Dutchman Tom Dumoulin further underlined his Giro d’Italia victory ambitions by stunning Colombian rival Nairo Quintana to claim victory on Saturday’s 14th stage.
“This is really incredible. I’m super, super happy,” said Dumoulin, who attacked his Movistar rival inside the final two kilometres of an 11.8km climb to the summit finish at Oropa to take his overall lead over the Colombian to 2min 47sec.
Dumoulin, who has never won a three-week grand tour, had pushed 2014 champion Quintana down to second overall at 2min 23sec following a crushing win in the 10th stage time-trial on Tuesday.
It left Quintana needing to chip away at his deficit on his preferred terrain of the climbs.
But despite a couple of impressive attacks that appeared to set him up for his second stage win of this 100th edition, following his victory at Blockhaus on stage nine, Quintana was never able to open up a gap of more than 10sec on the big Dutchman.
As Quintana struggled to open up a decisive lead, Dumoulin sat in the saddle driving a four-man chase group whose persistence eventually reeled Quintana in with two kilometres to go.
By then, the road had levelled out and the Dutchman finally got out the saddle to overtake Quintana on his way to his second victory of this year’s race and third overall.
The bonus seconds on offer at the finish meant Dumoulin, who has rejected comparisons to former five-time Tour de France winner Miguel Indurain, increased his lead on Quintana to 2:47.
But with the toughest climbs on the horizon starting from Tuesday’s 222km 16th stage from Rovetta to Bormio, Dumoulin added: “We haven’t done even half of the climbs of this Giro.
“The climbs in the last week will make it very hard… but this day they won’t take away from me.
“Now, I have an even bigger advantage. It’s a really nice advantage, but we can’t sit back and relax. We have to stay really focused and then we’ll see what happens in the next week.”
Meanwhile, UAE Team Emirates’ Rui Costa and Jan Polanc finished 16th and 17th respectively on the iconic Oropa stage.