Fabio Aru won the 2014 Giro d'Italia Stage 15 toward the vaunted Montecampione in impressive fashion, launching a powerful attack on the final climb to finish ahead of Fabio Duarte and Nairo Quintana, as shared by Cycling Central:
Aru wins Stage 15 of the Giro d'Italia. #giro Duarte second, Quintana third.— CyclingCentral (@CyclingCentral) May 25, 2014
The most difficult stage for the riders up until this point, Stage 15 was widely expected to impact the general classification, and it didn't disappoint. Pink leader Rigoberto Uran lost 43 seconds in total, though he would widen the gap with Cadel Evans and Rafal Majka.
|5||Rigoberto Uran||Colombia||Omega Pharma - Quick Step||+42|
|6||Rafal Majka||Poland||Tinkoff - Saxo||+57|
|7||Franco Pellizzotti||Italy||Androni - Venezuela||+1:08|
|10||Cadel Evans||Australia||BMC Racing||+1:13|
On Sunday, the Giro honoured former winner Marco Pantani, whose attack toward Montecampione in 1998 was the stuff of legends. Organisers were hoping for similar fireworks on Sunday, and Uran's difficulties in Saturday's stage made such a scenario a very real possibility.
|1||Rigoberto Uran||Colombia||Omega Pharma - Quick Step||63:26:39|
An early flight of 12 racers was predictably given a large gap on the pack, as everyone knew this race would be decided in the final stages, and the riders fighting for the pink jersey didn't have to fear anyone gaining too much on them.
Team Sky's Philip Deignan was one of those 12, and he broke the race open early in the climb to Montecampione, leaving Julian Arredondo in his wake. Behind those two, Domenico Pozzovivo and Quintana once again looked jumpy, having already impressed in the final climb of Saturday's stage.
Evans also looked fresh, while Uran's teammates fell victim to the explosion of Deignan, leaving the Giro leader isolated at the front of the race.
An attack from Pierre Roland made all of the leaders leave the saddle, signaling the real start of the hardest climb the riders have faced in the 2014 Giro so far.
RunningAndCycling could see the main challengers preparing to make life miserable on Uran:
Rolland found Deignan at the front of the race, but all eyes turned toward the group behind, where Evans and Pozzovivo had difficulties containing themselves amid a difficult spell for Uran. The Colombian eventually found the wheel of Aru, using him as a pacemaker for the more difficult parts of the climb.
And when Aru and Fabio Duarte made their jump, Uran followed. Quintana had to dig deep to try and follow the threesome, while Evans suddenly collapsed and had to let go. OPQS Cycling Team couldn't believe it:
Evans, Majka left behind! Uran is with Aru! Quintana trying to bridge! #Giro— OPQS Cycling Team (@opqscyclingteam) May 25, 2014
Quintana didn't just bridge the gap, he attacked as soon as he joined the group containing Uran, who at this point couldn't believe his luck. Following the wheel of Aru, the young Italian had effectively given the pink leader a free pass for most of the final climb.
Aru would explode one more time near the peak, and only Quintana could follow, barely, igniting the Italian fans gathered on the flanks. Duarte fought bravely in the background, while Uran seemed to run into a wall, losing previous time on the leaders.
Rolland tried to play his part, but he simply couldn't cope with the impressive pace from the young Italian. Quintana would launch his attack inside the final kilometer, but by that time, Aru had already taken too much of a lead on the Colombian for the latter to make a return.
Vellocast's John Galloway was truly impressed by the youngster:
Aru’s doing some damage.— John Galloway (@wjohngalloway) May 25, 2014
Aru held on until the finish line, honouring the memory of Pantani in epic fashion. Quintana's third-place finish meant he would come closer to compatriot Uran in the general classification, though the latter would comfortably hold on to the pink as the pack heads for a day of rest.
The Colombian will need it, however, as Uran has shown signs of weakness in back-to-back races now. Without the help of his teammates, the uphill finishes have caused the leader to struggle so far, and the Giro will be hitting mountainous terrain for most of next week.
Evans will also need to find himself during the day off, as there simply is no explanation for his collapse on Sunday. The Australian has always been a strong rider when defending a lead, but attacking has never been his strongest suit. The favourite for the pink jersey will have no other choice when the Giro returns on Tuesday, however, and the next three stages should make for some must-watch television.