Arredondo scoops mountain stage win, Quintana solid in Giro lead
Underlining and fortifying his grip on the Maglia Azzurra as mountains leader, Julian Arredondo raced to his first Grand Tour stage victory on stage eighteen of the Giro d’Italia, leading in a Colombia one-two at Rif. Panarotta.
The Trek Factory Racing rider attacked on the final climb and soloed in seventeen seconds clear of hard-chasing compatriot Fabio Duarte (Colombia), with Irish Team Sky rider Philip Deignan a further twenty seconds back in third.
A third Colombia, race leader Nairo Quintana, calmly controlled each of the serious attacks on his Maglia Rosa, although he did allow Astana’s Fabio Aru to take three seconds inside the final kilometre.
The display showed that Quintana has no intention of giving in to pressure after the controversial sixteenth stage, where he broke clear on the descent of the Stelvio, took the stage win and Maglia Rosa and then shrugged off criticism of making his move on what had been essentially a neutralised section of the route.
Three stages remain before the finish of the race in Trieste on Sunday and he is showing no signs of weakening en route to what would be his first Grand Tour victory.
His performances have elated the passionate Colombian supporters, as have those of Arredondo. The latter revealed that he was close to leaving the race on Tuesday, but showed the value today of sticking it out.
“I have had difficult times during this Giro. I have even thought of abandoning. Two days ago, on the Stelvio, I thought I’d finish last,” he said. “Josu put me in the car, warmed me up, and gave me the courage to restart.”
“My main goal was a stage win in the Giro d’Italia. I tried in breakaways in the first week: in one of them, I was caught two kilometres from the finish. Today, I had the Maglia Azzurra so I joined the breakaway. I went over the first two categorised climbs in first place, and I didn’t imagine for a moment that today could be my day.
“My coach, Josu Larrazabal, believed in me. At the foot of the final climb, I wanted to attack, but my Josu said, ‘take it easy, not yet.’ Then, much higher up, he said, ‘Julián, now!’ So I won the stage because of his advice. He gave me the calm and the patience, and the day ended perfectly for me. I dedicate this stage win to him.”
While the gap between Quintana and former race leader Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma Quick Step) remains the same, there was a significant change to the third step on the virtual podium. Cadel Evans had been holding that place but the BMC Racing Team rider cracked badly on the final climb and slipped back with five kilometres to go.
He rolled in four minutes 24 seconds behind Arrendondo and one minute 38 seconds after Quintana. The time loss has had a big effect on his position in the overall standings, dropping him from third to ninth overall, four minutes 59 seconds off the pink jersey he had hoped to wear into Trieste.
He insists his battle for the podium is not over, and remains just one minute thirty off third place. However it’s clear that his chances of taking pink have evaporated.
The 171 kilometre stage began in Belluno and featured three categorised peaks. The first of those, the first category Passo san Pellegrino, came 54.5 kilometres after the start and ensured much of the opening section of the race was uphill.
A number of riders were keen to get into a breakaway move and the slopes helped a select group push clear towards the summit. Eventual stage winner Arredondo was there, as were Androni Giocattoli duo Franco Pellizotti and Emanuele Sella, Sky’s Dario Cataldo and Edoardo Zardini of the Bardiani-CSF team.
Cataldo’s team-mate Philip Deignan got across soon afterwards, as did 2012 race podium finisher Thomas de Gendt (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), Tim Wellens (Lotto-Belisol), Tinkoff Saxo’s Ivan Rovny, Fabio Duarte (Colombia) and Martijn Keizer (Belkin).
Past race winner Ivan Basso (Cannondale), Alberto Losada (Katusha) and Matteo Rabottini (Neri Sottoli) also bridged, making it fourteen out front. These worked well together and eked out a lead of more than eight minutes by the top of the next climb, the Passo del Redebus. Arredondo had been first to the top of the Passo san Pellegrino and clocked up more points on this second summit.
The break raced onwards to the final climb where de Gendt made an early move and opened a gap. Cataldo made a bid to get across but was joined by Arredondo and Deignan, with Duarte and Pellizotti also bridging.
A number of attacks followed and then finally Arredondo got clear and joined De Gendt. He kicked hard and got a gap, but first Duarte and then Deignan were able to rejoin him. This caused a stall, enabling the reduced peloton to close to within four minutes and giving de Gendt the chance to try again.
Pellizotti saw a chance and got across, then went ahead. However Arredondo was feeling good and got up to the Italian before striking out alone inside four kilometres to go. Duarte chased hard with Deignan also solo a few seconds back, but neither were able to get back up to the Trek rider.
Behind, Pierre Rolland (Europcar) was throwing down multiple attacks on Quintana. Evans was in difficulty and dropped back, then Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin Sharp) and Robert Kiserlovski (Trek Factory Racing) were also distanced from the ever-thinning group.
Rolland plugged on but the group behind inched closer and closer and reeled him in. Out front, Arrendondo raced in to take victory, crossing the line 17 seconds ahead of Duarte. Deignan held on for third, 37 seconds back.
Fabio Aru (Astana) was feeling good and attacked twice in the finale. He broke the elastic the second time, zooming away inside the final kilometre and crossing the line two minutes and 43 seconds behind Arrendondo. Quintana initially didn’t respond but then accelerated inside the final 200 metres to finish three seconds behind the Italian, Uran on his wheel.
The duo are one minute 41 seconds apart heading into Friday’s mountain time trial but despite what seems a solid lead, Quintana is not taking anything for granted. “Until the finish line in Trieste, nothing is certain,” he insisted. “What I know is that my physical sensations are better every day.
“I like the route. There is a big altitude gain, and I think it suits me. I hope to ride well. I’m healthy now, and the main thing is to lose no time and keep the Maglia Rosa.
“Of Urán and myself, I don’t know who will do better [in the time trial] because there’s some flat too. Uran could ride at a high level tomorrow, and there are other riders who can do well, including Pozzovivio, Rigoberto, and Pierre Rolland, who looks strong.”
Friday’s time trial covers 26.8 kilometres from Bassano del Grappa to the top of Cima Grappa. The first 7.5 kilometres are mainly flat but from there the road kicks skywards and the kilometres will bite hard.
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