Giovanni Visconti of Movistar, who took his first ever Giro d'Italia stage win on the Col du Galibier on Sunday, has wasted no time in getting his second, attacking over the top of today's only climb, crested 16km out, to win Stage 17 in Vincenza. With Benat Intxausti winning in Ivrea yesterday, it's the third stage victory in a row for the Spanish team.
With tomorrow marking the second anniversary of the death of Movistar's Xavi Tondo in an accident while he prepared for a training ride, the team seems determined to commemorate him in the best way possible - by winning races, and what's more today's win comes in one of the heartlands of Italian cycling which happens to be home to sponsors Pinarello and Campagnolo, the latter celebrating its 80th birthday.
There was a slight scare for three-time Italian champion Visconti towards the end of the stage, when he overcooked a left-hand bend around a kilometre and a half out, but he somehow managed to stay upright.
Ramunas Navardauskas of Garmin-Sharp led the chasing group of around 35 riders home ahead of Luka Mezgeg of Argos Shimano 19 seconds behind Visconti, the Lithuanian, unaware that the stage had already been won, raising his arms and punching the air in celebration. Vincenzo Nibali of Astana retains the maglia rosa.
Omega Pharma-Quick Step, working for points classification leader Mark Cavendish, had controlled the front of the peloton for much of the day to keep ithe break in check, comprising Katusha’s Maxim Belkov, Luke Durbridge of Orica-GreenEdge, Lotto-Belisol’s Gert Dockx and Androni Giocattoli-Venezuala’s Miguel Rubiano, the quartet getting away some 6km into the stage.
Cavendish may have harboured hopes of getting over the top of that late Category 4 climb to Crosara, a 5.3km ascent with a maximum gradient of 12 per cent, in a position to contest the win, and he was alongside his Omega Pharma-Quick Step colleagues, just behind several Vini Fantini-Selle Italia men, as the road began to go uphill.
Almost immediately, however, the Italian team attacked, with Alessandro Proni making the move to set up Danilo di Luca, who was soon on his own in pursuit of the remaining escapees up ahead. They – and di Luca – would be brought back ahead of the summit as other riders attacked, the decisive move coming from Visconti.
The relentless pace on the ascent as a result of those attacks quickly saw Cavendish distanced, the former world champion looking around desperately for riders to help him try and stay in contact. The minute and a half he lost ahead of a flat, 8km run-in from the bottom of the descent made it an impossible task, however.
Following tomorrow’s mountain time trial from Mori to Polsa, there are just three road stages left, with Sunday’s finale in Brescia virtually guaranteed to finish in a sprint, with 25 points on offer for the winner.
Ahead of that, there are two big stages in the Dolomites, and in both of those the intermediate sprints come well after Cavendish will have found himself in the gruppetto, so he’ll have no opportunity to challenge for points there.
Cavendish, who has won the more sprinter friendly points contests in the Tour de France and the Vuelta, now lies just four points ahead of Cadel Evans – a past winner of the jersey in the Giro – and there are several other riders who could amass sufficient points on those mountain stages to also challenge for it.
It looks like it could be a very close run thing for Cavendish to finally join the select group of riders who have won the points jersey in all three Grand Tours. Last year, he missed the jersey by a solitary point on the final road stage when Joaquim Rodriguez – riding himself to defend his maglia rosa, rather than specifically for the points jersey – overhauled him.
Giro d'Italia Stage 17 result 1 VISCONTI Giovanni Movistar Team 05:15:34 2 NAVARDAUSKAS Ramunas Garmin - Sharp 00:19 3 MEZGEC Luka Team Argos - Shimano ,, 4 POZZATO Filippo Lampre - Merida ,, 5 HONDO Danilo RadioShack - Leopard ,, 6 PUCCIO Salvatore Sky Procycling ,, 7 MODOLO Sacha Bardiani Valvole - CSF Inox ,, 8 FELLINE Fabio Androni - Venezuela ,, 9 VENTOSO Francisco Movistar Team ,, 10 EVANS Cadel BMC Racing Team ,, 11 SANTAMBROGIO Mauro Vini Fantini ,, 12 MAJKA Rafal Team Saxo-Tinkoff ,, 13 TROFIMOV Yuri Katusha Team ,, 14 MOUREY Francis FDJ ,, 15 BOARO Manuele Team Saxo-Tinkoff ,, 16 LE BON Johan FDJ ,, 17 AGNOLI Valerio Astana Pro Team ,, 18 SANTAROMITA Ivan BMC Racing Team ,, 19 NIBALI Vincenzo Astana Pro Team ,, 20 CATALDO Dario Sky Procycling ,, Overall Standings after Stage 17 1 NIBALI Vincenzo Astana Pro Team 73:11:29 2 EVANS Cadel BMC Racing Team 01:26 3 URAN Rigoberto Sky Procycling 02:46 4 SCARPONI Michele Lampre - Merida 03:53 5 NIEMIEC Przemyslaw Lampre - Merida 04:13 6 SANTAMBROGIO Mauro Vini Fantini 04:57 7 BETANCUR Carlos AG2R La Mondiale 05:15 8 MAJKA Rafal Team Saxo-Tinkoff 05:20 9 INTXAUSTI Benat Movistar Team 05:47 10 GESINK Robert Blanco Pro Cycling Team 07:24 Points classification after Stage 17 1 CAVENDISH Mark Omega Pharma - Quick-Step 113 2 EVANS Cadel BMC Racing Team 109 3 SANTAMBROGIO Mauro Vini Fantini 89 4 VISCONTI Giovanni Movistar Team 86 5 BETANCUR Carlos AG2R La Mondiale 85
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.