Stage 17: Sarnonico to Vittorio Veneto, 208km
Coming immediately after yesterday’s brutal queen stage, today was always going to be a day of recuperation for the overall contenders and the sprinters who’ve stuck it out over the climbs. Sure enough, winner Stefano Pirazzi escaped from a massive breakaway to take glory, with the peloton rolling in over 15 minutes down.
The one they all wanted
If you were to draw up the most perfect breakaway stage in the world, it would look something like this one.
Sandwiched between some colossal mountain action in the third week of a grand tour, it was clearly one that many of the brave escape specialists had highlighted as soon as the parcours was revealed. It was the stage that could offer them their fleeting moment of glory.
Sure enough, 26 riders eventually escaped, with strong climbing specialists such as Thomas De Gendt (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Igor Anton (Movistar), and Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Merida) escaping alongside eventual winner Stefano Pirazzi (Bardiani-CSF). It was the one they all wanted, and with no GC threat in the escape, the peloton was prepared to let them fight it out among themselves.
De Gendt fades, Pirazzi fires
The first meaningful move to try to shed the other escapees was made by De Gendt, a man who sprung to prominence in this race a couple of years ago, with a stunning solo victory atop the Stelvio. He’s disappointed ever since finishing third in 2012, and currently over two hours down in this one, has never managed to recover that astonishing form.
Still, he looked strong when he opened up a gap over a hesitant breakaway, though unfortunately not quite strong enough. On the final categorised climb, the Ca’ del Poggio, Pirazzi bridged the gap, with Tim Wellens (Lotto-Belisol), Jay McCarthy (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Matteo Montaguti (Ag2r La Mondiale) following suit. With the chase disorganised, the final battle came down to those five riders.
Pirazzi made the decisive move with just over a kilometre remaining, timing his move just right. Wellens took second and McCarthy third, with the chase group following in just under 30 seconds down and the peloton over 15 minutes later.
VeloVoices rider of the day
It wasn’t the most spectacular day ever, meaning the only real standout performer was the day’s winner, Stefano Pirazzi (Bardiani-CSF). He’s a rider who epitomises the plucky Italian team, with his tireless enthusiasm, punchy climbing and attack after attack after attack. With this the 27-year-old’s first ever grand tour stage victory in his fifth Giro d’Italia, it’s great to see him finally rewarded. After earlier wins for Marco Canola and Enrico Battaglin, this is turning out to be quite the Giro for Bardiani.
Stage 17 result
1. Stefano Pirazzi (Bardiani-CSF) 4:38:11
2. Tim Wellens (Lotto-Belisol) same time
3. Jay McCarthy (Tinkoff-Saxo) s/t
4. Thomas de Gendt (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) s/t
5. Matteo Montaguti (Ag2r La Mondiale) s/t
1. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) 73:05:31
2. Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) +1:41
3. Cadel Evans (BMC) +3:21
4. Pierre Rolland (Europcar) +3:26
5. Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) +3:28
6. Fabio Aru (Astana) +3:34
7. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r La Mondiale) +3:49
8. Wilco Kelderman (Belkin) +4:06
9. Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) +4:16
10. Robert Kiserlovski (Trek) +8:02
Points leader: Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ).
Mountains classification: Julian Arredondo (Trek).
Best young rider: Nairo Quintana (Movistar).
Team classification: Ag2r La Mondiale.