New race leader Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) and eventual stage winner Colombian Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEdge) dropped Nibali on the final Valparola climb. The winner of all three Grand Tours, including the 2013 Giro, arrived to the sun-soaked ski village of Corvara 37 seconds behind.
With the bonus seconds calculated in, Kruijswijk took the pink jersey by 41 seconds over Nibali and 1-32 over Chaves.
“Nibali kept his rhythm and continued well after being dropped,” Astana general manager Alexander Vinokourov said. “He didn’t lose much and the team rode exceptionally today. Tomorrow, he can return in the time trial. Every day, he’s going better. After tomorrow, there are still two very hard days. The Giro only ends in Turin.”
Giro race officials whisked Kruijswijk and Chaves into the podium area. Nibali slowed to a stop below the podium surrounded by team helpers and media. Overnight leader Andrey Amador and his Movistar team-mate Alejandro Valverde refused to stop after a dark day.
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Nibali and his Astana gang of team-mates including Michele Scarponi and Jakob Fuglsang worked to dislodge Amador and Valverde over the Passo Giau and the Valparola. Valverde cracked on the last climb. Shortly after, Kruijswijk went and Chaves followed, leaving behind the Italian champion.
“We maintained a high rhythm and honestly, I thought that Valverde was going to be better,” Nibali said after wiping off sweat from his face.
“[Chaves and Kruijswijk] made a great move. I had to ease up a bit and manage my strength. I don’t know if they found help with the riders ahead in the escape, but on my own, it was hard because there was a lot of wind, also in my face. It was not easy.
“They were always there in my view over the final kilometres. I was able to come very close at one minute. But they were taking turns, so for them it was so much easier.”
Nibali began the race as the heavy favourite with wins in the Giro, Tour de France and Vuelta a España already on his palmarès. After Mikel Landa (Sky) and Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) abandoned, even more attention fell on his shoulders. Now, though, Kruijswijk and Chaves are taking some of that away.
“We need to rest because today was a truly difficult day. The Giro changed, now it’s Kruijswijk and Chaves,” he added. “In the time trial tomorrow? I don’t know how I’ll go, I don’t want to bet.”
He and the others will race a 10.85-kilometre time trial up the Alpe di Siusi on Sunday. On Monday, they will rest ahead of the final week to Turin.