Giro d'Italia: If there was any proof needed that this Giro d'Italia would be a Giro for the climbers, today was it. A mountain time trial, covering a distance of 26,5 km and 1.600 meters in altitude; 1.500 of them in the last 18 km – 8,3% average gradient. It's actually hard to believe that Cadel Evans had any serious ambitions for the overall podium before the stage.
From the beautiful Bassano di Grappa, the ascent led up to the Local mountain, the Cima Grappa located at 1712 meters. The day's winner, Nairo Quintana, covered the 26,85 km in a time of 1:05:37 h, which corresponds to an hourly average speed of 24,5 km/h. Not only was that more than three minutes faster than the first non-mountain specialist, it is also totally frustrating for every average cyclist who would be happy to complete the route in double the time.
Interestingly, all of the top ten aspirants switched from their real time trial machines to their road bikes at the start of the climb – some had had a short Tria attachment fitted to them. Nairo Quintana even changed helmets, both to match the full Giro pink outfit.
The sunny afternoon on this picturesque mountain road, which was lined with tens of thousands of cycling fans, was all about the Italians and the Colombians. Drivers like Evans or Hesjedal didn't manage to break into this phalanx. Only Pierre Rolland, who was fighting for "his" podium, remained within striking distance of the best times of the day.
It was clear to see who the hearts of the spectators belonged to: the Italian Fabio Aru should best win the day and secure his white jersey. The latter was not a problem, at the latest when he caught up with Rafal Majka, who had started three minutes before him. The former was exciting until the last pedal revolution. While the difference in the direct duel at the beginning of the climb was still more than 50 seconds, it shrank second by second and shortly before the finish line showed Aru a lead for the first time. He pulverized Pozzovivo's previous best time by more than two minutes.
But it wasn't quite enough for Aru. Quintana had managed his energies perfectly. In the end he was 17 seconds faster than the great Aru. Of course, he was able to comfortably secure his position in the overall standings with this.
However, it won't be long before 23-year-old Aru will be hailed by the Italian public as the new Marco Pantani. We can't wait to see what a thrilling battle the podium candidates will put up on the Zoncolan tomorrow.