Two-time champion Vincenzo Nibali (main pix) joined fellow rivals in wishing another “bad legs” day on Giro d’Italia hopeful Tom Dumoulin when Sunday’s time-trial brings a dramatic end to the 100th edition.
A day after losing the pink jersey to Colombia’s 2014 champion Nairo Quintana due to “bad legs” on an epic day of climbing through the Dolomites, Sunweb team leader Dumoulin was in far better form on Saturday.
Repelling a series of attacks by Nibali (Bahrain), race leader Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Frenchman Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) during a tense finale to the 20th stage, Dumoulin came over the finish of the 190 km ride from Pordenone to Asiago only 15secs in arrears his victory rivals.
Quintana, the 2014 champion, now leads 2013 and 2016 winner Nibali by 39secs, with Giro debutant Pinot third overall at 43 and Dumoulin fourth at 53.
Given his crushing time trial victory on stage 10, Dumoulin remains firmly in contention to become the first Dutch winner of the three-week race.
But Nibali is hoping their collaborative efforts at dropping Dumoulin take their toll.
“For sure, Dumoulin also had to work hard today,” said Nibali. “It wasn’t easy by a long shot. On the climb over (the Monte) Grappa we really gave it everything, trying to tire Dumoulin out.
“Then on the Foza (climb) I immediately turned the screw, although I was afraid for how well Quintana was going.”
Nibali’s collaboration with Quintana and Pinot in the final kilometres of the Foza climb, and the 15 km rolling stretch to Asiago, ultimately handed the Frenchman his maiden Giro stage win.
But it kept Dumoulin on his toes, and Quintana — on paper a far weaker time triallist than the Olympic silver medallist from Rio — isn’t ready to capitulate.
“It might not be enough, but it might just be,” said the diminutive climber when asked about his cushion over Dumoulin.
“We all finished the stage very tired. Now, we have to wait till tomorrow to see how the legs are.
“All I can do is give it my best. My head tells me we (Movistar) can still win, but we can also lose.”
After claiming a well-deserved maiden Giro win, Pinot conceded: “For me, Tom Dumoulin is still the favourite to win (the race) tomorrow.”
But he, too, is hoping for some last-day drama.
Recalling Quintana’s time trial performance at the Route du Sud race …, he said: “Quintana is not too shabby in the time trial, I remember him beating Chavanel at the Route du Sud.
“Dumoulin is just 10secs behind him, I hope to be on the podium and, for the overall win, we’ll have to wait and see.
“At this point, no one can say who will win the Giro tomorrow. It’s going to be a real thriller.” – Agence France-Presse