This year's edition of the Giro d'Italia has a new race leader, after climbing expert Nairo Quintana of team Movistar conquered the steep mountain passes between Ponte di Legno and Val Martello on Tuesday.
Three massive climbs, fog, intense cold and snowy weather made this a brutal stage for the riders. Italian rider Dario Cataldo's courageous push to the front looked likely to pay off. At the base of the final 22-kilometre climb into Val Martello, Cataldo still held the advantage.
But with just over 17 kilometres left, Cataldo broke under the fast pace set by new front-runners Quintana and Pierre Rolland. 24-year-old Quintana, racing in his first ever Giro, showed that he had recovered from a tough opening two weeks, during which he had crashed and fought off a cold and fever.
As Quintana and Rolland were joined at the front by 2012 Giro winner Ryder Hesjedal, the chasing group including Rigoberto Uran, wearing the overall leader's pink jersey, did their best to close down the gap. But a gap of almost two minutes had increased to more than three and a half minutes as Quintana continued to pick up the pace.
With a 14 per cent gradient, the final kilometre proved a challenging end to one of the toughest days so far, but Quintana showed his mental and physical strength to attack all the way to the finish line and claim his first-ever Giro stage win.
Hesjedal finished eight seconds behind in second, with Rolland one minute 13 seconds back in third. Uran - who started the day two minutes and 40 seconds ahead of Quintana - eventually crossed the line more than four minutes behind, handing the overall lead and pink jersey to his fellow Colombian. Quintana now leads the Giro by one minute, 41 seconds from Uran, with Cadel Evans a distant third.
Do YOU want to write for GiveMeSport? Get started today by signing-up and submitting an article HERE: http://gms.to/writeforgms