winner of the Vuelta a Espana in 1987. Nobody has matched his class in the highest mountains, not on the controversial 16th stage nor on today's controversy-free Race of Truth. As good as his competitors have been, including countryman Rigoberto Uran of Omega Pharma-Quick Step -- dominator of the first time trial -- Quintana has been that much better in the high mountains. Tomorrow's final competitive stage (as far as the overall classification is concerned) will be the toughest test yet, ascending fearsome Monte Zoncolan, but Quintana approaches that with 3.07 in hand and a mandate to simply match the wheels of Uran and the rest. Uran, Aru, and the rest are tasked not merely to stay with Quintana on this horrible ascent, but to best him, and there is no evidence that such an event is forthcoming, barring grave misfortune on behalf of the Boyacan.

Quintana is about to graduate on to bigger things, and in his wake there will be some tremendously interesting developments. If Quintana is the big star, the hottest development has to be Aru, Second today, winner of the Montecampione stage, and possessing a blistering acceleration on the steep slopes of the Dolomites, Aru is suddenly looking like an interesting rider for the future. At 23, a few months younger than Quintana, Aru has climbed up to third overall after today's almost-winning ride. The young Sardinian missed the win by a mere 17 seconds, blasting all of his competition for the final podium step by over two minutes, until Uran and Europcar's Pierre Rolland slotted in a bit closer to his time. Aru now leads Rolland by 1.38, and has tomorrow to either come crashing down, or rise up to new heights -- an event sure to cause new levels of hysteria in the Italian media. And not for nothing: Italian cycling has lacked a high-mountain champion since the days of Pantani, last winner of the Tour de France. Vincenzo Nibali comes close, but perception matters, and not since Pantani (who has been feted along the route this year) have Italian fans seen fit to dream of the sport's greatest glory. I think. I don't really speak for Italian fans. But the Pantani love was something special, and Aru has a chance to cause the same excitement, given his well-chronicled rise and his arrival at the height of the sport this month.

Resultati:

1 QUINTANA Nairo COL MOV 1:05:37 0:00
2 ARU Fabio ITA AST 1:05:54 0:17
3 URAN URAN Rigoberto COL OPQ 1:07:03 1:26
4 ROLLAND Pierre FRA EUC 1:07:34 1:57
5 POZZOVIVO Domenico ITA ALM 1:08:01 2:24
6 PELLIZOTTI Franco ITA AND 1:08:59 3:22
7 MAJKA Rafal POL TCS 1:09:05 3:28
8 HENAO GOMEZ Sebastian COL SKY 1:09:25 3:48
9 WELLENS Tim BEL LTB 1:09:37 4:00
10 CATALDO Dario ITA SKY 1:09:47 4:10
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