Giro d'Italia
Nairo Quintana rode into the pink jersey Sunday,...

Time for TT men to loosen Quintana’s grip on pink jersey?

Nairo Quintana's rivals licking their chops over Giro d'Italia's stage 10 time trial, likely their best chance to take the pink jersey.

FOLIGNO, Italy (AFP) — Colombia’s Nairo Quintana should not to get too comfortable in the Giro d’Italia’s pink jersey. His rivals are looking to loosen his grip in the race’s first time trial on Tuesday.

Movistar climbing specialist Quintana, the 2014 champion, took the lead in the 100th edition of the race Sunday after attacking in the final kilometers of a 13.6 km climb to the summit of Blockhaus.

The two-time Tour de France runner-up now leads Frenchman Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) and Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) overall by 28 and 31 seconds, respectively, after a drama-filled stage that virtually ended the hopes of Team Sky.

After Monday’s rest day, the battle for the maglia rosa continues with a 39.8km time trial in the Sagrantino wine growing region.

Although undulating most of the way, it may not be hard enough to keep Quintana — who excels on steep climbs — in the race lead. Pinot, Nibali, and Dumoulin are no shirkers in the race against the clock.

“Quintana showed he was the strongest today [Sunday],” said Pinot. The French national time trial champion who is also one of the top climbers in the peloton. “But there’s still a lot of racing to be done and a lot of things that can happen on this Giro.”

“I should take some time back off him [Quintana] in the time trial,” Nibali said after finishing fifth on Sunday’s stage at one minute behind.

But Dumoulin is the real danger-man. He fought back from being dropped on Blockhaus to overtake Italy’s defending champion Nibali and cross the line 24 seconds behind Quintana with Pinot.

The 26-year-old Dutchman is a bona-fide specialist, winning stage 13 at the 2016 Tour de France as well as many other major TTs. Only 30secs behind, he could finish over one minute ahead of Quintana to take the race lead. However, given the prospect of a punishing third week in the high mountains, he would do well to take even more time on Quintana, who is in his element on the climbs.

“I want to keep the jersey for as long as possible,” Quintana said after Sunday’s stage. “We’ve got the team to do it, although there’s still plenty of work to do.”

Beginning in Foligno, the stage 10 time trial features a long, flat and straight section followed by fairly complex climbs and descents. Although not steep, the route is unrelenting as it heads toward the finish in the walled city of Montefalco.

Sky’s Welshman Geraint Thomas may go for broke in stage 10 after Sunday’s disaster. Thomas and team co-leader Mikel Landa were among the riders caught up in a crash caused by a police motorcycle 14km from the summit of Blockhaus. They have dropped to over five minutes and 27 minutes behind Quintana, respectively.

Thomas had to have a dislocated shoulder “popped” back into its socket by the race doctor as he lay injured on the road. He said, “I’ll aim to have a good rest day … give the TT a good bash and then see where we stand.

“It’s obviously going to be super-hard to win the overall now, but there are still stages to go for and we might still be able to move up into the top 10 or better.”