Giro d’Italia 2017
Part of an early three-man break that went right from the gun in the lumpy 219km stage from Tirano to Canazei, Rolland dropped back to join team-mate Michael Woods in a large chasing group on the second of three categorised climbs. The experienced 30-year-old stayed in contention during a feisty final third of the stage, making the important selection before putting in his decisive attack inside the final 10km.
An inspired Rolland rolled home 24 seconds ahead of his pursuers, who were led over the line by Portugal’s former world champion, Rui Costa of UAE Team Emirates. Canadian Woods was among the chasing dozen on a day that Cannondale’s persistent aggression finally paid off.
Race leader Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) came home in a peloton that included all the big favourites the best part of eight minutes in arrears. With just four stages of the 100th edition of the Giro d’Italia remaining, the Dutchman retains the maglia rosa by a gap of 31sec over Colombian Nairo Quintana (Movistar).
Slovenia’s Jan Polanc – one of four UAE Team Emirates riders, alongside Costa, in the day’s break – made the biggest gains on GC, rising to tenth place, 6min 33sec behind Dumoulin.
After Tuesday’s queen stage and the double ascent of the Stelvio, those looking for a recovery ride before Thursday’s fireworks in the Dolomites were much mistaken.
Although the 219km ride from Tirano in Lombardia to Canazei in Trentino featured just the three lower-category climbs, three-and-a-half-thousand metres of climbing were on the agenda for the weary peloton in a gruelling stage that featured practically no sections of flat.
Rolland joined Russian veteran Pavel Brutt (Gazprom-Rusvelo) and Slovenian tyro Matej Mohoric (UAE Team Emirates) in an early move from kilometre-zero – the trio cresting the summit of the Cat.2 climb to Aprica with 1min 50sec over a large chasing pack that extricated itself from the Sunweb-led peloton.
With a strong chasing group of 40 riders forming behind, Rolland, perhaps sensing that the day was still long, took his foot off the gas and dropped back on the descent of the second climb of the day, the Cat.2 Passo del Tonale.
Having ridden clear on the descent, Mohoric was rejoined by Brutt ahead of the third climb of the day where, with 83km remaining, the Russian hit the wall spectacularly – leaving the 22-year-old Slovenian to ride clear.
Despite those three categorised climbs in the bag, the riders still faced a vertical gain of over 800m in the final third of the stage as the peloton finally stirred into action with the deficit rising to more than 13 minutes.
UAE Team Emirates seemed to hold all the aces as Costa, Polanc and Valerio Conti rode prominently in the chase group of 40 riders – which trailed lone leader Mohoric by a couple of minutes before splintering on the uphill gradient.
Polanc – winner of stage four at Etna – was the cause of the peloton’s concern: the Slovenian a clear threat to the white jersey of Bob Jungels. The Luxembourg national champion’s Quick-Step Floors team-mates started to help share chasing duties with Dumoulin’s Sunweb and the LottoNL-Jumbo team of Steven Kruijswijk – his own top ten position under threat – as the gap started to come down accordingly.
After a succession of attacks following Mohoric’s capture, a new leading group of 25 riders formed inside the final 30km before UAE Team Emirates tried to exploit their strength in numbers. Conti, twice, Costa and Polanc all put in big attacks before Belgian Dries Devenyns (Quick-Step) made a couple of accelerations inside the final 10km.
Rolland then took advantage of a brief lull to put in his decisive attack – a move which, for once, was not picked up by any of the battling escapees. With 5km remaining, the Frenchman’s lead was up to 30 seconds as Woods covered the attacks from behind – including one last-ditch attempt from the American Tejay Van Garderen of BMC.
His win assured, Rolland could milk the applause as he rode up the home straight before lifting his Cannondale bike above his head once he had crossed the line and secured his first major win since 2012.
Polanc was dropped in the final kilometres but finished in a group 2min 14sec down on Rolland to rise three places to 10th on GC at the expense of Britain’s Adam Yates of Orica-Scott.
Italy’s Eros Capecchi (Quick-Step Floors) led the pack home 7min 54sec in arrears to ensure that team-mate Jungels retained his white jersey by 1min 58sec over Polanc. After his well-documented stomach problems in the previous stage, Dumoulin benefitted from a comparatively calm day in the saddle ahead of Thursday’s showpiece stage in the Dolomites.
Over five categorised climbs the GC favourites will do battle and Tom Dumoulin may face his sternest test yet as Nairo Quintana and defending champion Vincenzo Nibali continue their bid to prise the maglia rosa from the rangy Dutchman’s shoulders.
Stage 17 results
1) Pierre Rolland (Cannondale) 5hr42m56s. 2) Rui Costa (UAE Team Emirates) +24”. 3) Gorka Izagirre (Movistar). 4) Rory Sutherland (Movistar). 5) Matteo Busato (Wilier Triestina). 6) Dries Devenyns (Quick-Step). 7) Felix Grossschartner (CCC). 8) Omar Fraile (Dimension Data). 9) Michael Woods (Cannondale). 10) Julien Bérard (AG2R).
Overall classification after stage 17
1) Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) 76hr5m38s. 2) Nairo Quintana (Movistar) +31”. 3) Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain) +1:12”. 4) Pinot (FDJ) +2:38”. 5) Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha) +2:40”. 6) Domenico Pozzovivo (AG2R) +3:05”. 7) Bauke Mollema (Trek) +3:49”. 8) Bob Jungels (Quick-Step) +4:35”. 9) Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL) +6:20”. 10) Jan Polanc (UAE Team Emirates) +6:33”. 11) Adam Yates (Orica) +7:00”. 12) Maxime Monfort (Lotto) +7:16”. 13) Davide Formolo (Cannondale) +7:17”. 14) Andrey Amador (Movistar) +11:29”. 15) Dario Cataldo (Astana) +13:26”. 16) Jan Hirt (CCC) +19:02”. 17) Sebastien Reichenbach (FDJ) +25:20”. 18) Patrick Konrad (Bora) +26:50”. 19) Hubert Dupont (AG2R) +28:27”. 20) Simone Petilli (UAE Team Emirates) +29:07”.