A Giro d’Italia stage for the speechless.
On stage 19, Chris Froome attacked his rivals in the Giro d’Italia from a distance of 80 kilometers. He went from way out, given that he was still 3:22 behind maglia rosa Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) and 2:54 back from reigning Giro champion Tom Dumoulin.
Froome went all-in on a daring attack that vaulted him from fourth to first, stealing the pink jersey and setting himself up to win his third grand tour in a row, after his Tour de France and Veulta a Espana triumph last season.
Depending on your point of view about Froome even racing despite his on-going salbutamol case, the result was either astonishing, shocking, inspired or depressing — and most likely a mix of all four. Andrew Hood of Velonews and Peter Flax of Cyclingtips both cover that difficult conundrum.
At the summit of the dirt road up the Colle delle Finestre, Froome had carved out a 38 second gap ahead of the chasing group of Tom Dumoulin, Thibault Pinot and Sebastien Reichenbach (Groupama-FDJ), Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) and Richard Carapaz (Movistar). The Briton had over a half a minute with 73.3 kilometers to go.
Chase group was almost a contraction in terms because the chase went backwards. Froome took all kinds of risks on the descent of Finestre and at the bottom, with 60.8 kilometers till to ride, he had 1:34 on Dumoulin and company.
The man who started the day third on GC, Domenico Pozzovivo (Bahrain-Merida), was ever further back at 2:13. The agony of the maglia Rosa Simon Yates was plain for all to see as he suffered horribly almost eleven minutes behind Froome.
Froome continued to hammer the pedals in his ungainly but powerful, high cadence. Every time gap brought him fresh good news — with 60 kilometers to go, he was a full 2:12 ahead of Dumoulin and Pinot and Pozzovivo had fallen 3:25 behind.
Froome was never coming back and over Sestrière he would go, riding solo and making history. The 40k time gap was 2:44 to Dumoulin and Pinot and at 30K Froome pushed that to 2:55. Pozzovivo was disappearing and Yates was in a world of pain, a full mountain behind.
Lopez and Carapaz were useless in the chase and no help to Dumoulin and Pinot. They were more interested in marking each other and battling for the white jersey. Pinot made a belated attempt to ramp up the pace but at 20 kilometers to go, the maglia rosa was already on Froome’s shoulders. The Sky captain now had over three minutes on Dumoulin and Pinot, who seemed resigned to ride their tempo and accept defeat.
And still the gap continued to widen in shocking fashion. Under the 10K banner, Froome now had 3:32 on his rivals and Pozzovivo was 7:27 behind, his podium hopes incinerated.
Only in the final five kilometers did Froome show any signs of weakness or fatigue. Dumoulin and Pinot managed to trim 20 seconds from the gap but it then held steady as Froome drove up the Jafferau, finally crossing the line in a time of 5:12:26.
What had seemed improbable and impossible that morning had now come true. Froome had taken over the Giro d’Italia with a bold roll of the dice that would go down in cycling history.
That may be wonderful news or that might be terrible news for the sport. That’s pro cycling, after all.