|92hr 22' 31"
Moena - Aprica
The morning after the nightmare that had come before saw the riders awake to better weather in the picture postcard town of Moena. With the exertions of yesterday’s long slog through the snow weighing heavily on their legs, the riders were quite content with a quieter day on the Giro’s third Sunday.
Despite a tough route that included several major climbs, the first 130 kilometres of this stage were a procession before Vittori Adorni gambled his lunch for a slice of Giro glory at the feed. He sped away to win by over seven minutes while behind in the bunch it threatened to be a complete non-event until Vito Taccone turned up the heat.
He attacked five kilometres from the top of Passo Tonale and had gained three minutes on the GC group by the time he crossed the line. With Guido Carlesi and Henri Anglade faltering, Franco Balmamion finished with the group and entered the top ten on GC for the first time, quiet an achievement considering his losses on the second stage.
The Dolomites had been intriguing but ultimately inconclusive and with Charly Gaul now at home, the race was there to be won. But with six days remaining, it was still unclear who would make the race-winning move.
Pian dei Resinelli
The sixteenth stage saw the peloton roll down from the high mountains to the great lakes of Lombardy. The percorso was short but the steep final climb to Pian dei Resinelli, 1,300 metres above Lake Lecco was designed to scramble the general classification once again.
A single escapee took leave from the peloton on the stage’s early downhill section but the action began in earnest when the Spanish climber Soler took off in pursuit on the climb to Taceno. Spotting an opportunity, Balmamion latched onto his wheel along with a Swiss rider and the trio worked together to reel in the lone breakaway.
By the time they reached the final climb, the stage was Soler’s to lose. Knowing this, Balmamion cleverly decided to forgo the stage win in favour of maximising his gains over his GC rivals. Riding tempo up the climb was enough to drop his Swiss colleague and come in second, 1’27 behind Soler but three minutes ahead of the other favourites.
Much to Defilippis’ chagrin, Balmamion was now up to seventh on GC, just over two minutes behind his teammate and only a shade over four minutes from Battistini’s maglia rosa. While tensions mounted at Carpano, the Legnano team had Massignan in third position as well as Battistini and, with a full complement of five gregari still in the race, looked set to take home the jersey.
Lecco - Casale Monferrato
All set for a classic transition stage? With Battistini in pink and Massignan close behind in third on GC, the Legnano team certainly were. The seventeenth stage that transpired was quite different.
Still steaming at Balmamion’s march up the GC, Defilippis launched an attack early into the stage, forcing Legnano to chase and ride hard far sooner than they had expected. After 30 kilometres of cat and mouse, it was Battistini himself who made contact with the breakaway. Gruppo compatto.
But not for long. In the lull that followed a group of seven glory hunters escaped on the descent into Como, among them Carpano’s master passista Bailetti and Sartore – Franco’s roommate. When Faema’s Huub Zilverberg attacked from the bunch behind, Balmamion covered the move for his friends ahead but got more than he bargained for.
Though Zilverberg suffered a mechanical, Balmamion was quickly joined by another group of pursuers while the Legnano gregari, still recovering from their early chase, toiled behind. Franco followed the wheels and soon found himself at the front of the race where his immensely powerful teammates Bailetti and Conterno set about maximising his advantage.
Left behind in a peloton barely pulled along at all by the lagging Legnano team, Nino Defilippis raged at his Carpano director Giacotti, demanding that Balmamion, Bailetti and Conterno be called back to the peloton. Giacotti ignored him and only just managed to convince him not to abandon.
Neither Defilippis nor the stage win were of any concern to Balmamion. While stylish sprinter Pellegrini crossed the line first, Franco had gained an unlikely 6’44 on all of his GC rivals, launching him into the maglia rosa for the first time with an advantage of 2’21 over a shell shocked Battistini.
Later that evening, as half of his team celebrated quietly, Nino Defilippis was brought back from the brink of abandoning only by the lure of a lucrative cheque from the team’s owner. As the race head for the Piedmontese Alps was Balmamion’s greatest threat now his own teammate?