Chris Froome may have won four editions of the Tour de France, but riding clear four 80 kilometres to win the Giro d’Italia’s Jafferau stage and take the pink jersey ranks up there with the best things he’s ever done on a bike.
Team Sky‘s star turned around his Giro d’Italia with one big masterstroke, attacking on the famous Colle delle Finestre, driving time into former leader Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), and keeping his nearest rival Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) at a distance during a two-and-a-half hour pursuit.
The Brit, instead of sitting fourth overall beyond Yates, now faces the final mountain day in first place with a 40-second lead over Dumoulin.
“I think that was one of the most amazing things I’ve done on the bike,” Froome said.
“We were here on the Finestre last year. I know the area and that really helped. I felt all those good feelings were back again, to just push on the Finestre and go for it.”
Something similar would have been Philippe Gilbert’s massive 55 kilometre solo ride to win the Tour of Flanders in his Belgian national jersey in 2017.
Froome sensed an opportunity in the air when the 19th stage departed from Turin’s outskirts this morning under clear blue skies.
Watch: Giro d’Italia 2018 stage 19 highlights
“It was the prefect storm for the situation,” Froome continued. “It was a bit of a risky move if I’m honest. It was calculated, as well.
“We saw yesterday for the first time that Simon was a little bit vulnerable in the final and that already gave us some help.”
Yates lost 28 seconds on the finish to Prato Nevoso yesterday but still looked in control with only two more mountain stages.
However on stage 19 the Brit quickly fell behind and Dumoulin, who started the day second behind Yates, became Froome’s biggest worry.
At the top of Finestre, Froome held 38 seconds on Dumoulin. On the descent, he drilled more time into the 2017 Giro d’Italia champion. Over the Sestrière and up the final Jafferau climb, he kept that lead and finished 3-23 ahead Dumoulin – enough to put him in the pink jersey by 40 seconds.
“The team set it up for me, they made it really hard at the bottom of the Finestre, they were attacking and making it hard at the start of the stage as well,” Froome added.
“It was the perfect situation for me. I had a feeling that if I went on the Finestre that maybe the other guys wouldn’t follow me because it was so far to go. I went into time trial mode and just tried to also to manage the effort so I didn’t absolutely kill myself.”
Standing atop the Jafferau in pink, Froome has rebounded from two crashes early on in the Giro d’Italia. He lost time consistently to Yates in the mountain with the only moment of glory being his stage win to Monte Zoncolan.
“We had nothing to lose. We were fourth on GC, a long way back,” said Team Sky boss David Brailsford. “Sometimes you have got to race in true racing fashion.
“We spent all day yesterday dissecting the stage. We decided that we would try to drop Yates in the switchbacks on the Finestre, and Dumoulin at the top.
“You don’t know whether it’s going to work or not, but you’ve got the try. You never find out until you do try. Chris was coming into form and we just thought, ‘let’s put it on the line and see what happens’.”
Froome must now get through the final mountain day to Cervinia. If he does, he would be the first Brit to win the Giro d’Italia when it finishes in Rome with a flat stage on Sunday.