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Quintana benefits from a confusing descent from the Stelvio - it was unclear whether the race was neutralized - to ride away from everyone else and take a huge solo win and a convincing overall lead

Photo: Sirotti

GIRO D'ITALIA

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MOVISTAR TEAM

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NAIRO QUINTANA

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PIERRE ROLLAND

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RYDER HESJEDAL

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27.05.2014 @ 18:30 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Nairo Quintana (Movistar) erased his big deficit to Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) by taking an impressive solo win in a very dramatic and hugely confusing queen stage of the Giro d'Italia. While it was unclear whether racing was neutralized, Quintana rode away from his compatriot on the downhill section and then increased his gap massively on the final climb to Val Martello to take the overall lead with a 1.41 advantage over his compatriot.

 

Nairo Quintana proved that he is clearly the strongest rider in thos year's Giro d'Italia when he took a very impressive stage victory in today's queen stage of the race and moved into the race lead with a big margin. However, the Colombian had undoubtedly hoped that his big win had not been tainted by the controversial circumstances that surrounded it.

 

All day his Movistar team had shown their intentions, riding hard on the front right from the lower slopes of the day's first climb, the Passo Gavia. A reduced group of favourites reached the top of the second climb, the Passo Stelvio, together and at this point all was set for a big battle on the final climb.

 

As snow was falling heavily, however, the organizers have given confusing information over the race radio about the descent from the highest point of the Giro. Some sports directors got the impression that the racing was neutralized on the descent while others had heard nothing about it.

 

As a consequence, several riders stopped at the top to take on warmer clothes while other continued racing. Dario Cataldo (Sky) who was the lone leader at that point, sped down the descent in full racing mode while race leader Rigoberto Uran was clearly taking it easy, even taking the chance to stretch his backs on several occasions.

 

Quintana was among the riders to ride full gas and when they reached the bottom of the descent, he found himself in a group with teammate Gorka Izagirre, the Ruorpcar duo Pierre Rolland and Romain Sicard, Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin) and Matteo Rabottini (Neri Sottoli) 2 minutes ahead of the maglia rosa group that contained all the rest of the overall contenders. When Uran, Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo), Fabio Aru (Astana) and Wilco Kelderman (Belkin) realized tje situation, they asked their teammates to start a furious case but even though they reduced their deficit slightly, they started the final climb 1.40 behind Quintana.

 

Very soon Quintana realized that he had to do all the work on his own and he rode most of the climb on the front without even looking behind. Soon the group was down to just the Colombian, Rolland and Hesjedal and when he reached the final steep 1.5km section, only Hesjedal had been able to keep up with him.

 

Behind, the maglia rosa group was constantly losing ground and Uran was content with just letting Michael Rogers (Tinkoff) and the Ag2r riders Hubert Dupont and Alexis Vuillermoz set the pace. More than half of the climb was done before he hit the front himself and then his rivals started to attack him.

 

Quintana dropped Hesjdal just before the flamme rouge and soloed across the line to take both the stage win and the leader's jersey whil Uran faded back as all his key rivals - except Cadel Evans (BMC) who struggled even more - dropped him in the final steep section.

 

In the end, he lost 4.11 and dropped to second, 1.41 behind Quintana, while Rolland was rewarded for his gutsy ride by moving into fourth. Evans defended his third place but behind the superior Quintana and Uran, the time gaps are very small.

 

Quintana should get an easier first day as race leader as tomorrow's 17th stage will take place in flatter terrain. However, it is a pretty lumpy affair and it will be difficult for the sprinters to keep it together for a bunch sprint.

 

The queen stage

After a rest day, the Giro d'Italia continued with its queen stage that had had to be cancelled when it was last planned one year ago. The 139km from Ponte di Legno to the top of the Valmartello climb brought the riders over the legendary Gavia and Stevio climbs before it all came to an end on the final 22km ascent.

 

Again brutal weather had put the stage under threat but the organizers decided to let it go ahead as planned, Hence, 167 riders took on the difficult race under torrential rain that soon turned into snow as they started to climb up the Gavia. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) was the only non-starter, the Norwegian still suffering from the injuries sustained in an earlier crash.

 

Chalapud the lone leader

The riders took it easy on the first 6km descent but as soon as they hit the Gavia, the attacking started. At one point Maxim Belkov (Katusha) had a 40-second gap but the big Russian was soon brought back and instead it was Robinson Chalapud (Colombia) that emerged from the carnage as the lone leader.

 

In the peloton, Movistar had tightened the screws and Andrey Amador set a brutal tempo all the way up the climb to whittle the group down to less than 30 riders. Just before the top of the climb, KOM leader Julian Arredondo (Trek) attacked and he was joined by Jarlinson Pantano (Colombia) while Alberto Losada (Katusha) made an unsuccessful attempt to bridge the gap. The Colombian duo crested the summit 48 seconds behind Chalapud and started a very cold and snowy descent with a small advantage over the peloton.

 

A confusing descent

The descent turned out to be very confusing and treacherous, with several riders taking the oppotunity to attack and others falling off the pace. When the dust had settled at the bottom, Franco Pellizotti (Androni) was the lone leader, being chased by Alexis Vuillermoz (Ag2r) and Cataldo.

 

The three riders soon combined forces while a little further back, Pantano and Chalapud were with Robert Kiserlovski (Trek), Hubrt Dupont (Ag2r), Diego Rosa (Androni), and Przemyslaw Niemiec (Lampre). Dupont, Vuillermoz, Pantano and Niemiec soon made the junction and later Rosa and finally also Chalapud joined the front to make it a 9-rider lead group.

