Rigoberto Uran of Omega Pharma Quick Step obliterated the field in the Wine Country time trial and separated himself from the rest of the general classification halfway through this Giro d'Italia. Uran, hired this offseason away from Team Sky to be the Belgian team's rare Grand Tour hopeful, blew away the time of Lampre's Diego Ulissi, who had previously blown away the early stage marker of Thomas De Gendt and everyone else's time on the day. The performance, where Uran matched Ulissi early on, then moved ahead and steadily expanded his lead, saw him finish 1.17 ahead of the Italian in second place.
Cadel Evans of BMC, the overnight leader, saw his pink jersey lifted off his shoulders, but he stormed back in the latter third of the time trial to keep himself well in contention, finishing just 1.34 back, 17" behind Ulissi and ahead of his other challengers such as Rafal Majka (Tinkoff), Domenico Pozzovivo (AG2R), Wilco Kelderman (Belkin) and most notably pre-race favorite Nairo Quintana (Movistar). Uran's countryman, suffering from a cold and the effects of a crash, finished an underwhelming thirteenth, 2.41 back on the stage and now sits down on the general classification.
The Giro d'Italia is about to head into the high mountains, and Uran will wear the pink bull's eye as leader of the race, something he's never done in a grand tour. But fickle fate has smiled on OPQS this Giro, and Uran goes into that role with the backing of a full and well-constructed team. Wout Poels and Gianluca Brambilla sit high on the overall classification and can pace Uran in the mountains, or offer a credible threat to his rivals by attacking. Powerful riders like De Gendt and Iljo Keisse can handle the flat sections. Even Alessandro Petacchi, old vet of the sprints, can bring a steadying hand to the young squad. Should Quintana find his legs, Uran will have nervous days ahead of him defending the jersey, but he has given himself a clear shot.
Evans, meanwhile, will have to find something special to keep up with the young climbers in the high mountains. Slopes like the Zoncolan have never been his specialty, but veteran savvy counts for a lot in the Giro and Evans has that in spades. Pozzovivo is sure to be on the attack, as may Majka and Kelderman, who are perhaps too young to know any better. Both riders appear to be coming of age and while not favored to overcome their deficits of just under two and three minutes respectively, they certainly have a chance if either can produce something special, or if Uran falters.
And then there's Quintana. At 3.29, his chances are suddenly looking diminished, and nothing less than his form of last summer should save him. Nevertheless, he has a full squad and the ability to handle stress, so if his cold is merely that, and clears up in time for the final week, the young Colombian may write another chapter in his already rather interesting book. Results:
- URAN URAN Rigoberto OPQ
- ULISSI Diego LAM at 1:17
- EVANS Cadel BMC at 1:34
- MAJKA Rafal TCS at 1:39
- BRAMBILLA Gianluca OPQ at 1:53
- POELS Wouter OPQ at 2:00
- KELDERMAN Wilco BEL at 2:03
- DE GENDT Thomas OPQ at 2:07
- POZZOVIVO Domenico ALM at 2:09
- GRETSCH Patrick GER ALM 59:46 2:12
- EVANS, at 0:37
- MAJKA, at 1:52
- POZZOVIVO, at 2:32
- KELDERMAN, at 2:50
- QUINTANA Nairo MOV, at 3:29
- ARU Fabio AST, at 3:37
- POELS, at 4:06
- MORABITO Steve BMC, at 4:20
- KISERLOVSKI Robert TFR, at 4:41