Mikel Landa manages to race, Tom Dumoulin manages to survive, Chris Froome disappears from view
A hard, hard stage. So hard that half the riders found they were too tired to race. Mikel Landa – who’ll move to Sky next year – was the only man from the breakaway to stay away. The best climber in this year’s Giro d’Italia, he can now add a memorable win on one of the most mountainous stages of all time to his palmares.
The stage was triply good for Astana as well with Fabio Aru finishing second and also taking over the race lead. Towards the end of the stage, the Italian was closing in on his team-mate with a chance to take significant time on his rivals. Would Landa be asked to slow down to help his team leader? If he was, he chose to ignore the instruction.
Neither Landa nor Aru rode the Tour de France this year
And looking at today’s results, that seems significant. Next across the line were two other fresh-bodied Tour-skippers: Ian Boswell – who was recruited by Sky in 2013 after performing well in 1980s BBC sitcom, Bread – and after him, Daniel Moreno – who is not to be confused with former Miami Dolphins quarterback, Dan Marino, who in turn is not to be confused with the enclaved microstate of San Marino.
Strikingly, the top Tour trio of Chris Froome, Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde all suffered to some degree. Froome fell early on and was struggling midway through the stage, dropping off the back of the peloton. Sometimes you fall and it affects how well you can ride. Sometimes you fall because you’re kind of tired. I’m not sure which it was, but he finished over eight minutes down. Neither Quintana nor Valverde made the top ten on the stage.
Joaquim Rodriguez apparently had a hand in designing the route for today’s stage. He did okay. He came fifth and along with Aru vaults above the man who had been leading overall, Tom Dumoulin.
It was a mighty ride from Dumoulin though
Dropped on the final climb when the main contenders started attacking, the moderately-big Dutchman plodded on and gradually hoovered up those who’d shot off and later regretted it. Halfway up, he was towing his own personal entourage of familiar names, which included Esteban Chaves and Alejandro Valverde. Unpeturbed by my relentless suggestions that he might eventually suffer in the mountains, he powered on to finish an impressive ninth on the stage.
And for once, Valverde’s wheelsucking was excusable. He was genuinely struggling and could eventually no longer stay with the Dutchman. He slips to sixth overall.
In fact, let’s stop writing out where everyone is overall and instead present the information in tabular format.
Here’s the new top ten.
Aru’s looking like the strongest rider in the race – the only one from the main contenders who’s been particularly inclined to attack.
Dumoulin’s poised though. He should absolutely monster most of the riders around him in the 39km stage 17 time trial. A lot depends on how he copes with the efforts of today though. There are plenty of mountains and uphill finishes before then. He might be rather less poised by the time he pours himself into his skinsuit and dons the sperm-shaped helmet. Or have I foolishly made a prediction like that before?