Giro d’Italia stage 19 was a race of three parts.
Pierre Rolland forced an escape clear on the first descent of 191-kilometer stage. The 14-man move gained seven minutes and appeared to be the potential winning breakaway until the overall contenders got in on the action.
“I was in a good position on the downhill, and I felt it was the right moment for the first breakaway,” said Rolland. “I was really tired on the first climb, but everyone is tired. When we took six or seven minutes, I began to think we would go for victory. I understood this would change when the bunch split behind me into two pieces with Dumoulin in the second part.”
With the maglia rosa on the back foot, fireworks flew. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain Merida) put their respective teams to work in the hopes of distancing Dumoulin. Luckily for Dumoulin, he wasn’t the only general contender to have been caught out. Team Sunweb combined forces with Trek Segafredo, ORICA-SCOTT and Team LottoNL-Jumbo.
The Quintana and Nibali group quickly bridged the seven-minute gap up to Rolland’s breakaway.
“When I saw Quintana and Nibali, I stayed in the wheels and followed,” noted Rolland. “At the moment when Dumoulin came back, everything slowed again.”
That’s when Rolland got the call over the radio. He was told to attack again. He did – and the second major breakaway of the day went clear. Initially only five riders were able to follow Rolland, but eventually the group swelled to include 25 riders.
“You look at the second breakaway, and it’s almost all the same riders that were in the first breakaway: Rui Costa (UAE Team Emirates), Bilbao (Astana), Chevrier (Ag2r La Mondiale),” said Rolland. “When I saw Landa come back to the move, I remember thinking that it would be really difficult to beat him but that I could try to stay on his wheel.”
The general contenders called a truce until the final summit, which allowed Rolland and his breakaway companions to get a maximum advantage of more than 11 minutes. Up the Piancavallo climb, attacks flew from both the breakaway and the maglia rosa group. Rolland spent the final kilometers of the race working with Costa to shut down Landa’s solo bid for glory.
Further down the road, Davide Formolo climbed alongside all the overall contenders. Dumoulin cracked just before the toughest part of the climb. Formolo maintained contact for another kilometer or two before falling back to Dumoulin.
Landa soloed to victory. Rolland climbed to third place. Rolland finished in Dumoulin’s wheel in 24th place at 9:30, 1:21 behind Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), the first general classification rider to reach the summit.