Midway up the Colle delle Finestre, as the tarmac gave way to dirt road, Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) braced himself for the inevitable. Team Sky’s startling forcing had already seen maglia rosa Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) jettisoned out the back of the leading group, and now Chris Froome was readying himself to attack.
Some 80 kilometres lay between this stretch of steep sterrato and the finish of stage 19 of the Giro d’Italia atop the Jafferau, but a seated Froome accelerated away as though the finish line were just around the corner, his legs spinning as though his bicycle had no chain.
Behind, the podium contenders were scattered across the mountainside, scrambling in search of allies of circumstance as Froome disappeared from sight up ahead. They would not see him again until the finish, where he claimed the stage victory by three minutes and moved into the maglia rosa of race leader.
Froome is riding this Giro despite testing positive for salbutamol at last year’s Vuelta a España, and it is unclear whether his final result in Rome will last in the record books. Regardless of how the case pans out, however, this most absurd afternoon of racing will linger long in the memory.
Pinot, for his part, was simply glad to finish among the best of the mortals, placing third on the stage, some 3:07 down on Froome. Despite that hefty deficit, Pinot made substantial gains on Domenico Pozzovivo (11th at 8:29) and the exhausted Yates (79th at 38:51), and thus climbs to third overall, 4:17 behind Froome.
“I’m very happy with my day. I think today we’ve written a page of the history of the Giro, it was a crazy stage and it’s something that marks your career, a stage like that,” Pinot said after the finish.
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