Stage 15: Valdengo to Montecampione, 225km
Fabio Aru attacked out of the chasing pack of leading contenders 3km from the line to take a solo victory, his first at a grand tour, and put himself firmly in contention for not just the white jersey, but the pink one as well.
The real race of truth?
Time trials are often referred to as ‘the race of truth’. But if Thursday’s individual time trial gave us the first indications of relative form between the GC contenders, this weekend’s stages have demonstrated who is flying and who is wading through treacle when it comes to the big climbs that will decide the outcome of this Giro. No amount of bluffing or brave words can disguise the truth.
Today we had Mr Grand Tour himself, Adam Hansen (Lotto-Belisol), acting as the rabbit to the peloton’s greyhounds. He pulled away from the rest of the day’s breakaway at the base of the final climb, with the GC teams in hot pursuit.
BMC were the first to take control, shelling riders out of the back. But did this signify a resurgence by Cadel Evans? No. He was destined to finish tenth, 1:13 down on Aru and unable to respond to his attack.
Current mountains leader Julian Arredondo (Trek) was the first to break ranks from the bunch, bridging up to the leaders. Could he take victory to consolidate his lead in the classification? No. The elite group clawed him back in and he would ease off, finishing 11 minutes down and conserving himself to fight another day.
Omega Pharma-Quick Step and Ag2r La Mondiale also showed prominently in support of race leader Rigoberto Uran and Domenico Pozzovivo, who had promised to attack. But Uran had no response to Aru’s winning acceleration, gritting his teeth and powering on gamely, but gradually falling away to finish alone in fifth, 42 seconds adrift. Pozzovivo never looked able to cash in his promise, finishing anonymously in the Evans group.
So what are we to make of today’s evidence? Aru, who started the race earmarked to support Michele Scarponi, appears to be the real deal. This is only his second grand tour, and yet if not for the 2:55 he lost in this week’s ITT he would have swapped Astana turquoise for pink this afternoon.
Uran has struggled for ultimate performance on both this weekend’s summit finishes, and yet ended today having almost doubled his advantage over second-placed Evans, who remains as gutsy as ever but appears to have aged before our eyes this week.
Youngsters Wilco Kelderman (Belkin) and Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) remain very much in contention, but neither has yet proven that they can take the race by the scruff of the neck.
What of pre-race favourite Nairo Quintana? After the time trial he was 3:29 down, with his aspirations for victory apparently hanging by a thread and on a course of antibiotics which would have inhibited his top-end ability.
But after the last two stages, his deficit is down to 2:40, he has momentum on his side and the knowledge that he can put Uran (and everyone else, for that matter) in trouble. Even then, to my eye he looks short of the form we know he is capable of – his attacks are short and infrequent – which is an expected side-effect of being on medication as aggressive as antibiotics. How much will he improve in the final week? The answer to that question could well determine the outcome of the race.
VeloVoices rider of the day
It’s a pleasure to watch a young and relatively unknown rider blossom before our eyes. Fabio Aru‘s victory at Plan di Montecampione put him in illustrious company – previous winners Marco Pantani and Bernard Hinault went on to win the overall. Could the 23-year-old Italian follow in their wheel tracks and those of Vincenzo Nibali and make it back-to-back wins for Astana?
Stage 15 result
1. Fabio Aru (Astana) 5:33:06
2. Fabio Duarte (Colombia) +0:21
3. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) +0:22
4. Pierre Rolland (Europcar) same time
5. Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) +0:42
1. Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) 63:26:39
2. Cadel Evans (BMC) +1:03
3. Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) +1:50
4. Fabio Aru (Astana) +2:24
5. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) +2:40
6. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r La Mondiale) +2:42
7. Wilco Kelderman (Belkin) +3:04
8. Pierre Rolland (Europcar) +4:47
9. Robert Kiserlovski (Trek) +5:44
10. Wout Poels (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) +6:32
Points leader: Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ).
Mountains classification: Julian Arredondo (Trek).
Best young rider: Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo).
Team classification: Omega Pharma-QuickStep.