You try all week to gain a couple of seconds at the Giro d’Italia and then more than two minutes come along all at once. After nine days of aggression from Fabio Aru and Astana failed to discommode Richie Porte (Team Sky), they received an unexpected gift on Tuesday afternoon when the Australian punctured on the run-in to Forlì at the end of stage 10.
Despite receiving a prompt wheel replacement from an unexpected source – Orica-GreenEdge’s Simon Clarke – and despite the help of a platoon of Sky teammates and GreenEdge’s Michael Matthews, Porte was unable to regain contact with the peloton and lost 47 seconds to his two main rivals, pushing him off the podium..
“These seconds count for a lot because you spend a lot of energy and make a huge effort just to gain a single second, and now we’ve suddenly found ourselves with 45 seconds, unexpectedly,” Astana manager Giuseppe Martinelli told Cyclingnews afterwards. “But that’s sport, that’s cycling. And you certainly shouldn’t think that the same fate won’t befall you some other time: today they were unfortunate and we were fortunate.”
After Cyclingnews spoke to Martinelli, it later transpired that Porte would take a further two-minute penalty for receiving 'non regulation assistance to a rider from another team - leaving him 3:09 behind the maglia rosa.' Aru’s unexpected windfall is not simply a boon to his morale. To date, this Giro has been a game of inches, with little to nothing separating the three favourites on the climbs, but Porte has been able to race more conservatively than Aru and Contador in the expectation that Saturday’s long time trial to Valdobbiadene will prove something of a trump card.
“It’s not just important for morale, it’s important tactically too,” Martinelli said. “Richie Porte certainly had an advantage over us with the time trial to come but now he has to go even better again in the time trial. Porte has been tranquil up to now, thinking about the time trial, and this might provoke him to come out and make the race. I’m expecting a more aggressive Sky tomorrow, definitely.”
Urán back in the hunt?
Along with Porte, Rigoberto Urán is, on paper at least, the general classification contender most likely to shine in the stage 14 time trial, and he now holds a 59-second advantage over the Australian. A trio of Uran’s Etixx-QuickStep teammates appeared on the front of the bunch in the final kilometres while Porte was chasing back on, but directeur sportif Davide Bramati said that they were riding to position Tom Boonen in the event of a bunch sprint rather than attempting to distance Porte.
“We didn’t see it on television, we just heard it on the radio. I don’t even know what happened. It sounds like he punctured and I’m sorry that he’s lost time in that way,” Bramati told Cyclingnews at the finish in Forlì. “Our tactic today was to do the sprint with Tom, so that’s why we had some riders on the front in the end, just to put him into position, because we thought the break only had 20 seconds at that point. We didn’t go to the front to do anything else other than to prepare the sprint.”
Bramati downplayed the idea that Porte’s time loss has any major bearing on Urán’s general classification prospects, however, pointing out that the Colombian remains 2:10 off the overall lead.
“I think it’s Aru and Contador who’ve benefited the most because Porte was closest to them on GC and in a position to take the maglia rosa,” Bramati said. “We’re already two minutes down and I think it’s going to be impossible, but we’ll certainly try.”
Urán struggled with the lingering effects of bronchitis through the opening week of racing and the summit finish at Campitello Matese apart, lost time at each of the major rendezvous to date. Bramati suggested that the objective between now and Saturday would be one of damage limitation.
“We’ll have to see how Rigoberto goes tomorrow because it’s going to be another of those stages where something big could happen, unfortunately, because it’s very difficult,” he said. “He’s over the flu now so we need to be positive, but we can’t afford to lose any more time before Saturday. If we got to Saturday with the same two-minute deficit we have now, we’ll give it everything in the time trial and then see what happens. But we’ve got the strongest guys in the Giro still ahead of us and it’s going to be difficult.”
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