Domenico Pozzovivo (Bahrain-Merida) and Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) went on the attack with Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) on the final climb of the final stage of the Tour of Alps but were unable to put the Frenchman in difficulty and had to settle for second and third place on the final podium.
The two both finished 15 seconds back on Pinot but the Italian was officially second due to better stage placings. Like Pinot, both proved they are on track for the Giro d'Italia. Lopez won the mountain stage to Alpe di Pampeago, while Pozzovivo used his climbing prowess and tactical experience to comfortable control Chris Froome's attack on stage 4 to Leinz.
Lopez was especially aggressive on the Olympia climb that will feature in the Innsbruck World Road Race Championships. He attacked on the second trip up the fast 7.8km climb in a clear attempt to test Pinot and take aim at overall victory. However, Pinot was also in excellent form. He responded on the final climb and was joined by Pozzovivo as Chris Froome (Team Sky), Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates) faded in the surprising heat of the early Austrian spring.
The podium trio came together after the descent but surprisingly they refused to join forces to try to stay away and fight for the stage victory. Pinot had a lead of 15 seconds and not under any threat from the 10, 6 and 4 second time bonuses awarded at the finish. Yet he opted to ease up and the attack ran out of enthusiasm, allowing the chasers to catch them. Padun attacked at the right moment and win the stage.
Astana won three stages and dominate the team classification but Lopez was only partly satisfied with his day and his week.
"It was a good day for me again but it didn't finish out as we'd hoped," he said after the podium ceremony.
"The final circuit that will be part of the World Championships was a good place to make an attack and I had the legs but not quite enough to stay away from Pinot. It was difficult to stay away because nobody was super strong and because behind Chris Froome was fighting for a chance to get on the podium. Fortunately, the riders got away to take the time bonuses."
"I missed out but it's good to know that the team rode well and is very strong, I think we can be optimistic for the Giro d'Italia. Now I'm looking forward to a steady week of recovery and continuing to get ready for the Giro."
Pozzovivo upbeat for Giro d'Italia after Tour of the Alps performance
Pozzovivo also saw his Tour of Alps schnapps glass as half full, as he prepared to lead Bahrain-Merida at the Giro d'Italia in the absence of Vincenzo Nibali, who is fully focused on the Tour de France.
"I'm happy with my race and I'll give myself an eight out of ten. If I'd won a stage as well, I'd give myself ten out of ten because I think I've had a good race. I'm on form and my altitude training is paying off. I hope I can be even better for the Giro d'Italia," he told Cyclingnews.
"The racing was intense at the Tour of the Alps but I felt good. I wanted to test myself by chasing down Froome and then Pinot and Lopez today. I was finding my limits; they seem pretty high for now but hope to be even better for the Giro start."
"I've done a similar amount of racing as in previous years but perhaps this year we've planned things more carefully so that my peak comes a little bit later and lasts longer. I'm riding both the Giro and Tour this year. I'll be the team leader for Bahrain-Merida at the Giro and then I'll help Vincenzo in the Tour. I need to be good until the end of July this season."
Pozzovivo admits he has lost count of the number of times he has ridden the Giro d'Italia and finished in the top ten. In truth he has started the Corsa Rosa 11 times and finished it seven times, finishing in the top ten five times. He was sixth last year but hopes to do even better after moving to Bahrain-Merida from AG2R La Mondiale during the winter.
He has been carefully studying his overall rivals during the Tour of the Alps.
"Pinot is perhaps the strongest of my Giro rivals at the moment," he claimed.
"Froome is lacking a little bit of top end form but he's shown he's strong in the past and Team Sky is always strong. Lopez is a tough nut; while I'm sure Aru will be on form in time for the Giro. There's time to improve before the start on May 4, even if the Etna mountain finish on stage 6 means you have to be good from the start to avoid losing time.
"Dumoulin and Froome are favoured by the Trento time trial but there's a lot of climbing in this year's Giro and a lot of climbing after the time trial for climbers like me to turn the tables on them. The Giro won't be over after the time trial, that's for sure."
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