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Fabio Aru (Astana) soloed to victory in stage 15 of the Giro d’Italia on Sunday.
The Astana man left behind a group of contenders for the overall and rode alone to the finish, in the process moving into fourth on GC.
Race leader Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) was unconcerned; he retained the overall lead and even took time on second-placed Cadel Evans (BMC Racing).
“Aru was too strong,” said Uran. “I decided to let him go. All is well — there is a week to the finish and I have the pink jersey.”
As for Evans, he suffered on the final grind to the finish, finishing 10th on the day and slipping to more than a minute behind Uran.
“Today was not my best day,” Evans said. “I think Uran raced really well. I could have raced a little bit better, but there’s not much I can do about that now. There are still a lot of days to come.”
The 225km race from Valdengo to the ski resort of Montecampione concluded with the long ascent of the Plan di Montecampione.
The obligatory break went early, and included former Giro winner Damiano Cunego, best placed overall in 19th place, 10:32 down on Uran.
The bunch left them out there to enjoy a little TV time, and then set about taking them back before the final grind to the finish. With less than 20km to race the escapees had less than two minutes’ advantage.
Adam Hansen (Lotto-Belisol) was first to jump away from the break, on the lower slopes of the climb.
Behind, blue jersey Julian Arredondo (Trek Factory Racing) did likewise, dogged by Stefano Pirazzi and Edoardo Zardini (Bardiani-CSF).
Andre Cardoso (Garmin-Sharp) rode up to Hansen and the two powered on.
A number of riders auditioned to join them but none could stay for long until mountains leader Arredondo linked up. He and Cardoso soon left Hansen behind, only to be caught and passed by Sky’s Philip Deignan, who built a lead of a couple dozen seconds before the GC group ran him down and the real fun began.
With 5km remaining the favorites for the overall had a go at each other, with Pierre Rolland (Europcar), Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Uran, Evans and Aru all throwing punches.
But Aru’s was the one that stung, and he left the others behind to win the stage by 21 seconds over Fabio Duarte (Colombia). Quintana crossed a second later for third on the day, while Uran followed Rolland in fifth, 42 seconds down.
When the overall was tallied, Uran retained his maglia rosa by 1:03 over Evans, with Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) third at 1:50. Aru replaced Dominico Pozzovivo (Ag2r La Mondiale) in fourth at 2:24, with a resurgent Quintana likewise replacing Wilco Kelderman (Belkin) in fifth at 2:40.
“It is the second day I have lost time, which was not what I was hoping for,” Evans said. “I will try to have a good rest day and make up the difference.
“We have had two weeks of racing and the first riders in the GC are divided only by a few minutes. I don’t think anyone expected a Giro this close.”