Giro d’Italia 2017
Nairo Quintana blew the Giro d’Italia field away with a huge attack on the fearsome Blockhaus to win Stage 9 and move into the maglia rosa on a day Britain’s Geraint Thomas and Adam Yates saw their hopes dashes by a huge crash caused by a stationary police motorcycle
Both Thomas and Sky co-leader Mikel Landa were floored at top speed when Dutchman Wilco Keldeman of Team Sunweb clipped the parked vehicle and caused a domino effect on the foot of the final ascent. Yates, the young Orica-Scott rider, was also held up in the crash – which occurred just as Quintana’s Movistar team were driving an infernal pace ahead of the first major summit finish of the race.
Bloodied and bruised, Thomas eventually remounted and was paced by Sky team-mates Sebastian Henao and Philip Deignan for large parts of the iconic 13.4km ascent. But the Welshman finished the climb more than five minutes down on Quintana, who put in his decisive attack on the steepest 14% section of the climb with 4.5km remaining.
Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) put up the biggest fight among the race favourites, the Frenchman eventually joining forces with Dutchman Tom Dumoulin of Team Sunweb to take second place, 24 seconds down on the Colombian winner.
Another Dutchman, Bauke Mollema of Trek-Segafredo, finished 41 seconds down before defending champion Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain Merida) crossed the line to complete the top five, exactly one minute in arrears.
Riders came home in dribs and drabs before both Yates and Thomas completed the stage, 4:39 and 5:08 down respectively after an afternoon to forget – and the latest example of a race vehicle having a wholly unnecessary influence on the outcome of a major bike race.
Quintana’s third Giro stage win of his career saw the 27-year-old seize the maglia rosa from the shoulders of Luxembourg national champion, Bob Jungels, after the Quick-Step Floors rider lost contact with the big race favourites with more than 8km of the climb left to ride. Jungels conceded 3:30 to Quintana, who now leads Pinot by 28 seconds and Dumoulin by 30 seconds ahead of tomorrow’s rest day.
Played out under blue skies in the sunny Abruzzo region of southern Italy, the 149km stage from Montenero di Bisaccia was animated by an early break of nine riders that formed around the experienced Spaniard Luis Leon Sanchez of Astana.
Present in the day’s break for a second day running, Sanchez marshalled the group as a trio of riders – including Pierre Rolland of Cannondale-Drapac – darted clear of the pack in pursuit of the leaders. With the initial break refusing to give their three chasers any slack, Rolland’s Cannondale team came to the front of the peloton in a bid to influence the situation.
When the Rolland group finally made contact with the leaders with 90km remaining, the gap over the peloton – which at one point has been north of four minutes – was less than three minutes. And it continued to fall when Quintana’s Movistar team took over the reins and kept the tempo high on the hilly approach to Blockhaus.
With the peloton closing in, Rolland put in a last-ditch attack with Jan Tratnik (CCC Sprandi Polkowice) and Tomasz Marczynski (Lotto Soudal) before the race came back together with 22km remaining. Saturday’s stage winner, Gorka Izaguirre, was back on domestique duty as he led the way for Movistar as the Spanish team prepared to launch their man Quintana onto the final ascent.
But there was high drama on the 100th edition of the race when, at the foot of the iconic Blockhaus climb, the Giro was thrown onto its head with that controversial incident involving a motorcycle and the rampaging peloton.
It initially looked unlikely that Thomas would be able to continue – but the Welshman did remount, along with Landa, and they stuttered on their way. But from there it was all about damage limitation for the 29-year-old Thomas, his hopes of a high finish in Milan in tatters – along with his Team Sky kit. As for Landa, he would eventually finish the stage the best part of 27 minutes down.
Back on the front of the race and Movistar really turned the screw. By the time Victor de la Parte peeled off with 9km remaining, Quintana still had Andrey Amador and Winner Anacona with him in a select group of favourites.
Jungels was dropped along with Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin) and Tejay Van Garderen (BMC) before Quintana put in his first big unseated attack with less than 7km remaining. Pinot and Nibali managed to reel in the Colombian as the likes of Mollema, Dumoulin, Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Dominico Pozzovivo (Ag2R-La Mondiale) all dropped back.
Showing his own strong form, Pinot put in an attack with 6km remaining before Quintana made his move on the steepest double-digit ramp of the climb. While the race was celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first ever stage to Blockhaus – won by the great Eddy Merckx – this was the first time in the Giro’s history that this particular route had been used.
Quintana’s gap steadily grew as Pinot and Nibali kept their cool in pursuit. But when the defending champion finally cracked with 4km remaining, he was caught and passed by the returning Dutch duo of Dumoulin and Mollema.
The rangy Dumoulin – a time trial specialist who will rubbing his hands with glee ahead of Tuesday’s race against the clock – dropped his compatriot and combined well with Pinot, eventually finishing in his rival’s wheel in third place.
By now, Quintana had celebrated the third Giro stage victory of his career – albeit one marred by the terrible incident which all but ended Team Sky’s hopes for the general classification.
Quintana leads Pinot by 28 seconds with Dumoulin a further two seconds off the pace. Mollema is up to fourth place at 51 seconds while Nibali is in fifth at 1:10. The top ten is completed by Pozzovivo, Zakarin, Davide Formolo, Amador and Kruijswijk, while Jungels, Van Garderen, Yates and Thomas drop down the standings – the latter now a seemingly insurmountable 5:10 down on Quintana.
While the Colombian looks to be the clear favourite to ride into Milan with the maglia rosa on his shoulders, he may yet lose the leader’s jersey before being crowned champion for a second time. Tuesday’s time trial will suit both Pinot and Dumoulin, with the Dutchman the clear favourite to overturn his 30-second deficit and move onto the race summit.
Before then, there’s Monday’s much-needed rest day – and a chance for Team Sky’s riders to lick their wounds.
Stage nine results:
1 Nairo Quintana (Movistar) 3:44:51” 2 Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) +24” 3 Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) 4 Bauke Mollema (Trek) +41” 5 Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain) +59” 6 Domenico Pozzovivo (AG2R) +1:16” 7 Tanel Kangert (Astana) +2:01” 8 Ilnur Zakarin (Russia) +2:20” 9 Sébastien Reichenbach +2:28” 10 Davide Formolo (Cannondale) +2:35”
1 Nairo Quintana (Movistar) 42:06:09” 2 Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) +28” 3 Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) +30” 4 Bauke Mollema (Trek) +51” 5 Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain) +1:10” 6 Domenico Pozzovivo (AG2R) +1:28” 7 Ilnur Zakarin (Russia) +2:28” 8 Davide Formolo (Cannondale) +2:45” 9 Andrey Amador (Movistar) +2:53” 10 Steven Kruijswijk +3:06”