Dumoulin gains time on his rivals’ terrain
The pattern of this Giro d’Italia had appeared to be set – Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) would attempt to defend his lead in the mountains while his climbing specialist rivals like Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) and Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) attacked him, before taking time back in the final time trial
What was not in the script was for Dumoulin to win a mountain top finish. When Quintana attacked him halfway up the finishing climb of Oropa, it looked as though the pendulum of the race was swinging back into the Colombian’s favour. But, pacing his effort astutely, the pink jersey kept his rival within his sights at little more than ten seconds, before finally catching up to him.
Dumoulin has shown in the past that he is willing to attack when the opportunity presents itself, but it was still a marvel to see him accelerate away from Quintana in the final kilometre, gaining 24 seconds over him and pulling off a stunning stage victory.
The reasonable gradient of Oropa suited his style, and he will probably find it more difficult during the final week, but with a margin now of 2-47 to Quintana, right now Dumoulin looks difficult to beat.
Other contenders lose time
On a day when they might have hoped to have gained time, many of Dumoulin’s main rivals were instead left nursing their wounds.
Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) was dropped early on the climb, but did manage to recover towards the top to finish fifth, limiting his losses to 35 seconds.
By contrast Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) spent most of the climb on Dumoulin’s wheel, but collapsed spectacularly near the summit to slip out of the lead group and lose 43 seconds, even being passed by Pinot.
Worst off however was Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo), who was dropped as soon as the racing got going on the climb, and, in what will feel like a familiar pattern for a rider who often starts Grand Tours very well only to fade away later on, he falls from third to sixth overall.
A strong team showing from Movistar
Nairo Quintana may have been left humbled when he was dropped by Dumoulin in the sprint for the finish, but there are still positives he can take away from today’s events.
For one thing, he still looks like the man most likely to challenge Dumoulin for the pink jersey, having gained time on all the other GC contenders.
Secondly, his Movistar team put in a very strong showing, with Victor de la Parte and Winner Anacona helping to set a ferocious pace on the lower slopes to Oropa, and Andrey Amador retaining his useful position in the top ten overall.
Considering that Dumoulin was quickly isolated on the climb, Movistar ought to be encouraged that they could be able to put him under considerable pressure in the longer, harder mountain stages of the final week.
It’s worth remembering, after all, that Dumoulin lost the Vuelta a España in 2015 to Fabio Aru on the penultimate stage when Astana managed to ambush him and leave him without any team-mates. Quintana and Movistar ought to be planning something similar.
Team Sky still fighting
Much has been said about Team Sky’s apparent curse at the Giro d’Italia, but, despite the bad luck that has continued to fall upon following the crashes suffered by Mikel Landa and the now abandoned Geraint Thomas, they seem determined to take something away from this race.
First Diego Rosa attacked on the run-in to the climb, in search of a stage win. It came to nothing as the GC teams turned on the pace in the peloton, but we can expect to see him out on the attack in the upcoming stages.
More impressive was Landa, who clung on to the lead group to finish third on the stage. His ride suggests that he has recovered from any injuries sustained last week, and should therefore be well in the mix for stage wins.
At over 40 minutes down on GC, he’ll be given plenty of leeway to get into breakaways for a chance to win stages, and will be a difficult man to beat from such a scenario.
Adam Hansen suffers a scare
One of the sub-plots of every Grand Tour these days is Adam Hansen’s (Lotto-Soudal) continued streak of starting and finishing every single one – if he can finish this Giro he’ll have extended the record to 17 consecutive Grand Tour finishes.
That’s a particularly impressive feat when you take into account how difficult it is to avoid crashes in the hectic peloton of Grand Tours, and indeed the Australian suffered a fright when he hit the deck on the run-in to the final climb today.
However, you have to be made of stern stuff to finish so many Grand Tours in a row, and he was able to get back on his saddle and finish fourth-last among a small group of stragglers who came in behind the gruppetto. Fingers crossed he hasn’t sustained any lasting injuries and will be able to make it to Milan.