The sun even shone as the early starters rolled down that ramp . . .
Italy’s Sonny Colbrelli took the early lead in the ‘best of the rest’ category from – another of those pesky Italian Bardiani boys, Nicola Boem. But we all know that they’re just warming the tar for the ‘Bigs.’
There’s little chance of Quintana conceding any time today and Uran is probably safe too – but the third spot on the podium? It’s wide open – for me Aru is favourite but Rolland, Hesjedal, Pozzovivo, Majka and Kelderman would all argue that point with me.
The percorso today is very straightforward, start at the bottom of the hill and finish at the top.
Starting in Bassano del Grappa at 123 metres above sea level there are seven or so kilometres which drag gently – then it gets down to business, rearing to 1712 metres at 26.8 kilometres atop the Cima Grappa via hairpins and ramps with an average grade of 8% and a maximum of 14% – ouch!
Like Martha and the Vandellas might say; ‘Nowhere to run to, baby. Nowhere to hide . . .
Meanwhile, stage winner Pirazzi knocks Colbrelli off top spot – but the hot seat still belongs to Bardiani as the top ten roll off the ramp at three minute intervals, far below.
Robert Kiserlovski (Trek & Croatia); Cadel Evans (BMC & Australia) on a TT bike roars off like it’s a prologue – he’ll change bikes; Wilco Kelderman (Belkin and The Netherlands) on a road bike; Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin & Canada) on a road bike with clip-ons; Domenico Pozzovivo (AG2R & Italy) on what passes for his TT bike – will he change?
And now it’s Rafal Majka (Tinkoff & Poland) on a TT bike, as Evans changes bikes on the climb – it’s not everyone who’ll want to do that; as well as the time lost there’s the loss of rhythm. A man from the flatlands takes the lead at the top; lanky Tim Wellens (Lotto & Belgium) – a nice ride for the aggressive escape artist.
Majka looks good early on his TT bike as it’s Fabio Aru’s turn to face the time keeper; he has the white skinsuit of best young rider on his back and will be out to ride onto the podium, today. Pierre Rolland (Europcar & France) is on a road bike with clip-ons as Aru flies along the flat early roads.
Rigoberto Uran is second to last, rolling that Shiv down the ramp and quickly into his rhythm – his gear ratios aren’t for the faint hearted. Nairo Quintana is just TOO pink for me; complete with team sprinter’s aero helmet and tooooo long Lycra over shoes – he’s on a TT bike so will be changing machines.
Pozzovivo has already changed to a road bike; so does Majka – the Tinkoff mechanic’s push is a cracker, nice job, sir! For a small man and climber, Quintana has a good TT position and those Canyon’s are among the most slippery of the current TT irons.
King of the Mountains Julian Arredondo (Trek & Colombia) cruises in but way down at a 20 kph average – he’s not honouring that blue jersey with that ride.
Uran is second at the first, flat, time check on a 44 kph average – he’s stroking that big one nicely. Let’s hope he finds the rhythm of the climb on his road bike quickly, after the change.
Aru has changed bikes, he’s neat and tidy – but what will the watch say? Uran is riding the TT bike deep into the climb as Franco Pellizotti (Androni & Italy) goes top at the second check.
Uran changes, he’s impatient and waves at his mechanic – but he’s away quickly and is soon looking good on the clip-ons. Quintana is on the climb; he changes bikes – and helmets to one with lots of vents; aero isn’t nearly as important, now.
Pozzovivo isn’t the bonniest of climbers but he’s effective, stabbing away at the pedals with a solid bandy-legged rhythm. No clip-ons for Quintana, he’s on the lever hoods – pink, naturally.
Uran goes onto the hoods, too – neat and solid but Quintana is eating up the tar behind him. There’s little doubt about who’s going to win, today.
Evans goes third at the second check. Pozzovivo pumps; Majka is on the clip-ons and neat; Rolland looks ‘on it’ as further up the climb Evans looks to be riding strongly, stamping hard on those pedals.
