Rolland battles to stage 17 Giro victory
Pierre Rolland produced a determined and persistent performance to claim victory on stage 17 of the Giro d'Italia on Wednesday.
The Cannondale-Drapac rider formed part of a three-man break from the start and surged clear of the pack once more with just under eight kilometres to go, eventually crossing the finish line alone.
Rui Costa (UAE Emirates) and Gorka Izagirre (Movistar) came home 24 seconds behind the winner in a result that ended Rolland's five-year wait for a third Grand Tour stage win.
The Frenchman's previous two victories came on home soil at the Tour de France in 2011 and 2012.
It turned out to be a day of little movement at the top of the general classification, with most of the frontrunners electing to take it easy following the exertions of a demanding stage 16.
Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) remains 31 seconds clear of Nairo Quintana (Movistar) in the Maglia Rosa, while Jan Polanc (UAE Emirates) dumped Adam Yates (Orica-Scott) out of the top 10 in the only change at the head of the leaderboard.
"Today I thought 'okay, yesterday was a super hard stage and everyone is completely tired'," said Rolland. "Sometimes after a hard stage I go from the start, but I didn't think there'd be just three of us.
"I took the first climb easy, the second climb easy, then waited for the big group. Those big groups are never easy to manage - they're like a big lottery. At the end everyone is dead, you follow attacks, again, again, again.
"One moment I went, I had my team-mate Michael Woods back there for the sprint if it came back. With 1km to go I knew I'd won, and I'm just so happy, it's difficult to explain."
GOOD DAY / BAD DAY
It has been a long wait for Rolland to finally register another Grand Tour stage victory.
"I'm just so happy," said the 30-year-old. "I've waited for this moment for such a long time.
"In 2015 I finished second in a Tour de France stage, and last year was just a year to forget for me - I crashed twice in the Tour. It's been a long wait."
On a day of no change among the leading contenders, perhaps the award for bad day should go to those spectators looking for more action at the head of the field.
1. Pierre Rolland (Cannondale-Drapac) 5:42:56
2. Rui Costa (UAE Emirates) +0:24
3. Gorka Izagirre (Movistar) +0:24
4. Rory Sutherland (Movistar) + 0:24
5. Matteo Busato (Wilier Triestina) +0:24
1. Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) 76:05:38
2. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) +0:31
3. Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) +1:12
4. Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) +2:38
5. Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin) +2:40
1. Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors) 325
2. Jasper Stuyven (Trek Segafredo) 192
3. Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) 117
KING OF THE MOUNTAINS
1. Mikel Landa (Team Sky) 124
2. Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) 108
3. Omar Fraile (Dimension Data) 89
Stage 18 marks the beginning of three consecutive mountain stages, after which only an individual time trial will remain.