Astana's Tanel Kangert enjoyed history's shortest stay in the maglia ciclamina, signifying overall leadership in the Giro del Trentino, as Mikel Landa of Sky snatched back his overall lead just in time to preserve the race victory. Kangert, sitting eight seconds in arrears to Landa, won a sprint in Cles at the end of a feisty stage featuring all of the race's biggest names (coughNibalicough), and for 1/1000th of a second or so the ten second bonus that came with the stage win vaulted the Estonian to the top. But behind him Landa was smartly positioning himself to save his race, coming from the back of the bunch to take third place, a four-second bonus, and the overall victory by a slim two seconds.
The race, which annually serves as the primary warm-up for the Giro d'Italia, was a close-fought affair all week, and today was no different, with the stage being animated by the likes of AG2R's Romain Bardet (sitting 20 seconds back), Jakob Fuglsang of Astana (a mere 10 seconds behind), and some big names like Vincenzo Nibali and Damiano Cunego, both of whom were on an early breakaway with Gazprom's Sergey Firsanov that flirted with putting the Italian champion Nibali in the virtual lead. Team Sky had enough in reserve to haul back that break on the day's major climb, the 10% Forcella di Brez, though by the top Landa was more or less on his own and surrounded by baby blue pajamas. Perhaps the Basque Giro threat took some comfort in knowing they were his former teammates just one season ago, but the reality was that Astana had the knives out for their old friend.
In addition to Nibali's long-range effort, Michele Scarponi joined the final hour's antics with a few probing attacks, while Fuglsang sat on (as Kangert fell back to the chasing peloton once Landa and the other leaders got clear). Landa managed smartly enough, but was put under additional pressure by Bardet, a rider who actually threatened his position and who looked especially anxious to win today. Once the race reached the final approach to Cles, Fuglsang himself tried a few maneuvers, but Landa was up for covering those too.
By the end, however, Kangert had latched back on to Landa's group, along with several other riders, and suddenly the race stopped being about going clear so much as getting the win and bonus seconds. In the home stretch, Astana's seemingly futile effort to break Landa suddenly started looking smart, as Kangert wound up his sprint and took the stage for the second consecutive day. But as I said above, Landa went from being out of position to finding his opening and nabbing back third place, in the nick of time.
- Tanel Kangert, Astana
- Matteo Busato, Southeast
- Mikel Landa, Sky
- Kangert, at 0.02
- Jakob Fuglsang, Astana
- Sergey Firsanov, Gazprom
- Patrik Konrad, Bora Argon