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Giro d'Italia

Quintana: ‘I need the best time trial of my life’

Nairo Quintana wishes he had a bigger cushion on time trial ace Tom Dumoulin ahead of the Giro's final stage in Milano.

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ASIAGO, Italy (VN) — Nairo Quintana (Movistar) wanted more time going into the Giro’s dramatic time trial showdown Sunday. He didn’t get it.

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Archrival Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) ceded only 15 seconds Saturday to Quintana and the other climbers in the final mountain stage at the Giro d’Italia, and there was a sense of quiet celebration around the Sunweb bus. Quintana will start with a 53-second head start to Dumoulin in the flat 29.3km time trial from Monza to Milano, but the Colombian knows he’ll need a great day to win his second Giro.

“Tomorrow will have to be the best time trial I’ve done in my life,” Quintana said. “It’s the last day. It’s for the maglia rosa. I will give everything I have.”

Saturday’s two-climb, 190km stage 20 over the fearsome Monte Grappa was the last chance for the climbers to try to shake the stubborn Dumoulin. Yet just a day after giving up the pink jersey to Quintana, the Dutchman was back in fine fettle.

Dumoulin hovered near the attacking climbers, never giving up more than a 10 to 20 seconds as Quintana, Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha), Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r La Mondiale), and Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) attacked ferociously. Dumoulin found friends in Adam Yates (Orica-Scott), Bob Jungels (Quick-Step) and Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo), and only gave up 15 seconds to Quintana as Pinot took an emotional win.

Though Dumoulin dropped from second to fourth, many expect him to end up on the top step Sunday.

“It’s not won yet, but today was very important,” said Sunweb sport director Luke Roberts. “Tom did what he had to do today. Normally, he can take back time. He recovered well, and had a good mental attitude. Tomorrow it’s all in play.”

If there was jubilation in the Sunweb camp, Movistar put up a brave face. Team manager Eusebio Unzue admitted that Quintana needed a lot more time to be able to sleep soundly.

“Today we wanted to have two minutes at least over Dumoulin to go into the time trial with tranquility and more security for the final victory,” Unzué said. “It didn’t happen, and logically, with these differences, it’s difficult that Dumoulin loses the race.”

Movistar played all the right tactical cards during this Giro, but Quintana squared off against what’s been billed as the deepest Giro GC field in decades.

Four riders start Sunday’s final time trial within one minute of each other. Only one will win, and only three will stand on the podium. Quintana is hoping he isn’t the odd man out.

“Maybe it’s not sufficient to win, but maybe it’s just enough,” Quintana said. “We know that that could happen [no podium], but we also know that I could win. It’s been a very equal Giro, and I will give 100 percent.”

And the larger question remains: Is it too much for a rider to try to win the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France in the same season? Quintana demurred when asked if the weight of the double attempt hampered his Giro effort.

“This is what happens when you arrive less than 100 percent, because this year we are trying for two important objectives,” Quintana said. “We did all we could. The team did a great job. We are now first, but it might end up differently.”

If Quintana tumbles off the podium, recriminations will inevitably follow. If he wins, he’s halfway to becoming the first rider since Marco Pantani to win the Giro and Tour in the same season. The stakes couldn’t be higher.