Half-decent time trial from Fabio Aru the most meaningful ride of the day

The threat of a time trial is a lot more interesting than the time trial itself. Beforehand, you can try and gauge riders’ fitness and fatigue while simultaneously weighing their size and power. You can then apply these vague assumptions to the route, looking at how long it is, how technical, how undulating, before finally evaluating the weather. Will wind or rain affect things?

Afterwards, all you’ve got is the time gaps; how it all panned out.

So how did it all pan out?

In simple terms, Tom Dumoulin did enough to win the stage and gain the red jersey; Fabio Aru probably did enough to win the overall; while Joaquim Rodriguez had his usual time-haemorrhaging time trial nightmare.

Let’s start with Dumoulin. 1m51s down on leader Rodriguez at the start of the day, he quite simply smashed everyone to teeny-tiny pieces. Or at least he would have done if all of his rivals weren’t teeny-tiny already. On the day he beat second-placed Maciej Bodnar by 1m04s and third-placed Alejandro Valverde by 1m08s. They’re pretty big gaps, but he beat Rodriguez by 3m06s, which is a massive one.

This would have been all great and amazing, except that Aru put in what may well prove to be a Vuelta-winning ride. He only finished 10th, 1m53s down on Dumoulin, but because of his earlier advantage, this leaves him just three seconds adrift of the Dutchman. Crucially, there are mountains to come. As fantastically as Dumoulin has been riding, you’d bet on Aru finding three seconds somewhere or other.

Nairo Quintana came sixth, incidentally. Remember that the next time someone’s going on about him being a ‘pure climber’ – he’s nowhere near as one-dimensional as some people seem to think.