FOLIGNO, Italy (VN) — Most inside the peloton expect Nairo Quintana to lose the pink jersey in Tuesday’s 39.8, undulating individual time trial. The question is: By how much?
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Even Movistar sport director José Luis Arrieta admits that Quintana will likely not be in pink tomorrow evening.
“The ‘real’ pink jersey right now is Dumoulin,” Arrieta said, referring to Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb). “How much will Nairo lose? It’s hard to say. It’s not a flat course, so Nairo should do pretty good. But with the time differences as they are, we expect Dumoulin to be in pink.”
Sunday’s unfortunate crash involving a police motorcycle knocked Geraint Thomas (Sky) and Adam Yates (Orica-Scott) largely out of contention. This dramatically alters the dynamic of the 2017 Giro. Two key players are out of the GC frame. Quintana’s exploits on Blockhaus knocked the wind of out of a half-dozen hopefuls, including Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing), now nearly four minutes back.
Only four riders remain realistically within striking distance, and Tuesday’s time trial will prove decisive.
Everyone agrees that Quintana is the man to beat. But stage 10 — plus the TT finale in Milan — means that the Colombian climber needs to take time out of the specialists. With Thomas likely out of the picture, only Dumoulin, third at 30 seconds back, and Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), second at 28 seconds back, will nip at Quintana’s heels following the time trial.
“After the time trial, we’ll have a very good idea of who can win the Giro,” said Orica-Scott sport director Matt White. “It’s a very hard last week, but you cannot be giving away minutes in the time trial. The non-specialists could lose a couple of minutes. It’s nearly 40km, and 15km flat, so it suits those time trial specialists. So you don’t want to lose more than three minutes … If you want to win the [Giro].”
Even if Thomas and Yates hope to regain some ground, despite being around five minutes back, all eyes are on Pinot and Dumoulin. Plus, Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) is lurking 1:10 behind.
“I was disappointed that I could not maintain the pace [Sunday], but the Giro is still ahead of us,” Nibali said. “The time trial is important, but the last week is so hard, that’s where the Giro will be won or lost.”
Dumoulin and Pinot both impressed Sunday. Although they couldn’t stay with Quintana’s string of attacks, they limited the damage, working in tandem along with Trek-Segafredo’s Bauke Mollema, now fourth at 51 seconds back. And with the time trial in their pocket, both Dumoulin and Pinot believe they can recover lost ground against Quintana.
There is some climbing in the undulating course around the picturesque vineyards of Umbria. However, it is flat enough to favor the power riders like Dumoulin. This year, the big Dutchman is focusing on preparing for a grand tour GC for the first time in his career. He is expected to make big gains.
“I know I should give up time tomorrow. We are facing a specialist like Dumoulin, and even Pinot, who is also very strong against the clock,” Quintana said. “I am sure they will make a better time trial than me, even though I hope I don’t lose too much time. I’d like to keep the pink jersey, but we know it will be difficult. I don’t dare say with how many minutes or seconds of losses I’d be happy with. We’ll have to see how tomorrow shakes out.”
Whoever takes pink could hold it for several days. Wednesday’s potentially explosive stage will likely see stage-hunters take the initiative. Then there are two sprint-friendly stages before a pair of challenging stages next weekend along the edge of the Italian Alps.
The Giro’s final week still seems very far away, but it’s been on everyone’s minds for weeks and even months. This Giro is far from over. If Quintana loses significant time Tuesday, the final week will count double.