On Saturday, the so-called "Three Tenors" threatened to become a Gang of Four once again after Rigoberto Urán (Etixx-QuickStep) finished safely in the pink jersey group atop Campitello Matese, but the Colombian's Giro d'Italia aspirations suffered another setback on the road to San Giorgio del Sannio on stage 9.
When Fabio Aru (Astana) sparked the attacking in the finale by a sharp acceleration on the Passo Serra, both maglia rosa Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Richie Porte (Sky) jumped briskly across to his rear wheel. Uran, by contrast, was unable to match their tempo, though he was limiting the damage to around 15 seconds by the time he crested the summit with 11 kilometres remaining.
On the sweeping descent and roughly-surfaced final kilometres, however, Contador, Porte and Aru found a common cause, and Urán's deficit over the top three on general classification had stretched out to 46 seconds by the finish.
As the Giro pauses for its first rest day, Urán now lies eighth overall, 2:10 down on Contador, 2:07 behind Aru and 1:48 off Porte. Uran was hit by bronchitis during the Tour de Romandie and was still suffering the effects of his illness during the opening week.
"Yesterday on the climbs I had a better feeling than the last days when I had to fight against bronchitis," Urán said. "But, today, when they accelerated, I simply couldn’t follow the rhythm. I had only to try to think about defending my position until the finish. That's the situation."
Urán haemorrhaged time in Liguria and on the climb to Abetone, and while his performance at Campitello Matese suggested that he had stemmed the flow, he acknowledged on Sunday evening that his deficit is now a significant one.
"I lost some seconds again, and now I am two minutes back. The gap is pretty important now," he said. "But, I'm a fighter, and I know things can change, even in a moment in a three-week race like the Giro."
A surprise victory in the Barolo time trial at the 2014 Giro lifted Urán into the maglia rosa – he would eventual finish second overall behind his fellow countryman Nairo Quintana – and he is hopeful that this year's lone individual test next Saturday can help resuscitate his hopes. The 59km course from Treviso to Valdobbiadene has scope for significant time gaps, though there is a stiff uphill finish at Monte Berico still to come before then. Campitello Matese apart, Uran has been consistently short of the leading trio when the road climbs.
"The goal is to minimize losses until the time trial, and then see what we can do," Urán said. "We'll review the Giro at that point and figure out how we will approach the third week, which will be super hard for sure. It's clear at the end of the first week that Astana is very strong, but the Giro is a long race, and we will do our best."
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