Today's time trial was billed as one of the cruxes of this year's Giro because of its rolling profile that stretched over 59.4 kilometers, one of the longest in recent history at the Giro. When a steady rain started to fall, an excruciatingly long day became even longer. This is when the tables might have started to turn even more towards the heartier of riders.
Though he may not have been on the top of many's list of favorites to win the stage, Vasil Kiryienka's powerful ride should come as no surprise. The domestique for Team Sky is often only half-jokingly referred to as the terminator, a stoic and powerful rider who seems impervious to the conditions around him as he metronomically chews up the tarmac at the head of the Sky train. Today marked Kiryienka's third stage victory in the Giro after wins in 2008 and 2011. Only 12 seconds behind him, Luis Leon Sanchez was showing a return to the form of years ago with a fine second place finish.
But, the story of the day was the battle for the general classification. The day seemed to favor Rigoberto Uran Uran, but he finished over two minutes down, better than most of the other GC contenders but not by much. But while some looked to today to see what Uran could do, the true battle was between the young Fabio Aru in the leader's jersey again and Alberto Contador, who lost the maglia rosa in a crash just outside of the final three kilometers of the stage.
Contador seemed the favorite, holding a stronger background in time trials and performing better in poor conditions than most of his rivals, but the big question before the start of the stage was how his shoulder - dislocated in the first week of this year's Giro - would affect his ability to maintain an aerodynamic position over an hour and twenty minutes of racing. His shoulder did not seem to affect him much and the only indication it was in pain was that Contador would delay putting his left arm down in the aero bars a few seconds after putting his right arm there.
The difference between Contador and Aru became especially clear as the two riders hit the final short climb of the stage. Contador, already two minutes up on Aru, practically pranced up the climb, looking sprightly as ever, while Aru's pedal strokes looked labored. He would rise defiantly out of the saddle but never as long as Contador as his legs rebelled and compelled him to sit back down. It gave the impression of a man who had reached beyond his limits and whose body was now bringing him back down to earth. At the end of the day, Aru would cede almost three minutes to Contador, putting the Spaniard firmly back into the maglia rosa with a commanding lead. Though the final week looks treacherous with five summit finishes remaining, it's hard to see Contador giving back over two minutes to a rider whose equal he has been in the mountains thus far.