Astana's Miguel Angel Lopez made a concerted effort to jump up the overall classification on stage 18 of the Giro d'Italia on Thursday when he attacked on the final climb to Prato Nevoso, finishing 10 minutes behind stage winner Max Schachmann (Quick-Step Floors), who was part of the day's successful breakaway, but 15 seconds ahead of the first of this Giro's main contenders.
Bahrain-Merida's Domenico Pozzovivo led home the best of the rest in a small group that included Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) and Chris Froome (Team Sky), while race leader Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) lost almost 30 seconds to his closest rivals – and 43 seconds to Lopez, who holds the white jersey as best young rider, with more than a minute's advantage over Richard Carapaz (Movistar).
"I saw a possibility to attack, and I just did it," explained Lopez, who made his move with around 4km to go, and ended the day moving from seventh position overall to sixth.
"It was Carapaz who tried first, but I was able to respond quickly, and I found myself in a good position to continue. Honestly, I wanted to gain more time on my rivals, but I did my best on the climb, which was quite fast. The hardest stages are still to come, so let's see what happens."
Colombian Lopez, who is just under five minutes down on Yates, is only 2:11 behind third-placed Pozzovivo, and now has two more days in the mountains to try to edge himself into a podium position.
With teammate Pello Bilbao in eighth place in the GC, the Astana duo are going to add further headache to race leader Yates and his Mitchelton-Scott teammates, who are certain to be put under pressure by the teams of the other main contenders – namely Sunweb for Dumoulin, Sky for Froome, Bahrain-Merida for Pozzovivo, and Groupama-FDJ for Thibaut Pinot – en route to the summit finishes on Monte Jafferau on Friday and Cervinia on Saturday.
"Today [Thursday], we wanted to save some energy, so we didn't come to the front to control the race," said Astana directeur sportif Dmitri Sedoun in a team press release. "The next couple of days will be crucial for this Giro d'Italia, so we'll need all our strength for Friday and Saturday.
"On the last climb today, Miguel Angel felt quite good, so he decided to try, and it was a nice attack. But that was only the first of three stages. This Giro is still far from over."