Tom Dumoulin held out a hand to Nairo Quintana after the two prepared to warm down on the rollers in the podium area immediately after the stage. Although the Colombian shook hands briefly, there was a distinct lack of respect and sportsmanship between the two after they had attacked each other and then refused to work together in the final kilometres of the 137km stage through the Dolomites to Ortisei.
Dumoulin was angry that Quintana and Vincenzo Nibali had formed a pact to try to stop him winning the Giro d'Italia. After chasing them down over the top of the Passo Gardena, he then responded to Quintana's brief attacks on the final Pontives climb near the finish. When Nibali and Quintana refused to help him chase Thibaut Pinot, Domenico Pozzovivo and Ilnur Zakarin, he let them go clear; pulling back precious seconds and allowing them become threats for the podium places.
"They are only focusing on me and trying to make me lose instead of trying to win," Dumoulin lamented to Eurosport. "They lost a lot of time to the other competitors. I really hope that riding like this they will lose their podium spot in Milan, that would be really nice, and I would be really happy."
With the mountain stages to Piancavallo and Asiago and then the time trial to Milan remaining. Dumoulin still leads Quintana by just 31 seconds, with Nibali third at 1:12. Pinot moved up much closer to the podium and is fourth at 1:36, with Zakarin also closer in fifth at 1:58.
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Nibali had no qualms about responding word to word to Dumoulin's remarkable verbal aggression via Italian television. Quintana took the middle ground and played dumb, perhaps hoping to gain from Dumoulin's clear nervousness and verbal warfare with Nibali.
"He was telling us to close the gap to the other riders, who were attacking, who were back on GC. He didn't want them to take too much time but we left the responsibility to him, even if at the end of the day they took time on us," Quintana explained in the mixed zone area.
"Every rider plays its own cards, and everyone is responsible for their tactics. We did what we could, as we had hoped. Sure, we wanted to try to gain more time but Dumoulin responded well. We rode a good stage but it was very fast all day."
"It was a very hard stage. Every team played its cards and so the break got away. We did our strategy, and it worked out well, but Dumoulin also responded very strong. In the end, we couldn't recuperate any time. We attacked. We did try, at least, but he's demonstrating that he is very strong."
Last chance on the climb to Piancavallo?
Quintana knows that Friday's steep climb 15.4km climb to the finish at Piancavallo is arguably his last chance to gain time on the powerful Dutchman. Quintana has not shown his true climbing prowess since winning stage 9 atop the Blockhaus in the Abruzzo mountains. He is hoping to at least cancel some of the 31-second gap to Dumoulin. He faces the handicap of the final 29.3km time trial but gaining enough time to start the time in the leader's pink jersey would be fantastic for his moral.
"We know we must attack again and Piancavallo is another chance," he said.
"The weight of the race is starting to be felt by everyone. Dumoulin is showing he is strong, and he even attacked us."
"Now we'll try on the climb to Pinacavallo, we'll study a strategy with the team. We can only hope that we've tired him a little and we'll give it a go."