Giro d'Italia contenders: Then there were four
Ivan Basso heads escape, Giro d'Italia 2012, stage 17
The Giro d'Italia's stage to Cortina d'Ampezzo, including a climb up the Passo Giau, developed into an elimination game. Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Barracuda) was the only one to attack, the rest of the favourites were happy to grind their rivals down.
"Tell me, how are we supposed to win this race?" Liquigas-Cannondale's team manager, Roberto Amadio asked Cycling Weekly. "Something will have to happen, but if we get to the end and Rodriguez still has his lead, we're okay with that."
Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) leads the race by 30 seconds over Hesjedal. Amadio's leader and two-time winner, Ivan Basso sits in third overall at 1-22 minutes.
Basso and his team controlled the race over the final climbs, the Forcella Staulanza and Giau. He was without his key lieutenant Sylvester Szmyd, but relied on Damiano Caruso and then Eros Capecchi. They succeeded in cracking pre-race favourite, Roman Kreuziger.
"If he lost over 10 minutes then he clearly had an off day," Astana team manager, Giuseppe Martinelli told Cycling Weekly. "I don't know what else to say, only he knows what was wrong."
Kreuziger wouldn't speak, preferring to take shelter in the bus.
Over the Giau, Rodriguez remained with Hesjedal, Basso, Rigoberto Uran (Sky), Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) and Domenico Pozzovivo (Colnago-CSF Inox). They raced down and into Cortina d'Ampezzo.
"The picture's becoming clearer," Hesjedal said to a group of journalists while warming down on his bike at the bus.
Only four riders - Rodriguez, Hesjedal, Basso and Scarponi - are within two minutes of the overall win. Hesjedal was the only one to attack today, trying at 23.8 kilometres out or six kilometres from the top of Giau.
He arrived at the bus still recovering. He explained that he suffered cramps, but that he's confident he fights for the overall win.
"What can I say?" said Hesjedal. "I riding well I'm here and trying to take advantage of it. It's not the first time I have ridden over the biggest mountains with the best guys in the world."
He placed seventh at the Tour de France in 2009. His calmness was almost shocking considering the monster stage of around 4,500 metres of climbing.
"No sense being crazy and stressed out," he explained. "At the end of the day it is still a bike race."
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Giro d'Italia 2012: Live coverage
Giro d'Italia 2012 live text coverage and schedule
Giro d'Italai 2012 stage 13 live text coverage
Giro d'Italia 2012 stage 12 live text coverage
Giro d'Italia 2012 stage 10 live text coverage
Giro d'Italia 2012 stage six live text coverage
Giro d'Italia 2012 stage four live text coverage
Giro d'Italia 2012: Stage reports
Stage 17: Rodriguez wins stage to consolidate lead
Stage 16: Izagirre claims Basque breakaway victory
Stage 15: Rabottini takes tough win in Giro
Stage 14: Amador wins Giro's first high mountain stage as Hesjedal reclaims lead
Stage 13: Cavendish makes it three
Stage 12: Bak attacks to win
Stage 11: Ferrari wins Giro stage on ride to redemption
Stage 10: Rodriguez wins thrilling finale to take lead
Stage nine: Ventoso wins in Frosinone as Goss and Cavendish fall
Stage eight: Pozzovivo takes another Giro win
Stage seven: Hesjedal moves into Giro lead
Stage six: Rubiano solos to epic Giro stage win
Stage five: Cavendish bounces back for another stage win
Stage four: Garmin-Barracuda win TTT to take lead
Stage three: Goss wins in Horsens as Cavendish and Phinney crash
Stage two: Cavendish wins in Herning
Stage one: Phinney wins time trial
Giro d'Italia 2012: Photo galleries
Stage 17 photo gallery
Stage 16 photo gallery
Stage 15 photo gallery
Stage 14 photo gallery
Stage 13 photo gallery
Stage 12 photo gallery
Stage 11 photo gallery
Stage 10 photo gallery
Stage nine photo gallery
Stage eight photo gallery
Stage seven photo gallery
Stage six photo gallery
Stage five photo gallery
Stage four photo gallery
Stage three photo gallery
Stage two photo gallery
Stage one photo gallery
Giro d'Italia 2012: Blogs
Charly Wegelius' Giro blog: Conserving energy for the final week
Charly Wegelius' Giro blog: Holding on to the lead
Charly Wegelius' Giro blog: Getting the team time trial right
Giro moto blog: Hurray for rest day
Giro moto blog: Stage 10
Giro d'Italia 2012: Teams and riders
Giro d'Italia 2012 start list
Giro d'Italia 2012: TV guide
Giro d'Italia 2012: British Eurosport TV schedule