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Giro d'Italia

Quintana right where he wants to be in Giro

A second maglia rosa suddenly looks much more realistic for Nairo Quintana than it did Tuesday morning.

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BORMIO, Italy (VN) — Nairo Quintana (Movistar) is right where he wants to be in the Giro d’Italia, even if it took some bad luck from arch-rival Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb).

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The Movistar captain took back a huge chunk of time on hard-luck Dumoulin, who was forced to have an unplanned call of nature at the decisive moment of Tuesday’s queen stage across the Mortirolo and Stelvio.

Quintana went from facing the prospect of missing out on another grand tour to a superior time trialist, to having real chances of securing the first part of his Giro-Tour de France double.

“We can be satisfied about today, even if it was under rather different circumstances,” Quintana said. “We’re much closer, and that gives us confidence for the days ahead.”

After failing to shake Dumoulin at Oropa on Saturday, and suffering race-changing losses in the Foligno time trial last week, Quintana needed a big coup Tuesday to get back in the game.

Little did they know it would come from Dumoulin’s bad stomach.

No one knows how the Dutchman would have fared up the second of two climbs on the Stelvio. At the end of the day, Quintana is suddenly a lot closer, reducing the gap to Dumoulin from 2:41 to 31 seconds.

“The favorites were more or less equal, which means we were all dead,” Quintana said. “Of course, I would have liked to have taken five minutes [jokes], but the reality is different than what we expected.”

Movistar played its card early. Winner Anacona, Andrey Amador, and Gorka Izagirre rode away with the day’s main breakaway over the Mortirolo. Daniele Bennati took some pulls before abandoning the Giro.

“We wanted to have riders up the road to be able to help Nairo in the opportune moment,” Anacona said. “No one expected to see what happened.”

“What” was Dumoulin rushing to the side of the road. Quintana insisted that he ordered his Movistar teammates not to push the pace, in part to pay back Dumoulin the favor he did Quintana when the Colombian crashed late in Sunday’s stage.

When stage-winner Vincenzo Nibali finally accelerated with about 5km to go, Quintana shadowed him as long as he could, and didn’t take risks on the long, technical descent to Bormio. With the race dynamics unfolding in an unexpected way, Quintana was doing what he needed to do, saving his legs for a potential knock-out punch on more favorable terrain waiting in the Dolomites.

With Dumoulin’s unexpected retreat, the dynamics changed dramatically in this Giro. Quintana has to look ahead and behind as he tries to eke out another pink jersey.

Nibali is also suddenly back in the GC frame, less than one minute behind Quintana at 1:12 back. Nibali always comes on strong in the final week of any Giro. He could become the most dangerous rival if Dumoulin falters again.

With the final-day time trial in Milan, Quintana cannot cede more time to either Dumoulin or Nibali. He needs to take more on each to have real chances for pink.

“We have to keep fighting against Dumoulin, but we must also keep an eye on Nibali,” Quintana said. “He’s closer now, and he’s racing at home. He is stepping up his game, and we must remain vigilant.”

Many expect a relatively quiet stage Wednesday in one that’s better suited for a breakaway before the fireworks fly again Thursday.

Quintana is back right where he wanted to be. A second maglia rosa suddenly looks much more realistic than it did Tuesday morning.