Tejay van Garderen of BMC scored his first grand tour stage victory with a deft move past Mikel Landa of Sky in a right-hand bend on the road just before the line in Ortisei, while Giro d’Italia race leader Tom Dumoulin of Sunweb fended off any challenges to his authority. Van Garderen survived the day’s breakaway on the Giro’s princess stage with Landa, the maglia azzurra, alongside, and the two paced each other up the final ascent, having ditched all of their companions on the day, and arrived at the top of the stage side by side. From there, Landa accelerated and the American hopped on his wheel, patiently waiting for the spot to come by in sight of the line. The move was executed and van Garderen had BMC’s second stage victory of the Giro by a bike length.
Not far behind Dumoulin had completed his defense of the maglia rosa, as challengers Nairo Quintana of Movistar and Vincenzo Nibali sat on his wheel in the final two kilometers, the opportunities for making gains having slipped away. Thibaut Pinot of FDJ and Domenico Pozzovivo of AG2R went clear of the three leaders, followed by Katusha’s Ilnur Zakarin, Steven Kruiijswijk of LottoNL and Bauke Mollema of Trek, resulting in a narrowing of the standings with Pinot in particular now looming just 24 seconds behind Nibali.
Dumoulin took time to chide Quintana in the finish area for not chasing down Pinot’s attack:
Should be a fun last few days. But the real story seems to not be about secondary podium places but rather the fight for pink, and right now, Dumoulin is too strong for Quintana or anyone else to stop him. Quintana tried earlier in the stage to make a big move, but had neither the legs nor a real plan to make a difference on the final climb.
Earlier in the day, the lead group splintered on the spectacular Passo Gardena as KOM leader Landa put his teammate Diego Rosa on the front to hammer the break. The group shrunk to half a dozen for much of the last two hours. Meanwhile, in the shadow of the limestone cliffs, Movistar took over the pacemaking and shed Bob Jungels of Quick Step, as well as Dumoulin’s last teammate Laurens ten Dam.
With 53km remaining Quintana blasted off from the peloton and quickly caught up to Winner Anacona, his teammate who had been up the road. Then Nibali tested the maglia rosa with his own attack, escorted briefly by his former domestique Dario Cataldo of Astana. But the attack slowed and Dumoulin heroically dragged the GC group back to the attackers just as they crested the climb. Quintana continued to put on the pressure on the descent, but to no avail as the GC contenders all began the final climb together.
Quintana kicked out again with just under 7km to go on the wheel of Anacona, and soon left his spent teammate behind, but he lacked the legs to make a big difference. Next Nibali made an attempt at the 5km mark as they reeled in Quintana, but he too had nothing special to offer. Dumoulin even tested his two rivals with his own move, but Quintana had enough to prevent that from working. From there the trio just marked each other and left the battle for another day, of which there are precious few remaining.
In the final 3km Pinot and Pozzovivo accelerated and got no response, so Zakarin did the same. That led to the gaps on the line and a small measure of satisfaction, particularly for the Frenchman who goes pretty well in time trials and might nab a podium spot after all.
For van Garderen, the win is the first for an American since Taylor Phinney’s time trial win to open the 2012 Giro. But for all the failed expectations that have dogged his career, van Garderen has at least shown a knack for rising up on occasion. His last World Tour win was just under a year ago in a mountainous stage of the Tour de Suisse. He had high overall finishes in the Tour de Romandie and Volta a Catalunya this year, as well as last year, and second in the Dauphine in 2015, after winning the USA Pro Cycling Challenge in 2014. His GC chops remain hard to pin down, and clearly a grand tour overall victory that once seemed promising is no longer at all likely to happen, but the Montana native is appeasing his critics by finding ways to score points and have his occasional moment in the sun.
Something bigger is clearly brewing for Dutch fans though, as Dumoulin and his big engine move closer to the Milan time trial with none of the deficit that could possibly threaten his chances. Conventional wisdom is that if the Dutchman were within 90 seconds of any of the GC favorites entering the final stage against the watch, the overall win would be his for the taking. The fact that they now trail him, with two mountain stages left, brings Dumoulin’s chances of success up to almost unassailable levels.
Meanwhile, Landa now has a vise-grip on the KOM jersey after feasting on points all day, to console his second narrow stage defeat. Also, Bob Jungels of Quick Step ceded the maglia bianca to Adam Yates of Orica-Scott, having dropped off on the final climb. But Jungels’ time trialling strength is more than formidable enough to make up his current 28 second gap, so that competition is far from decided.
- Tejay van Garderen, BMC
- Mikel Landa, Sky, s.t.
- Thibaut Pinot, FDJ, at 0.08
- Domenico Pozzovivo, AG2R, s.t.
- Jan Hirt, CCC, at 0.11
- Ilnur Zakarin, Katusha, at 0.24
- Steven Kruijswijk, LottoNL-Jumbo, at 0.34
- Bauke Mollema, Trek-Segafredo, s.t.
- Tom Dumoulin, Sunweb, at 1.06
- Nairo Quintana, Movistar, s.t.
- Quintana, at 0.31
- Vincenzo Nibali, Bahrain-Merida, at 1.12
- Pinot, at 1.36
- Zakarin, at 1.58
- Pozzovivo, at 2.07
- Mollema, at 3.17
- Kruijswijk, at 5.48
- Landa, 189 points
- Luis Leon Sanchez, Astana, 108
- Adam Yates, Orica-Scott
- Bob Jungels, Quick Step, at 0.28
- Davide Formolo, Cannondale-Drapac, at 0.53
Speaking of young riders, this happened today in Belgium...