Pierre Rolland (Cannondale-Drapac) roared with a mixture of celebration and relief as he celebrated his solo victory on stage 17 of the 2017 Giro d’Italia.
The Frenchman has frequented the breakaways of the 100th Giro in search for a first WorldTour win since stage victory in the 2012 Tour de France, and came frustratingly close on stage 11 as where he finished third.
But he finally made an attack count on Wednesday’s stage 17, attacking a breakaway group with 7.7km to go on the 219km route and holding off the chasers to take a hard earned victory.
Rolland had been part of a 25-man breakaway group with over eight minutes on the peloton in the final 25km, that also featured his team-mate Michael Woods.
That group, which contained Rui Costa, Valerio Conti, Matej Mohoric, and Jan Polanc (UAE Team Emirates), Omar Fraile, Daniel Teklehaimanot and Jacques Janse Van Rensburg (Dimension Data), Julien Bernard (Trek-Segafredo), Gorka Izaguirre and Rory Sutherland (Movistar), Fran Ventoso and Tejay Van Garderen (BMC), Jan Barta (Bora-Hansgrohe), Maxime Monfort (Lotto Soudal), Pierre Rolland and Michael Woods (Cannondale-Drapac), Dries Devenyns and Laurens De Plus (Quick-Step), Salvatore Puccio (Team Sky), Jeremy Roy (FDJ), Julien Amezqueta and Matteo Busato (Wilier-Selle Italia), Felix Gorsschartner and Branislau Samoilau (CCC Sprandi Polkowice), and Enrico Barbin (Bardiani CSF) began to break up as they reached the final 16km, with UAE the most active team in attacks.
Nothing was sticking though, but the drag uphill in towards the finish town of Canazei saw a number of riders dropped thanks to the on/off accelerations from the front of the group.
Valerio Conti’s attack with 13.5km saw the first major gap appear, but that simply pulled the strongest out from the group behind to follow him.
Rolland hid patiently behind the chasers, including his teammate Woods and bided his time for an attack.
With a slow down in proceedings and everyone looking at each other, Rolland made his move with 7.7km to go and by 4km, had established a 30 seconds gap with a disorganised set of chasers behind.
Eventually the Quick-Step duo in the group began to work on the front to try and pull Rolland back, but the gap stuck to 26 seconds with 2km to go and there was nothing they could do to stop Rolland taking a well deserved victory for him and his team.
The GC contenders finished 7-54 minutes down on the winner, with the likes of Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb), Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) all apparently content with an easy day after a brutal day out in the mountains on Tuesday’s stage 16.
Earlier in the stage a huge 40-man breakaway group got away behind the leaders of Matej Mohoric (UAE Team Emirates) and Pavel Brutt (Gazprom-Rusvelo), who established over three minutes at one point.
They worked well together, but Mohoric crested the final climb alone still with over two minutes on the pack behind and over 13 minutes on the maglia rosa group.
Eventually he was caught with around 56km to go, and that breakaway large group would eventually turn into the final 25-man group that would contest the final 10km, with Rolland able to take the victory from there.
Rui Costa was able to win the sprint behind for second ahead of Gorka Izagirre.
Jan Polanc, who finished just behind the breakaway group, was able to sneak into the top-10 overall, displacing Adam Yates (Orica-Scott) down to 11th.
The Giro d’Italia continues on Thursday with a 137km stage packed full of mountains that could shape the GC even further.
Giro d’Italia 2017, stage 17: Tirano – Canazei (219km)
1 Pierre Rolland (Fra) Cannondale-Drapac, in 5-42-56
2 Rui Costa (Por) Team UAE Emirates at 24s
3 Gorka Izagirre (Esp) Movistar Team
4 Rory Sutherland (Aus) Movistar Team
5 Matteo Busato (Ita) Wilier Triestina
6 Dries Devenyns (Bel) Quick-Step Floors
7 Felix Gro§schartner (Aut) CCC Sprandi Polkowice
8 Omar Fraile (Esp) Dimension Data
9 Michael Woods (Can) Cannondale-Drapac
10 Julien Bernard (Fra) Trek-Segafredo, all same time
General Classification after stage 17
1 Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Sunweb, in 76-05-38
2 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team, at 31s
3 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Bahrain-Merida, at 1-12
4 Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ, at 2-38
5 Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Katusha-Alpecin, at 2-48
6 Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale, at 3-05
7 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo, at 3-49
8 Bob Jungels (Lux) Quick-Step Floors, at 4-35
9 Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo, at 6-20
10 Jan Polanc (Slo) Team UAE Emirates, 6-33