Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) and Chris Froome (Team Sky) were billed as the big-name rivals for this year's Tour of the Alps, but they've so far been outshone by Team Sky's next generation – Pavel Sivakov and Tao Geoghegan Hart – who have won the opening two stages after some aggressive racing.
Nibali is seeking a confirmation of his form as the Giro d'Italia approaches, while Froome is looking for his best form after an illness-hit spring, but their reputations have counted for little so far at the Tour of the Alps.
Nibali tried an attack on Monday’s stage but was joined by Sivakov and Geoghegan Hart before Astana chased them down. On Tuesday, Nibali got his Bahrain-Merida team to set the pace for much of the 15km, 2000m-high Passo di Monte Giovo, but then Sivakov got away in an attack in the valley and was never seen again on the short, steep climb to the finish. The 22-year-old Russian won the stage and opened a 39-second lead on Nibali, Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe) and the other overall contenders.
Froome finished 1:34 back. He was in the select group of 20 or so riders that reached the summit of the Passo di Monte Giovo, but then he eased up on the fast and often wet descent, preferring not to take any major risks.
Nibali went deep to try to limit his time loss, but any chance of overall victory seems to have slipped his grasp.
"I was there and wanted to give it a go, but there were lots of attacks in the valley after the long climb, and it was impossible to go with all of them," Nibali explained. "I decided to mark Pello Bilbao [Astana] and Tao Geoghegan Hart, but then the others got away. We worked with Majka to try to get back on, but it was impossible."
Despite losing time, Nibali was upbeat about his and his team's performance.
"We worked hard on the long climb, and we'll be paid back for it sooner or later. It was good training for the Giro d'Italia. We were outnumbered in the final, but that's because we did a lot of work," Nibali pointed out.
"I felt good, and my legs were good, and so that's why I pushed hard on the climb to the finish to take time on the other riders. I can't be happy with the result, but I'm happy with my performance."