 

Evans and Pozzovivo rejoin the peloton

Movistar had led the peloton all the way down the descent and briefly Evans and Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r) had been left behind. Strong work by Brent Bookwalter (BMC), however, allowed the pair to rejoin the peloton where Amador continued to set the pace.

 

Alexandre Geniez (FDJ) attacked on the lower slopes of the Stelvio and a little later Rabottini also gave it a go. Edoardo Zardini (Bardiani) was the next to attack but this time, Movistar sent Eros Capecchi off in the move. OPQS had to respond, bringing back Capecchi, Zardini and Rabottini.

 

Movistar in control

Movistar went back to work, with Amador, Capecchi and Jose Herrada all doing a lot of work. The escapees were now 2.25 ahead while Geniez was gradually getting closer to the leaders.

 

With 77km to go, Geniez made the junction and he went straight to the front to up the pace. The peloton was now down to just around 35 riders.

 

Cataldo takes off again

Sicard and Rolland launched an attack but Movistar had no intention of letting the Europcar getting clear. Herrada neutralized it immediately and soon after Tinkoff-Saxo hit the front, with Nicolas Roche setting a brutal pace.

 

While several riders fell off, the gap to escapees melted away and with 72km to go, it was down to just 10 seconds. However, Cataldo refused to get caught and so launched a new attack.

 

Chaos

Several riders also tried to keep their break alive and at the top Cataldo was 18 seconds ahead of Chalapud, 45 seconds ahead of Dupont, 1.10 ahead of Pantano and 1.19 ahead of Geniez and Vuilermoz. The peloton was a little further back and as they crested the summit, many rider stopped to redress, apparently believing that descent was neutralized.

 

That set the scene for a very confusing race as some riders continued to ride hard and others took it very easy. When they had finished the downhill section, Cataldo had increased his gap massively and was now 1 minute ahead of Pantano, Vuillermoz and Dupont who were his nearest chasers, 1.50 ahead of Quintana, Izagirre, Rolland, Sicard, Hesjedal and Rabottini and 3.40 ahead of the maglia rosa group.

 

A fierce pursuit

The 6 riders in the Quintana group decided to all contribute to the pace-setting while Gianluca Brambilla, Serge Pauwels, Evgeny Petrov, Roche, Mikel Landa and Marc Goos started to work hard in the maglia rosa group. The Quintana group soon caught the three chasers and even though the work was soon left to just Sicard and Izagirre, they started the final climb with a 1.40 advantage over the Uran group.

 

Sicard and Izagirre soon fell off the pace and then Pantano apparently worked hard for Quintana. When he finally swung off, Quintana hit the front and after initially getting a bit pf help, he soon had to do all the work himself.

 

Landa sets a hard pace

In the peloton, Landa did an impressive job to whittle the group down to just Landa, Rogers, Uran, Kelderman, Majka, Aru, Pozzovivo, Evans, Kiserlvski, Geniez, Henao, Anacona and Degnan . Deignan and Geniez soon fell off the pace, and later Anacona also had to surrender, leaving just 10 riders in the group.

 

Up ahead, Quintana made an attack that only Rolland could respond to. The pair quickly caught Cataldo while Hesjedal managed to rejoin them. At this point, they were 1.45 ahead but constantly gained more ground.

 

Uran shows signs of weakness

Hesjedal and Cataldo both got dropped but both managed to rejoin the front. A little later, however, Cataldo fell off the pace for good.

 

With 15km to go, Rogers took over the pace-setting but when he had caught the Ag2r pair of Dupont and Vuillermoz, the two Frenchmen set the pace. When they swung off, Rogers again hit the front, revealing the first sign of Uran's weakness when the Colombian could brief not keep up with Rogers and Pozzovivo.

 

Majka laucnhes the first attack

With 9km to go, Cataldo and Pantano were caught and at this point Uran was already 2.35 behind. At this point, Rolland and Hesjedal were briefly dropped but managed to rejoin the Colombian.

 

Uran had now taken over the pace-setting and this was an opportunity for Majka to attack. The Pole, Kelderman and Pozzovivo briefly got clear but Uran, Aru and Kirselovski and later also Evans and Henao rejoined them.

 

Rolland drops off

With 5km to go, Rolland was dropped from the front group while Uran made a surprise attack from the peloton. The move was countered by Majka and only Kelderman could follow the Pole. Uran and Pozzovivo rejoined them  and soo after Aru and Henao also made the junction while Evans and Kiserlovski were left behind.

 

Being more than 3.20 behind, they started to work together, with Uran, Pozzovivo and Kelderman all taking turns on the front. Meanwhile, Quintana and Hesjedal had hit a flat section and now Quintana was getting some assistance.

 

Kelderman gets a gap

Due to some hesitation, Kelderman got an unintended gap and the Dutchman was quick to exploit the situation to get a big gap. Meanwhile, Quintana and Hesjedal had hit the final steep section and here the Canadian soon fell off the pace.

 

While Quintana held on to take a big solo win ahead of Hesjedal and Rolland, the chase group splintered to pieces. Pozzovivo set off in pursuit of Kelderman and a little later Aru also took off. Finally Majka rode away, leaving Uran with just Henao for company.

 

The race leader finally crossed the line in 10th, losing 4.11 to Quintana, and moving down to second overall, 1.41 behind his compatriot Quintana.

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