The hyper-reality of life on a grand tour has the tendency to blow victory and defeat out of proportion, but Philip Deignan (Sky) was able to put matters in perspective within minutes of crossing the line in third place on stage 18 of the Giro d’Italia at Rifugio Panarotta.
When the Irishman forged his way back up to the leaders after the break of the day fragmented on the early slopes of the final haul from Levico Terme, he must have sensed a first grand tour stage win since his victory in Avila at the 2009 Vuelta a España was on the cards.
He was ultimately thwarted by a one-two blow from the Colombian pair of Julian Arredondo (Trek Factory Racing) and Fabio Duarte (Colombia), however, who jumped away in turn inside the final four kilometres. Arredondo went on to take the honours at the summit, while Deignan had to settle for third place, 37 seconds down.
“When you lose to a stronger rider and you try your best, there’s not much else you can do, so I’m pretty happy,” Deignan said afterwards. “I couldn’t have done any more so I suppose I have to be happy enough with the result.”
Deignan and teammate Dario Cataldo were part of the day’s early break that went clear over the Passo San Pellegrino, and after withstanding the early skirmishes at the foot of Rifugio Panarotta, the Donegal man found himself at the head of the race with Arredondo, Duarte and the flagging Thomas De Gendt (Omega Pharma-QuickStep).
It was a classic contrast of styles – the steady but graceful rhythm of Deignan faced against the punchy, stop-start tempo of the two Colombians – and eventually the constant changes of pace took their toll.
“I think they were just playing with us to be honest, they’re just so good at that – all the accelerating and slowing down and accelerating again,” Deignan said. “That’s what really killed me in the end. I was able to respond a few times but the last time when he went I just couldn’t go.
“I knew that if I kept my own tempo and didn’t go too far into the red then I could get back but at the same time you could see Arredondo was just playing with us. He could have gone whenever he wanted really, I think, but I never gave up and kept going until the line.”
It was Deignan’s third time off the front in the finale at this Giro, after his attack on the final climb to Montecampione on Sunday and his part in the break en route to Vittorio Veneto the previous day. After a difficult opening to the Giro – due in no small part to his restricted diet of racing miles in the early part of the year – Deignan has found his legs in the final week of the race.
“I was in the break yesterday too so I must have recovered ok from the Stelvio stage, I suppose,” said Deignan, who was circumspect about trying to repeat the feat of infiltrating the early break on the road to Monte Zoncolan on Saturday. “I’ll get a good massage and a good sleep tonight and then I’ll see after that.”