A daring raid on the descent of Pian del Falco almost brought Andrey Amador the pink jersey on the road to Sestola on stage 10 of the Giro d'Italia on a day when Alejandro Valverde moved up to third overall and his Movistar team again gave the impression of being the strongest in the race.
Amador swooped clear of the pink jersey group on the descent that followed the day's penultimate climb and eventually bridged up to teammate Giovanni Visconti, who had been part of the stage's early breakaway.
At one point on the seven-kilometre haul to the finish at Sestola, Amador held a lead of almost 50 seconds on the chasers and looked set to take possession of the maglia rosa, having started the day just 32 seconds down on Gianluca Brambilla (Etixx-QuickStep).
Though destined to lose the jersey, Brambilla led the chase on the way up the climb in support of teammate Bob Jungels, however, while late accelerations from the overall favourites brought the group to within a second of Amador by the summit.
Amador placed 6th on the stage, 2:10 down on winner Giulio Ciccone (Bardiani-CSF), a result that keeps him in second place overall, now just 26 seconds down on the new leader Jungels. The Costa Rican placed a surprise 4th overall at the 2015 Giro, and could prove a redoubtable ally to Valverde in this year's event.
"I think it's impossible to be in a better position," Amador said. "We got Giovanni Visconti into the break today in case we needed some help, we always had guys at the front during the early stages, and we cooperated well. The atmosphere in the group is magnificent."
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Valverde, meanwhile, took 8th on the stage, at the front of the group of favourites that closed in on Amador in the final kilometre. The Spaniard gained four seconds on Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) when the group of favourites fragmented on the final ramp before the finish, meaning that he now lies third overall, 50 seconds behind Jungels.
Tuesday's stage, the first after the rest day, had already seen two of Valverde's rivals for overall victory drop out of contention. Mikel Landa (Sky) abandoned the Giro after 66 kilometres, citing illness, while Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin), who had already ruled himself out of the running, conceded 13 minutes.
Nonetheless, Valverde's initial reaction on crossing the finish line was muted.
"We could have fared better, but we must remain happy with our gains today," Valverde said. "You all could see how strong Andrey rode downhill. I tried to keep the others on a leash and not to disturb Andrey's gap. It was up to the others to pull. But all told, we're satisfied with today's result."
Valverde is now the best-placed of the pre-race favourites on general classification, two seconds ahead of Nibali. The next major rendezvous of the race ought to be Friday's mountainous leg in Friuli to Cividale, though Amador warned that stage 11 to Asolo was not without complications.
"Wednesday's stage should be calmer one, but all stages in the Giro bring some hardness to the menu. With 20 kilometres to go, there's a 3k climb with really steep slopes, so the race could break up again tomorrow," he said. "We must remain focused and not to look at this stage as if it were just another one, but an important one."