Chris Froome of Sky was always one of the favorites to win the Giro d’Italia. He’s the greatest grand tour rider of his time, riding with the best team and coming off wins of the Tour de France and Vuelta a España. It all seemed simple enough. But nobody saw a day like today coming.
Facing more than a three-minute deficit coming into today’s 19th stage to Bardonecchia, Froome escaped the entire peloton on the ascent of the Colle delle Finestre, 80km from the line, and steadily increased his advantage over a chasing quintet of Tom Dumoulin of Sunweb, FDJ teammates Thibaut Pinot and Sebastian Reichenbach, and the two best young rider combatants Miguel Angel Lopez of Astana and Richard Carapaz of Movistar. His attack came as overnight leader Simon Yates of Mitchelton-Scott faded dramatically out of sight and well out of contention.
But it also put Dumoulin, the defending winner, in his rearview mirror, as Froome reversed his entire 2.54 deficit to the Dutchman plus another 30 seconds, ripping the virtual pink from Dumoulin’s grasp and putting Froome into the jersey instead. Including bonuses, Froome won by 3.00 over Carapaz and 3.23 on Dumoulin, and now leads the Giro d’Italia by a robust 40” with Pinot third at 4.17. He also holds the King of the Mountains jersey and won the Cima Coppi prize for cresting the race’s highest summit first.
Froome’s ride will be one for the ages, and possibly the highlight of his career in terms of legendary rides, if not prestigious titles. The four-time Tour de France winner has all the hardware one could want, but it has been gained (and, let’s admit, earned) as the leader of a superteam who always gives him an advantage which he patiently hammers home. Today his team served him well again, increasing the pace on the lower slopes of the Finestre to hurt his rivals, but with his solo escape Froome did the rest all on his own. Beyond that, he fended off a five-man group on the descents (yeah, OK), as well as the flats (damned impressive) as well as the final two climbs of Sestriere and the Jafferau (just...wow). It was a ride for the history books, probably capping his win of all three grand tours consecutively. But above all else, it was a ride that will redefine his career in the minds of those fans who still just saw him as a time-trialing tempo climber known mostly for staring at his power meter. If you believe he is racing within the rules, there is no longer any way to argue that he is less than an all-time great bike racer.
Froome still has one very difficult stage to go before he can relax, but Dumoulin was second-best today and isn’t often the type of rider to sail away on the high alpine ascents. His best hope is that Froome left too much on the road today, but Dumoulin had to empty his tank too. Pinot’s gap leaves him out of contention so it’s a two-man race with one day left to contest.
Yates’ collapse wasn’t a shock except perhaps the extent of it. The Brit shipped 13 minutes by the top of the Finestre, and as of this writing still has not finished (30+ minutes). We will have to await explanation of just why he lost so decisively today. Meanwhile Lopez did enough to hold on to the white jersey, but is still 40 seconds behind Pinot for third overall. There are four contenders for the podium now, and more battles to be fought.
Team Sky, however, will do their best to make sure the real battle is over. They will fight to the last drop to honor Froome and his dramatic effort, and to bring home the one stage-racer’s jersey they have yet to secure.
- Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky, 5:12:26
- Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Movistar Team, 0:03:00
- Thibaut Pinot (Fra) Groupama-FDJ 0:03:07
- Miguel Angel Lopez (Col) Astana Pro Team 0:03:12
- Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Sunweb 0:03:23
- Sébastien Reichenbach (Swi) Groupama-FDJ 0:06:13
- Davide Formolo (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe 0:08:22
- Sam Oomen (Ned) Team Sunweb 0:08:23
- Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky, 80:21:59
- Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Sunweb 0:00:40
- Thibaut Pinot (Fra) Groupama-FDJ 0:04:17
- Miguel Angel Lopez (Col) Astana Pro Team 0:04:57
- Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Movistar Team 0:05:44
- Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Bahrain-Merida 0:08:03
- Pello Bilbao (Spa) Astana Pro Team 0:11:08
- Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe 0:12:19
- George Bennett (NZl) LottoNL-Jumbo 0:12:35
- Sam Oomen (Ned) Team Sunweb 0:14:18