Nairo Quintana (Movistar) increased his overall lead in the Giro d'Italia stage 19 mountain time trial on Friday, winning the stage ahead of an impressive Fabio Aru (Astana) by 17 seconds.
Dressed head-to-toe in pink, Quintana may have lacked sartorial subtlety but made up for it with perfectly-judged pacing from the start in Bassano del Grappa to the mountain-top finish, 26.8 kilometres later.
Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) placed third at one minute and 26 seconds to maintain his position in second place behind Quintana overall, albeit with a now hefty deficit of three minutes and seven seconds. Aru leap-frogs Pierre Rolland (Europcar) into third place overall.
It was a day that belonged to the young riders with Quintana (24 years old), Aru (23), Lotto's Tim Wellens (23), Tinkoff-Saxo's Rafal Majka (24) and Sky's Sebastian Henao (20) all making their mark in the top 10.
Aussie veteran Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) failed to make up any time of his rivals, finishing the stage out of the top 10 and with it any chance of a podium position.
Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) was another of the day's biggest time losers, dropping five minutes and 39 seconds on Quintana and slipping from seventh to ninth overall.
Jos van Emden (Belkin) provided a unique spectacle during the stage, stopping mid-way to propose to his girlfriend, Kimberly Herpelinck. She said yes, and he carried on to finish 120th out of 156 riders.
Honourable mention must also be made to the fan who brought a stuffed fox along to the roadside, and dressed it with a pink scarf.
With pretty much the whole of the day's stage pointing skyward, there was a variety of equipment choices used by the riders to try and improve their efficiency.
Some - like Quintana and Uran - elected to start the stage on a time trial bike, swapping to a road bike when the gradient steepened. Others used either a standard road bike, or one fitted with clip-on aero bars for the duration.
In the case of Quintana, he also elected to change from an aero helmet to a road helmet. The seconds lost changing machines would be taken back by the use of a lighter road machine in the stage's steep finale - particularly when given a hefty shove by a mechanic after the bike change. It certainly worked for Quintana.
Two stages to go
The 2014 Giro d'Italia will be settled on Saturday's penultimate stage from Maniago to Monte Zoncolan, featuring a nasty 10-kilometre climb up the Zoncolan's average gradient of 11.9 per cent. It's hard to see how Uran can make up over three minutes on the rampaging Quintana, and he may now be more wary of losing his second place to Aru.
The race concludes in Trieste on Sunday.
Giro d'Italia 2014, stage 19: Bassano del Grappa to Cima Grappa ITT, 26.8km
1. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar in 1-05-37
2. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana at 17 secs
3. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Omega Pharma-QuickStep at 1-26
4. Pierre Rolland (Fra) Europcar at 1-57
5. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Ag2r at 2-24
6. Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Androni Giocattoli at 3-22
7. Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff-Saxo at 3-28
8. Sebastian Henao (Col) Team Sky at 3-48
9. Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto-Belisol at 4-00
10. Dario Cataldo (Ita) Team Sky at 4-10
42. Ben Swift (GBr) Team Sky at 6-52
Overall classification after stage 19
1. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar in 79-03-45
2. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Omega Pharma-QuickStep at 3-07
3. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana at 3-48
4. Pierre Rolland (Fra) Europcar at 5-26
5. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Ag2r at 6-16
6. Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff-Saxo at 6-59
7. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing at 9-25
8. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Belkin at 9-29
9. Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin-Sharp at 10-11
10. Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) Trek Factory Racing at 13-59
Distanced during Thursday's key mountain stage, Cadel Evans dropped out of the Giro's podium positions
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