Pierre Rolland ended Cannondale-Drapac’s two-year wait for a Grand Tour stage win as he soloed to victory on stage 17 of the Giro d’Italia.
Rolland was among the first riders to get in a breakaway which at one point numbered more than 40, and bolted clear of the remaining escapees with 7.8km to ride.
On a day always likely to belong to the breakaway, maglia rosa Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) successfully defended his 31-second overall lead.
While the stage was billed as one of the breakaway, however, initially it looked like the uphill start to the stage was not going to disrupt the usual flow of the race.
Three riders went clear from the flag – Rolland, Pavel Brutt (Gazprom-RusVelo) and Matej Mohoric (UAE Team Emirates) – and the trio were allowed to go clear.
Belatedly, the race roared into action, however – a counter-attack containing Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) gave chase, with the peloton upping the ante in response.
Rolland was first over the top of the stage-opening climb, and after little change to the state of play on the way back down, a huge group broke free of the peloton on the Passo del Tonale.
There was no immediate threat to the GC within that group – in which every team except Katusha-Alpecin was represented – but the gap to the leaders, themselves now nine minutes clear of the bunch, remained high.
Rolland led the way over the top, again, but was soon distanced by Brutt and Mohoric as he made his way back to the chase group.
Jan Polanc (UAE Team Emirates) represented the biggest threat to the GC, starting the day in 13th place at 12’13”, and his threat to the white jersey contenders was enough to encourage QuickStep Floors to share the pace-setting in the bunch.
When Brutt cracked up the road, the chase group eventually made contact with Mohoric and the flurry of attacks that followed resulted in a 25-strong leading group forming.
Polanc had three team-mates, including Mohoric and former world champion Rui Costa in the lead group and the Emirati team drove the pace on the front.
Polanc held the virtual race lead at one point, but the peloton managed to close the gap to nearer seven minutes when Mohoric’s long stint in the front group finally ended.
A series of attacks followed, inside the final 15km, with Omar Fraile (Dimension Data), Gorka Izaguirre (Movistar) and Valerio Conti (UAE Team Emirates) all making digs off the front.
It was the latter’s move which gained the most traction, however, with the remaining riders in the front group hesitating as he went clear.