While stage winner Fabio Aru (Astana) and maglia rosa Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) traded compliments on RAI television’s Processo alla Tappa post-stage analysis show, the Giro d’Italia’s third man Mikel Landa had to content himself with a consolation prize as he spoke to reporters after descending from the podium in Sestriere.
“Well, I won the Cima Coppi, eh,” Landa said of the award for being first to the summit of the Giro’s highest mountain pass, the Colle delle Finestre, though at that point, he had loftier goals in mind.
Six kilometres from the summit of the Finestre, after asphalt had given way to a dirt track, Landa launched a rasping acceleration from the front of the pink jersey group. With disarming ease, the Basque surged across to early escapee Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha), while the race fragmented behind.
While Landa’s teammate Aru summoned up the strength to follow the chasers, Ryder Hesjedal (Cannondale-Garmin) and Rigoberto Urán (Etixx-QuickStep), Contador was placed under severe duress for the first time at this Giro. Within a couple of kilometres, he trailed Landa by a minute. Come the summit, Contador was 1:30 down and visibly struggling. Just for a moment, his unassailable lead seemed under threat.