Esteban Chaves won the stage while Steven Kruijswijk moved into the leader's jersey on a hectic day at the Giro d'Italia
Kruijswijk and Chaves make a good pairing
Neither Steven Kruijwijk nor Esteban Chaves could have asked for a better attacking partner than each other. Two of the lesser-favoured riders at the start of the race, they worked well together to distance the bigger-name riders on a brutal day in the Dolomites.
At one point it looked as if Nibali’s race was run, dropping back to nearly a minute down, with Kruijswijk and Chaves working well ahead of him.
The duo’s status of ‘outsiders’ for the title worked in their favour, as they were comfortable to work together. Had it been Nibali with one of them, chances are they’d have tried to negate the Sicilian’s threat. Instead they knew they had a chance to really take the race by the scruff of the neck and put decent time into their biggest rivals.
Neither rider had much in the way of teammates to support them, even on the penultimate climb of the Passo Giau, while Movistar and Astana both had numbers, so to come out on top took a spectacular performance.
Nibali saves his Giro with rearguard action
It could have been game over for Nibali when he was distanced by Kruijswijk and Chaves on Valparola, with shades of stage 10 of the Tour de France last year.
Back then Nibali couldn’t keep up with Chris Froome’s pace and saw his chances of successfully defending his Tour title disappear. Today, though, Nibali didn’t panic, found his rhythm and limited his time losses and even fought back towards the end of the stage.
Riding on his own, it would have been easy for his morale to drop, especially as he saw the riders move off up the road without him. The wind was blowing, making it harder for him to get back his time and eventually ‘only’ lost 36 seconds when it could have been a lot more.
Nibali didn’t look particularly comfortable on that final climb, which could be a hint to his fitness and form, but with the hardest day now over the Italian should take confidence with how he fought back in the final 20km.
Valverde’s hopes look to be over
While Nibali saved his race, Movistar’s Valverde had literally no answers when the Shark moved up the road on the final climb of the day.
Valverde was riding on Nibali’s wheel when the attack was made but couldn’t follow it, instead remaining with the group as the decisive selection was made.
Normally you can expect to see Valverde smothering any attack, or even making them himself, but there seemed to be nothing in the Spaniard’s tank.
It was especially disappointing for Movistar, as they saw their pink jersey holder Amador struggling to compete as well, dropped on the Passo Giau and then again on the Valparola meaning there’s not much to play for now.
Valverde still sits fourth overall, but with nearly 90 seconds to make up in order to get on the podium, he’ll have his work cut out catching an ever-improving Chaves.
Who fared best in the first half of the Giro d’Italia?
Heartbreak for Atapuma
While it was a remarkable win for Chaves, BMC‘s Darwin Atapuma almost put in the ride of the day to win the stage from the breakaway.
The Colombian made it in to the 37-man break and then chased down lone escapee Ruben Plaza on the Giau before ditching companion Kanstantin Siutsou and going out on his own.
Even as Chaves and Kruijswijk bore down on him, it always looked as if Atapuma would hold on for the win, but some dodgy timings meant that the BMC man didn’t quite have the advantage everyone thought he did.
It would have been a popular win for the Colombian, who hasn’t tasted victory since the Tour of Poland in 2013, but it wasn’t to be, although I’m sure he’ll try again in the final week as BMC look for stage wins.
With Amador moving into pink after stage 13, many people thought the Costa Rican could make history by taking it all the way to Turin next Sunday, but he was exploited a number of times on Saturday.
Astana put the reduced peloton to the sword on the Giau, with Michele Scarponi setting a relentless pace as one-by-one riders fell off the back of the group.
Bob Jungels, who Amador took the pink jersey from on Friday, was one of the first to crack as Amador clung on to the back for dear life.
For kilometre after kilometre it looked like Amador would fall back, and even when he was finally distanced he didn’t give up and made up nearly a minute on the descent from the Passo Giau.
Unfortunately, though, that left nothing in the tank when Nibali made his move on the Valparola, with Amador reverting to a super-domestique for Valverde, although neither rider had enough to make any inroads on their attackers up the road.
In the space of 50km, Movistar saw their race effectively ended. Valverde will have to do something special in the final week to even have a chance of getting on the podium.