Philippe Gilbert of BMC capped off a wildly entertaining stage with a descending clinic out of a long breakaway to win the 18th stage of the Giro d'Italia. The route, around Lake Maggiore and featuring a long climb and descent to the finish, spurred on action up and down Monte Ologno, as race leader Alberto Contador of Tinkoff-Saxo padded his lead by another 90 seconds with a vengeful breakaway, mostly solo, while his rivals were left gasping for air.
The day's large breakaway group hit the day's major climb, the 10km Monte Ologno, with eleven minutes in hand, but the news of the day was unfolding behind, where Astana's Mikel Landa, placed second overall, was held up behind a large crash involving most of Team Sky, along with his teammate, third-placed Fabio Aru, and fourth-placed Andrey Amador of Movistar. When the peloton hit the lower slopes of Monte Ologno, Contador took off on his own, some 43km from the finish. The move was almost certainly motivated by anger at Astana (and Katusha) having attacked him following a flat tire before the Mortirolo climb on Tuesday, the chance for instant payback proving far too delicious for Contador to pass up. The attack gained Contador as much as 1.40 lead on Landa and Fabio Aru, also caught up behind the crash with his teammate, then saw Landa pin half of it back, before the lead went out again to over 90 seconds and stayed there, as Contador gained company in the form of Ryder Hesjedal, currently sitting just outside the top ten and looking to move up, and his Cannondale teammate Davide Vilella.
Inside 18km to go, Gilbert left the breakaway behind and attacked the descent. Nearly grazing concrete walls with his hip and dashing past motorbikes, the former World Champion and ace all-rounder opened up an impressive gap of 35 seconds heading back down to the shores of Lake Maggiore. His descending clinic was more than enough for him to take the victory over Francesco Bongiorno, Davide de la Cruz and the rest of the straggling breakaway, by 47 seconds and more. Contador came in 6.05 behind Gilbert, with Hesjedal, while his rivals arrived 7.18 in arrears. The lesson is that while there may be no unwritten rules in cycling, there is karma, and payback, and if you want to go there, well, don't bring a knife to a gun fight.
Today's musical theme goes out to both the stage winner and the maglia rosa...
Told ya so.
|2||BONGIORNO Francesco Manuel||ITA||BAR||4:05:01||0:47||7"|
|6||DE LA CRUZ MELGAREJO David||ESP||EQS||4:05:15||1:01|
|1||CONTADOR VELASCO Alberto||ESP||TCS||72:23:09||0:00|
|2||LANDA MEANA Mikel||ESP||AST||72:28:24||5:15|