It was a day of pluses and minuses for Rigoberto Uran (Sky) on stage 18 of the Giro d'Italia as he moved closer to guaranteeing a podium place but lost significant ground in the battle for the pink jersey in the mountain time trial from Mori to Polsa.
It was a time trial of two halves, too, for Uran. At the intermediate check after 9.5km, he was 1:20 down on stage winner Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and 48 seconds down on Michele Scarponi (Lampre-Merida) before he opened the throttle dramatically over the second half of the course, which included some slightly steeper sections.
Just as his now departed team leader Bradley Wiggins did in the Saltara time trial at the end of week one, the Colombian recouped ground in the closing kilometres and finished the stage in 6th place, 1:26 down on Nibali and just five seconds behind a flagging Scarponi.
"I knew what kind of a course it was," Uran said. "I tried to do the first part pretty tranquillo as I knew the second part of the course would be more difficult and I wanted to save myself for that."
As Uran was beginning his effort at the velodrome in Mori, 20 kilometres up the road the first drops of rain were beginning to fall on the finish line in Polsa. It was an additional difficulty on a nuanced time trial course that required a carefully dosed effort.
By the time Uran crossed the line, torrential rain was falling on Polsa, and he was in no mind to dally by the finish area to speak with reporters. Instead, he spoke while soft-pedalling up the hill towards the Sky team car while a group of reporters jogged after him.
"The weather didn't help at all either, it made it more difficult especially over the second part of the course," Uran said. "But I felt quite good and I think I did alright."
At that point, Uran was still unaware of the travails of Cadel Evans (BMC) further down the mountainside. The Australian never found his rhythm on the course and finished a lowly 25th, conceding 1:10 to Uran. In the overall standings, Uran is now just 10 seconds behind Evans, although his deficit to Nibali has stretched out to 4:12.
Given Nibali's condition at this Giro, and particularly in the wake of the exhibition he provided on Thursday, it seems an impossible task to divest him of the maglia rosa, but Uran's chances of stepping up to second place overall continue to grow. Although the Gavia and Stelvio have been cut from Friday's stage due to the extreme weather conditions, the stage is set to feature the Passo del Tonale, Passo Castrin and a summit finish at Val Martello.
"It seems like it's going to be hard for them to have the stage tomorrow as planned, but we'll see how things are in the morning," Uran said as he pedalled off.