Spanish rider Joaquim Rodriguez strengthened his position as overall leader of the Giro d’Italia on Wednesday after winning the 186km 17th stage here. The 33-year-old – who has never won a Grand Tour – recorded his second stage success of the race seeing off a group of six riders including his major rivals Ivan Basso of Italy and Canada’s former pink jersey wearer Ryder Hesjedal.
The lead group came together at the Passo Giau, the fourth and final climb of the testing stage. Defending champion Michele Scarponi was dropped by the group 500 metres from the summit and some 18km from the finishing line and was some 20 seconds adrift of the leaders. However, he showed great determination in overcoming the cramps he was suffering from to get back to them with just two kilometers remaining. Basso, a two-time winner of the race, then launched an attack and tried to outsprint Rodriguez but the Spaniard clung on tenaciously to pass him and take the honors.
The biggest loser of the day was Czech Roman Kreuziger, who started the day in fifth overall but got dropped on the third climb (Forcella Staulanza) and was almost 10 minutes adrift at the summit of Giau.
On Thursday the Giro returns to flatter pastures, the 149km ride from San Vito di Cadore to Vedelago, which is the calm before the storm as Friday and Saturday’s two days are the toughest mountain stages.