Kelderman hits the second check; it’s not happening for the big Dutchman – way off the pace. Youngest man in the race, 20 year-old Sebastian Henao (Sky & Colombia) goes top, up in the clouds – that long sleeve, low cut, track ‘speedsuit’ wasn’t a waste of time, then.
Hesjedal fans suffered along with him, first as he lost time to a bike change, then being passed moments before this photo was snapped by Pozzovivo, whose team car looms in the background.
Aru is looking very neat, lower geared, high cadenced; as ‘Pozzo’ usurps Pellizotti as fastest at the second check. Hesjedal is off the bike – puncture? gear hassles? it’s hard to say but he has to change bikes, whatever it is. Bad News Bears for the big Canadian.
Majka is third at the second check as Aru blasts into the same spot; 52 seconds up on ‘Pozzo’ – that’s serious.
Pellizotti deposes Henao – manager Gianni Savio will be pleased with that one. Evans is nothing if not a battler – punishing that BMC upwards as we pan back to the man in pink (shorter overshoes for him next time please, Movistar).
Rolland goes through check two looking strong but well down on Aru. Majka is still on the clip ons and getting the gear round nicely – but not as nicely as Aru, who’s flying up this ascent.
Uran goes second top to Aru at the second check; he’s up and down the gears – not a good sign. Aru is down on Quintana but the Sardinian looks smoother and is chipping back his deficit – and Quintana looks just a little less fluid as he hits check number two. He’s fastest.
Evans is inside the red kite and maybe some of the fight has faded – whilst Aru looks to be picking up the tempo as the hill goes on; out of the saddle, dancing sweetly and flying. Evans has tied up over the last third of the race, fifth @ 1:04 on Pellizotti – not good. Quintana leads Aru by – three seconds! – wow!
Another stage for Astana and onto the podium perhaps – vai! Fabio, vai! scream the fans.
‘Pozzo’ catches Hesjedal – ‘Bad Day at Black Rock’ for the big Canadian as Aru inflicts the same ignominy upon Majka. The argument about third spot on GC is being well and truly settled by the Sardinian, today.
Quintana isn’t exactly parking up but he’s not riding like he was 15 minutes ago as Aru can taste it and digs even deeper – he dances, he sprints, he grimaces . .
‘Pozzo’ goes top in 1:08:01 as a dripping Hesjedal loses 3:15 – ouch! Aru is up, up, up on Quintana as the man in pink suddenly looks human; that gear is putting up much more resistance, now.
The finish beckons for Aru – this is a ride Godzilla would be proud of – as he rips 2:07 out of ‘Pozzo.’ A fabulous performance.
Rolland jabs at the pedals, he almost stalls, he’s not riding like the man he was earlier in the afternoon – but the watch is kind to him, second @ 1:40 to Aru. Not a bad ride at all, respect.
And Quintana’s a little quicker now, fighting the bike hard, the face has changed – he wants this one. He wants to make that ‘stolen’ time from a few days ago become academic.
Uran comes home second @ 1:09 to Aru with another strong ride – but Quintana is a pink tornado as he puts 17 seconds into Aru to win the stage. Quintana reminds us all of who’s ‘The Daddy,’ Aru is confirmed – and Uran? He’ll be looking over his shoulder tomorrow at Aru on the Zoncolan.
Stage 19 Results:
1 Nairo Quintana 1:05:37
2 Fabio Aru 0:00:17
3 Rigoberto Uran 0:01:26
4 Pierre Rolland 0:01:57
5 Domenico Pozzovivo 0:02:24
6 Franco Pellizzotti 0:03:22
7 Rafal Majka 0:03:28
8 Sebastian Henao 0:03:48
9 Tim Wellens 0:04:00
10 Dario Cataldo 0:04:10
General Classification After Stage 19
1 Nairo Alexander Quintana Rojas (Col) Movistar Team 79:03:45
2 Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step Cycling Team 0:03:07
3 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:03:48
4 Pierre Rolland (Fra) Team Europcar 0:05:26
5 Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale 0:06:16
6 Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff-Saxo 0:06:59
7 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:09:25
8 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team 0:09:29
9 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin Sharp 0:10:11
10 Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) Trek Factory Racing 0:13:59