The 17th stage of the Giro d'Italia looked perfect for a breakaway, and so it proved
Rolland ends Cannondale’s Grand Tour drought
The last couple of years must have been fairly miserable at Cannondale-Drapac, but after Andrew Talansky won stage five of the Tour of California to give them their first WorldTour win in two years, Rolland has followed that up with Grand Tour win.
The lack of wins hasn’t been through a lack of trying, with the team usually making sure it was represented in the break on stage’s such as this where an escape looked destined to survive.
Rolland made sure that he was in the move by getting in the first attack to go off the front early in the stage, together with Matej Mohoric (UAE Team Emirates) and Pavel Brutt (Gazprom-Rusvelo), but was tactically astute enough to sit up and preserve energy when he heard a larger group was coming from behind, while Mohoric and Brutt wore themselves out by persevering with the move.
He was then anonymous for much of the rest of the race, saving energy in the wheels before launching a perfectly timed attack with seven kilometres remaining to win the stage.
UAE, Movistar, and Quick-Step miss out
Entering in to the final 15km and each of those teams had two riders represented in the front group, meaning you would have expected them to take it in turns to chase down moves.
Valerio Conti (UAE Team Emirates) launched a few attacks which were too far from the line and easily shut down by Movistar, but there was hesitation when Rolland attacked as the riders looked at each other with no one trying to chase.
That 30 seconds of hesitation cost the chasing group dearly, and even after that there was no real concerted and coordinated effort to close down on Rolland, allowing the Frenchman to cross the line with a comfortable lead.
GC teams time it perfectly
For a while midway through the stage it looked as if Jan Polanc (UAE Team Emirates), the best placed rider overall in the break, could move himself into the upper echelons of the general classification.
The winner of the summit finish to Mount Etna on stage four went in to Wednesday’s stage in 13th place, 12-13 behind the pink jersey of Tom Dumoulin, and at one point was more than 13 minutes ahead on the road.
Dumoulin’s lead was never seriously under threat, but Polanc’s position forced Quick-Step Floors, looking to defend the white jersey of Bob Jungels, and LottoNL-Jumbo to work hard on the front to close the gap to the break.
In the end they played it perfectly, upping the pace with around 60km to go rather than leaving it so late that it turned in to a frantic chase.
The peloton eventually rolled across the line at 7-54, and with Polanc getting dropped from the break in the final kilometres he was only just able to move into the top 10 at the expense of Adam Yates (Orica-Scott)
Matej Mohoric proves his strength
The prize for the strongest rider on the day has to go to Matej Mohoric, who seemed to spend at least half of the 219km stage plugging away on the front.
Mohoric was part of the first three-man breakaway of the day, and while Rolland and Brutt dropped back to the large chasing group, Mohoric soldiered on alone, only being caught with 60km remaining.
After such a huge solo effort, the Slovenian was clearly out of contention for the stage win, so instead spent the next 45km towing the group along to try and move Polanc up the GC.
With 15km to go he finally pulled off the front, pedalling squares at the side of the road and losing a minute per kilometre has he slowly made his way to the finish.
GC contenders rest up ahead of tough stage 18
A few optimistic viewers may have been hoping for a surprise GC attack to liven up what, let’s be honest, wasn’t a classic stage, but none were forthcoming.
Instead Dumoulin, Quintana and co. were content to stay in the wheels, resting up for what should hopefully be a spectacular day of GC action over the five huge climbs of stage 18.