Orica-GreenEdge's Esteban Chaves sprinted to victory at the end of a glorious stage across the Dolomites, as the Movistar team lost both its maglia rosa and its long range hopes to toward Steven Kruijswijk of LottoNL-Jumbo. Chaves and Kruijswijk decisively expelled their closest rival, Astana's Vincenzo Nibali, who briefly took control of the race for himself, only to spend the final phase of this seven-climb Queen Stage fighting to save his hopes of catching the Dutchman. Chaves capped off his own brilliant effort by coming past Georg Preidler of Giant-Alpecin and Darwin Atapuma of BMC, survivors of the day's escape, to take the bonus seconds just ahead of Kruijswijk, but there was more than enough time for Kruijskwijk to assume the maglia rosa over Nibali and for Chaves -- more than two minutes behind the Italian champion to start the stage -- to slip into third overall.
Atapuma escaped from the day's escape, and nearly won heroically, at the prodding of his girlfriend, who playfully (and almost presciently) tweeted that she'd head back to Colombia if he didn't win. But Preidler never quite gave up (nor did Kanstantin Siutsou of Dimension Data, who finished with Nibali), and almost snatched the stage back as Kruijswijk and Chaves led him onto Atapuma's wheel inside the final 2km. Preidler led out the sprint, but Chaves and Kruijswijk, smelling precious bonus seconds, timed their jump well enough to pull him back.
The Giro blew wide open on the slopes of the Valparola, the day's last big climb, as first Nibali accelerated and dropped both Alejandro Valverde and maglia rosa Andrey Amador. That put him in the pole position for a few minutes, but Chaves probed Nibali a bit with a slight acceleration, and Kruijswijk must have liked what he saw because he then launched a full-on attack which only Caves could follow. Nibali gave a bit of distance at first, then seemed to crack before regrouping a bit and setting into a manageable tempo. The new virtual leader Kruijswijk summited with 30 seconds in hand over Nibali, as the Valverde/Amador group sank further back down the GC, over three minutes behind Kruijswijk and Chaves.
Atapuma, who had dropped his break-mates on the Valparola, saw his hopes of a stage win shrink as he entered the valley with a 34 second lead heading into the final 10km of the race, while Nibali could do little to close his gap on the descent, despite his prowess at going downhill, as the race approached the fearsome Mur dl Giat, where his struggles on the Valparola didn't presage anything good. The 1.3km climb averages 13% and reaches 19% max, before a false flat that led to the finish. Atapuma began it with 24 seconds over Kruijswijk, Chaves and Preidler and remained up the road as the GC riders closed in on him. Nibali simply steadied his pace and caped his losses, which would stretch to 37 seconds by the finish. Counting bonus seconds (and subtracting his two-second advantage he started with over Kruijswijk), Nibali sits 41 seconds back, with Chaves at 1.32 and Valverde next bunched with Amador, Rafal Majka and Ilnur Zakarin a bit over three minutes in arrears.
|1.||COL||Johan Esteban Chaves||OGE||6:06:16|