Nairo Quintana virtually clinched the Giro d’Italia title with a strong ride up the demanding Monte Zoncolan yesterday, while Michael Rogers benefited from a fan interruption to post his second stage victory of the race.
Quintana’s 3min 7sec lead over fellow Colombian Rigoberto Uran remained unchanged entering today’s final stage.
“It’s 99 per cent done,” said Quintana, who shed some tears during the podium celebration. “They were tears of happiness. I’ve achieved one of the big goals in my life.”
Francesco Manuel Bongiorno was right on Rogers’ wheel with three kilometres to go when a fan pushed him hard enough on the back that he had to brake to avoid hitting Rogers and took his left foot off the pedal.
“I’m very bitter,” Bongiorno said. “On a climb like that when you lose your balance it’s impossible. Maybe this incident will be good for the future. The fans give us strength but they need to [learn].”
By the time Bongiorno got going again on a stretch of road where the gradient was 15 per cent, Rogers had already opened up a significant lead.
“I wasn’t aware,” Rogers said. “I’m sorry for Bongiorno. He’s a good kid and rode hard. I tried to drop him many times. Unfortunately this happens often.”
Rogers, an Australian with Tinkoff-Saxo, clocked 4 hours, 41 minutes, 55 seconds over the 167km leg, which started in Maniago.
Franco Pellizotti finished second, 38sec behind, and Bongiorno crossed third, 49 seconds back. Quintana finished 17th in the stage, 4:45 back, with Uran right behind him.
Quintana was runner-up to Chris Froome in last year’s Tour de France and this would be his first Grand Tour victory.
“This year I don’t think I’ll be at the Tour but next year we’ll probably try it,” Quintana said.
Rogers, a three-time time trial champion, was recently cleared after a doping accusation and also won the 11th stage.
Last month, the UCI accepted that meat which Rogers ate in China probably caused his positive test last year. Clenbuterol is widely administered to Chinese livestock to build muscle and reduce fat. Days later, Rogers tested positive at the Japan Cup. The UCI disqualified Rogers from the Japanese race but consulted the World Anti-Doping Agency before deciding he should not be sanctioned any further.
“The last kilometers were a dream,” Rogers said. “I’ve always dreamed of winning an uphill stage like this and this is the first time I’ve been able to.”
The race ends today with a mostly flat 172-kilometre (107-mile) leg from Gemona del Friuli to Trieste.