The first shots were fired on the Monte Grappa climb with 76 kilometres to go. With the break two minutes and 50 seconds up the road, Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha) attacked the GC group but Quintana and Nibali responded quickly. Dumoulin suffered out the back but by riding on Bob Jungels' (QuickStep-Floors) wheel he was able to just stay in touch.
With the situation much the same on the next climb up the Foza, Nibali attacked with 24 kilometres to go, managing to grab some daylight. But the five other favourites including Dumoulin bridged the gap.
Zakarin then pulled two punches - one that didn't work, the next he pulled away with Pozzovivo. This looked like the winning move as they soon scooped up Dylan Teuns (BMC), the last rider remaining of the break with around 20 kilometres left to race.
Behind, Quintana attacked the favourites. The Colombian too looked free, but Nibali accelerated to bridge the gap and then ride past Quintana who pulled in quickly behind, catching a break on the Italian's wheel.
Pinot then made an appearance and the trio worked together to re-join Zakarin and Pozzovivo. Dumoulin worked with the remaining bunch behind, including Jungels, Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) and Adam Yates (Orica-Scott), to contain the damage.
A fine Pinot
“Stage victory is not more important than riding for GC but this is why I’m a bike rider," Pinot said after the stage. "I fight for winning races and today's been a good victory to beat the top contenders of the Giro.
"I feel that together with Nibali and Quintana we cooperated very well – we gave 100% and we weren't counting our pedal strokes – but once we rejoined with Pozzovivo and Zakarin I knew that they had the stage win in mind, and I did too in the last two kilometres.
"Staying 15 seconds ahead of a strong rouleur like Dumoulin means our cooperation was good.
"At the start of the Giro in Sardinia I said I wanted a stage win and a place on the final podium. I’ve done the hardest bit and now there are 30km left I’ll give it all to finish the Giro with no regrets."
Pinot now jumps to third on GC, just 43 seconds behind Quintana who still wears the maglia rosa. Nibali sits in second at 39 seconds.
Just the 29.3 kilometre race against the clock now remains, with the 53 seconds Quintana holds over ITT specialist Dumoulin probably not enough.
Dumoulin thanks his allies
Back at the team bus with gathered reporters, Dumoulin went as far to thank Mollema, Jungels, and Yates for helping him contain the damage.
“I’m forever thankful and grateful for the work Mollema, Jungels and Adam Yates did for me today," he said.
“They were pretty much not really fighting any more for spots on GC because they are pretty much fixed so it was also definitely to help me, so I’m very happy with that and very thankful.”
The maglia rosa speaks
Despite Dumoulin limiting his time losses, the maglia rosa remained optimistic.
"Better in this place, than behind," Quintana said. "Once we got ahead of the Dumoulin group I pushed with all that I had, trying to open a gap on him because he's the biggest candidate for the win tomorrow.
"I wasn't really thinking about the sprint, the day's win or the bonus seconds, but just on distancing him as much as I could.
"He also had some people taking turns behind and the gap got quite smaller than we initially built after the top of the climb.
"The only important thing now is that we've got the Maglia Rosa, which was our initial goal heading into the final TT - though we'd of course have liked to enjoy a bigger margin - and we'll give our best tomorrow with what's left."
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