Just when you thought the Giro couldn’t get any more spectacular or dramatic, along came Stages 16, 17 and 18 to knock our socks off. From snow, to crashes, to change of leader, it had it all.
Tuesday’s Ponte di Legno to Val Martello/Martelltal was a torturous 139 km mountain Stage. Although shorter on paper than other stages, three massive climbs would lead to the riders beings scattered along the Italian roads.
It would belong to Colombia’s Nairo Quintana as he rode away from his challengers in the final kilometres to claim victory, and the Maglia Rosa in emphatic style.
The mountains are Quintana’s favourite terrain and he effortlessly ascended as well as some could descend. He blew away other GC contenders and stripped Rigoberto Uran Uran of the leader’s jersey.
Confusion surrounded the stage as reports of part of it being neutralised due to adverse weather conditions spread like wildfire. This was not the case, and the riders had to battle through wind, rain and even snow, such was the extent of the altitude they were tackling.
Wednesday’s Stage 17 was a fairy-tale ride for Italian Stefano Pirazzi. Competing for Bardiani CSF, a team only in the Giro due to invitation, Pirazzi secured their third stage win from Sarnonico to Vittorio Veneto.
In a day when the main Giro contenders were recovering as best they could while riding 208km, a five man break was let go to fight it out for themselves. With just over 1km to go, Pirazzi made a challenge for glory. His fellow escapees didn’t, or couldn’t react fast enough and the Giro had another Italian victor.
Many teams were unhappy with the neutralisation episode from the previous stage, and a possible rider protest was possible, but all it led to was a snail’s pace being set for the opening kilometres.
Quintana stayed out of trouble on this wet stage where crashes were a feature, none serious, thankfully.
Stage 18 would be another taxing stage. Three categorised climbs meant that all GC contenders would need to hang in until the final 16km ascent to Rifugio Panarotta to avoid losing major time.
As the race becomes more tactical, the breakaway was once again allowed race away, so the big teams could preserve their Maglia Rosa men, without threat from the guys further up the road.
Nairo Quintana once again stayed out of trouble in the peloton, and seemed relatively comfortable on the climbs.
Mountain classification leader, Colombian Julian Arredondo, zigzagged over the line to take his first stage win. Ireland’s Phillip Deignan capped off a very gutsy performance coming in third place.
The General Classification leaders stayed together and Quintana retains his Pink jersey with just three instalments remaining in the 2014 Giro d’Italia.
John Ivory, Punndit Arena.
General Classification after Stage 18
1 Nairo Alexander Quintana Rojas (Col) Movistar Team 77:58:08
2 Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step Cycling Team 0:01:41
3 Pierre Rolland (Fra) Team Europcar 0:03:29
4 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:03:31
5 Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff-Saxo
6 Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale 0:03:52
7 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin Sharp 0:04:32
8 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team 0:04:37
9 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:04:59
10 Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) Trek Factory Racing 0:08:33