Nans Peters unleashed a daring early solo attack to take victory on stage 17 of the Giro d’Italia.
The Frenchman redeemed a shocking Italian Grand Tour for his Ag2r La Mondiale team, who had been largely anonymous and lost their leader Tony Gallopin the previous day.
Peters made it into the day’s 17-rider breakaway on a day that looked perfectly suited to staying away, after brutal general classification racing on stage 16.
Attacking on a false flat section before the final climb with 16km left to race, Peters was never really in danger of losing the stage.
Maglia rosa Richard Carapaz easily held onto his race lead, attacking in the closing metres to extend his advantage over Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) by a further seven seconds, as his Movistar team-mate Mikel Landa moved closer to the podium with a late move that gained him 20 seconds.
How it happened
A slightly easier day waited the peloton on stage 17, after the horrific weather and daunting challenge of the Mortirolo on the previous day.
The 181km run from Commezzadura to Anterselva on the Austrian border heavily favoured breakaway riders, with three categorised climbs lined up in the closing 70km.
A slight downhill run to start the stage was followed by an uncategorised climb over 6.8km and 6.4 per cent average, which topped 42km into the race.
The peloton then tackled the 5km descent before the road gradually sloped upward for the next 40km, where the first categorised climb of the day arrived.
The Elvas climb was only 2.2km-long but its eight per cent average made this a category four ascent, which led almost immediately into the third category Terento (5.7km at 8.2 per cent).
A short downhill respite followed before the roads ramped up again, starting the 30km mostly uncategorised climb to the line.
Finally the race hit the 4.8km 7.5 per cent average third category climb to the line, which closed out the stage.
The breakaway potential drew out no shortage of hopefuls, with multiple attacks coming as soon as the flag dropped.
But the peloton was alert to the danger of a large break, with working to control things before a 17-rider move finally went clear almost 50km into the stage.
Substantial names in the front group included Deceuninck – Quick-Step’s Bob Jungels, attempting to save his disappointing Giro d’Italia so far, Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) making his first notable move in the breakaway, Davide Formolo (Bora-Hansgrohe) who was best placed of the attackers on GC, and Mitchelton-Scott number two Esteban Chaves.
Back in the bunch, Bahrain-Merida helped control the pace with an eye on Formolo, as Movistar also continued to pull.
The break pulled out a seven-minute advantage over the opening half of the race, with Jan Bakelants (Sunweb) attacking solo on the Elvas climb.
Bakelants pulled out a minute advantage in his daringly early move, which prompted De Gendt to attack on the Terento, quickly winding his compatriot back in.
The break all came back together, and inside 20km they held more than a five-minute gap over the bunch.
Nans Peters (Ag2r La Mondiale) was next to launch a brave attack with 16km to the line, pulling out a minute advantage with 10km to race.
There was no immediate response from the break, until former race leader Valerio Conti (UAE Team Emirates) attacked, was wound back in, but then attacked again.
Chaves then bridged across the Conti who dangled off the front of the escape.
The peloton were well out of contention for the stage inside 10km, sitting a 5-21 behind the front of the race.
Peters’ advantage didn’t falter as he hit the foot of the categorised climb to the line, while Chaves, Conti and Krists Neilands (Israel Cycling Academy) launched a three-man pursuit 55-seconds behind.
Chaves dropped his companions and finally launched a decisive chasing move inside 5km, but Peters only extended his lead out to 1-19 with 1km to race.
Peters crossed the line with alone 1-34 ahead of Chaves who took second, with Formolo finishing third.
Formolo jumps two places on GC to 10th, 8-59 down on the leader.
Back in the peloton, the high pace on the final climb whittled down the contenders before Landa finally attacked the small group of overall favourites that had grouped together a few kilometres from home.
With race leader Carapaz, Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) and Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) watching each other, Landa was free to go up the road to try and take back time and narrow the gap to the podium.
The Spaniard gained 20 seconds on Primož Roglič but remains in fourth overall.
Carapaz was next to launch an attack from the GC group in the dying metres, pulling out seven-second gain on his nearest rival Nibali.
The Ecuadorian now leads with a 1-54 advantage over Nibali and 2-16 over Roglič, with Landa now fourth at 3-03 back.
Simon Yates lost more time but still sits eighth overall at 7-13.
The Giro d’Italia continues with a 222km dash from Valdaora to Santa Maria di Sala on stage 18, on a day that could be for the sprinters.
With a slight climb to open the stage, the route is mostly downhill with only a category four climb mid-way to punctuate the profile, but with plenty of sprinters having already gone home, a strong breakaway could find themselves in with a chance of the steal.
Giro d’Italia 2019, stage 17: Commezzadura to Anterselva (181km)
1. Nans Peters (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale, in 4-41-34
2. Esteban Chaves (Col) Mitchelton-Scott, at 1-34
3. Davide Formolo (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 1-51
4. Fausto Masnada (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec
5. Krists Neilands (Lat) Israel Cycling Academy, all at same time
6. Tanel Kangert (Est) EF Education First, at 2-02
7. Valerio Conti (Ita) UAE Team Emirates, at 2-08
8. Gianluca Brambila (Ita) Trek-Segafredo, at same time
9. Chris Hamilton (Aus) Sunweb, at 2-22
10. Andrea Vendrame (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec, at 2-34
General classification after stage 17
1. Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Movistar, in 74-48-18
2. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Bahrain-Merida, 1-54
3. Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma, at 2-16
4. Mikel Landa (Esp) Movistar, at 3-03
5. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo, at 5-07
6. Miguel Ángel López (Col) Astana, at 6-17
7. Rafał Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 6-48
8. Simon Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott, at 7-13
9. Pavel Sivakov (Rus) Team Ineos, at 8-21
10. Davide Formolo (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 8-59