Tom Dumoulin limits losses as Thibaut Pinot takes last mountain stage
Dutchman Tom Dumoulin limited his losses in the penultimate stage won by France's Thibaut Pinot on Saturday to stay in a good position to win the Giro d'Italia in the final time trial.
Nairo Quintana (Movistar) retained the overall lead but, with the first four riders within 53 seconds of the Colombian, the three-week race is set for a dramatic finale with a 29.3-km solo effort favouring Dumoulin.
Dumoulin (Sunweb) finished the 190-km stage between Pordenone and Asiago 15 seconds behind Pinot (FDJ), who beat Russian Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha) and defending champion Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) for the stage 20 victory that also gave him a 10-second time bonus.
Italian Domenico Pozzovivo (AG2R-La Mondiale) took fourth place ahead of Quintana in the same time as Pinot with Dumoulin losing time after failing to follow the pure climbers in the last ascent.
HOW THE STAGE WAS WON
Having admitted to a ‘rookie’ mistake on Friday’s Stage 19 when he was distanced when caught dozing at the back of the peloton on the early, long descent, Dumoulin ensured he remained in touch with all of the GC contenders on the ascent of Monte Grappa.
Movistar set the pace at the front of the peloton at the base of the gruelling 24km ascent before Katusha–Alpecin took up the slack. Quintana reacted when Zakarin attacked as they approached the summit but the pace slowed and Dumoulin, assisted by Adam Yates and Bob Jungels, bridged the gap.
It was the day’s second climb to Forza where the definitive action unfolded, with Nibali first to attack. Again, Quintana reacted but Nibali was soon gesticulating at the Colombian, with ‘the Shark’ unhappy with the Movistar rider’s unwillingness to bear some load on the front.
Zakarin, whose Katusha team had set the pace for much of the day, saw his opportunity and attacked, with Pozzovivo following. The pair managed to open a 19-second gap over the leaders group but Quintana responded and was followed by Nibali and Pinot as the gradient hit 11% and managed to close the gap to the lead pair, while also distancing Dumoulin, who was 30 seconds down.
A 15km rolling plateau to Asiago followed with the leading pack of five sharing the load as they tried to distance time-trial king Dumoulin. However, the Dutchman was aided and abetted by white jersey aspirants Jungels and Yates as he managed to limit his losses to 15 seconds.
Quintana, who led Dumoulin by 38 seconds coming into the penultimate stage, led the lead pack past the flamme rouge, but it was Pinot who took the honours from Pozzovivo and Nibali, with the Colombian missed out on the bonus seconds available.
The 2014 Giro winner now leads the GC by 39 seconds from defending champion Nibali, with Pinot a further four seconds back. Dumoulin, who crushed his rivals on the Stage 10 time trial, has a deficit of 53 seconds to make up as the 100th Giro enters its final day.
Thibaut Pinot announced himself as a rider of serious promise, when, at just 22, he won Stage 8 of the 2012 Tour de France. He finished 10th in the overall classification despite being the youngster rider in that year’s Tour. He made the podium at the 2014 Tour but a combination of illness and bad luck has seen him stagnate since.
However, his ride on Saturday has given him a chance of finishing in pink. Dumoulin remains the favourite but it is Pinot who looks the fresher rider and he has time trailing prowess. A heroic ride.
WHAT THEY SAID
“Finally, the climbs are done,” said Tom Dumoulin.
“I was very happy I had better legs. I had a good day and I am forever grateful for the help of in the final few kilometres from Mollema, Jugels and Yates.
"The time gaps will not be as big in the last TT but I will just have to fight for every last second.”
The time gaps are minimal and tomorrow is a flat time trial that is tailor-made for Dumoulin," said Pinot.
STAGE IN A TWEET
The final stage is a predominantly downhill time trail from Monza to Milan.