Lombardy, with it’s history-laden hills and sinuous descents, is Vincenzo Nibali territory. Not by birth – he’s Sicilian – but by nature. A two-time winner of Il Lombardia (the Tour of Lombardy), he knows these roads and they suit him.
If anyone was going to light up this Il Lombardia-esque stage it would be he.
Though that’s not to downplay the rides of the Italians Dario Cataldo and breakaway companion Matteo Cattaneo; out in the break all day, they ultimately contestied a two-up sprint having held off the marauding intentions of the GC contenders bearing down on them.
Cataldo won, in yet another of those nice-guy-team-player-finally-gets-his-win narratives that this Giro is serving up as a nice little aside.
But it was on, and just prior to, the final climb of Civiglio, that the action really happened. Primoz Roglic, the closest man to race leader Richard Carapaz, had some kind of bike issue unseen by the TV footage, and was forced to borrow the steed of teammate Antwan Tolhoek.
On that final climb, Nibali sensed blood.Embed from Getty Images
He leapt clear of Roglic, as Carapaz followed, and immediately the pair formed a gap. Joining forces with Simon Yates slightly up the road, and fellow Brit Hugh Carthy, they got to work. A gap at the summit gave Nibali something to work with on the decent to the finish.
Nibali, you see, is a daredevil.
Cool of nerve and sharp of eye.
When the mood takes him he can descend not so much like a stone but more accurately a brick. Or perhaps a comedy anvil. Something heavy, anyway, and subject to the force of gravity.
And whether due to the pressure exerted by Nibali, the added complication of an unfamiliar bike, or a combination of both, Roglic compounded his problems but overdoing it on a bend and wrapping himself around a crash barrier.
Nibali, gaining time, by force of personality.
Roglic remounted, adrenalin no doubt kicking in, but his mode was now damage limitation. Pink jersey Carapaz, meanwhile, was acquitting himself beautifully; calm, ever stylish, and able to follow where Nibali led. He, along with Yates and Carthy, made up the Nibali group which made up time on the others.
Lopez and Landa thirty-six seconds back, with Roglic a further fifteen behind them.
A gain of time, but also perhaps morale and momentum.
Roglic is far from done but Nibali, today, on his roads, exerted his will.
(Top Image: By filip bossuyt from Kortrijk, Belgium – 024 nibali pozzovivo, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=60717265)