Movistar’s Nairo Quintana seized temporary control of the 2017 Giro d’Italia with a solo victory atop the Blockhaus, winning the race’s ninth stage and putting himself in the maglia rosa as the race heads into the rest day. Quintana avoided a dreadful crash that put much of Team Sky on the ground at the worst possible moment, just before the climb, with Geraint Thomas suffering a shoulder injury and dropping five minutes, and Orica-Scott’s Adam Yates being held up as well, ruining his chances at the overall win. Sunweb’s Tom Dumoulin came in with FDJ’s Thibaut Pinot just 24 seconds after Quintana, and Dumoulin is poised to threaten Quintana’s chances of overall victory for much of the next two weeks, given his time-trialling prowess, but for now the Colombian has himself where he wants to be.
Nine riders initially got away on this short 149km stage, and by the time they reached Chieti where Omar Fraile of Dimension Data they were up to 12 and had a bit over two minutes, “they” including Luis Leon Sanchez, Marco Marcato, Matteo Montaguti, Mads Peterson, Iljo Keisse, Alexei Tsatevich, Jan Tratnik, Mateo Busato, Thomasz Marczynski, Sacha Modolo and most notably Cannondale’s former team captain Pierre Rolland.
Behind them, Movistar were most prominent among the big teams in keeping the pace moderately elevated and the break in sight. The catch happened at 24km to go, though Rolland, Tratnik and Marczynski hung on a bit longer before the real action began.
Disaster struck just before the foot of the climb when Team Sky’s two potential captains were both taken out when a police moto pulled over to the left margin of the road and stopped, just as the frantic positioning was in high gear. A couple riders squeezed safely past the inert moto occupying the precious road space, but Sunweb’s Wilco Kelderman got clipped by the still moto and went down, just in front of the Sky train. Mikel Landa and Thomas both went down hard, and stayed on the road for a bit, though they eventually continued on. But both were well off the back by that time and their hopes were fading fast, with Thomas later reporting that his shoulder had popped out. Second-placed Adam Yates of Orica also got his work interrupted at the wrong time — didn’t crash but got held up and had to struggle through the cars to get on to the peloton, now being thrashed by Movistar. With 11.5km left Yates was back in contact.
Once the climb got underway, riders began suffering. Bob Jungels dropped back fairly soon and Tejay van Garderen showed his limits soon after. Next it was Davide Formolo and Ilnur Zakarin, with 7.5km to go, to head out the back. Of the nine men on the front at that point, three were Movistar. Then at just under 7km Quintana made a short move and dropped everyone but Nibali and Pinot, who comfortably caught on. Pinot then began making brief accelerations, testing his rivals, though not decisively. Behind them Dumoulin, Mollema and Pozzovivo were hanging close behind.
For a while it appeared that Thomas could save his Giro, with the official time report saying he was 2.30 back as the end neared. However, the injury and the effort of chasing back apparently took their toll before the day was out.
Quintana attacked harder at 4.7km to go, and kept digging harder to extend what looked like an actual gap out to 12 seconds, and Nibali and Pinot started to wobble with the two Dutch riders Mollema and Dumoulin coming up on them. Then Pinot dropped Nibali, and the Shark began to drown under the pressure, slipping behind the Dutch duo. Dumoulin, whose time trialling ability looms large over the race, caught Pinot with 2.5km left, with a struggling Mollema just hanging on, but Pinot collected himself and moved forward as the duo broke up. Pinot and Dumoulin paced each other the rest of the way to the line, with Pinot taking the sprint for second and Mollema another 16 seconds back for fourth.
Several contenders lost much more meaningful chunks of time. Nibali lost a full minute, followed by Pozzovivo at 1.18. Formolo was at 2.35 (behind Tanel Kangert and Sebastian Reichenbach), with Kruijswijk a surprising gap of nearly three minutes and Jungels 3.30. Van Garderen shipped 3.45 to his rivals. Yates’ frantic chase after being caught behind the crash led to him lose 4.40. Thomas, still scraped up and bleeding from his elbows, came in over five minutes in arrears. Landa was many minutes later in finishing and seems like a candidate to withdraw. Diego Rosa and Kelderman were among those who didn’t make it to the line.
For Quintana, his third stage win has his race shaping up similarly to his last Giro start, where he took a pair of mountain stages en route to a comfortable overall win. But things may not be so comfortable for the Condor of the Andes this time around. A full 59km of time trialling remains, and while Quintana can hold his own in the discipline, he has nothing on Dumoulin there, and with only 30 seconds between them on GC now, the Dutchman should be in pink by Tuesday night. What happens from there should be a terrific battle between the two, and hopefully others as well, though for now only Pinot or Mollema seem capable of disrupting the evolving narrative.
- Nairo Quintana, Movistar
- Thibaut Pinot, FDJ, at 0.24
- Tom Dumoulin, Sunweb, s.t.
- Bauke Mollema, Trek-Segafredo, at 0.41
- Vincenzo Nibali, Bahrain-Merida, at 1.00
- Domenico Pozzovivo, AG2R, at 1.18
- Tanel Kangert, Astana, at 2.02
- Ilnur Zakarin, Katusha, at 2.14
- Sebastian Reichenbach, FDJ, at 2.28
- Davide Formolo, Cannondale-Drapac, at 2.35
- Pinot, at 0.28
- Dumoulin, at 0.30
- Mollema, at 0.51
- Nibali, at 1.10
- Pozzovivo, at 1.28
- Zakharin, at 2.28
- Formolo, at 2.45
- Andrey Amador, Movistar, at 2.53
- Steven Kruijswijk, LottoNL-Jumbo, at 3.06