(Reuters) - Dutchman Tom Dumoulin limited his losses in the penultimate stage won by France’s Thibaut Pinot on Saturday to stay well-placed to win the Giro d’Italia in the final time trial.
Nairo Quintana (Movistar) retained the overall lead but, with the first four riders within 53 seconds of the Colombian, the three-week race is set for a dramatic finale with a 29.3-km solo effort favoring Dumoulin.
Dumoulin (Sunweb) finished the 190-km stage between Pordenone and Asiago 15 seconds behind Pinot (FDJ), who beat Russian Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha) and defending champion Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) for the stage 20 victory that also gave him a 10-second time bonus.
Italian Domenico Pozzovivo (AG2R-La Mondiale) took fourth place ahead of Quintana in the same time as Pinot with Dumoulin losing time after failing to follow the pure climbers in the last ascent.
“The time gaps are minimal and tomorrow is a flat time trial that is tailor-made for Dumoulin,” said Pinot.
Quintana leads Nibali by 39 seconds and Pinot by 43, with Dumoulin in fourth place overall 53 seconds off the pace.
Dumoulin, a time-trial specialist turned grand tour rider, has a big chance of leapfrogging the top three riders on Sunday in Milan to claim his maiden grand tour title.
“We tried to get a bigger gap but Tom has been very strong and is now the clear favorite tomorrow to win the race,” said Movistar team manager Eusebio Unzue.
Dumoulin lost contact with the rest in the last ascent, a tough 14-km climb when Zakarin (Katusha), who is now fifth overall 1:15 down, attacked with Pozzovivo.
Quintana and Nibali began their pursuit and Pinot was unable to keep pace at first but the Frenchman, third overall in the 2014 Tour de France, eventually managed to jump away from Dumoulin’s group and caught Quintana and Nibali.
The trio raced down the leading duo in the flat section leading to the finish and Pinot, arguably the freshest rider in the third week, then outsprinted Zakarin for his third grand tour stage win after prevailing twice on the Tour.
Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Ken Ferris