Rigoberto Uran held on to the leader’s pink jersey at the Giro d’Italia despite losing time to all of his rivals for victory on the final climb of a dramatic 14th stage won by breakaway rider Enrico Battaglin.
Uran was left trailing when Domenico Pozzovivo attacked out of the peloton with 4.5km remaining to the summit finish at Oropa and distanced everyone but Nairo Quintana.
Quintana went on to cross the line four seconds ahead of Pozzovivo in 15th place on the day, with Cadel Evans following another 16 seconds later and Uran finishing 25 seconds down.
It means Uran’s lead over Evans is cut from 37 second to 32 seconds, and while both Quintana and Pozzovivo made only small gains, the ease with which they dropped both Uran and Evans signalled an ominous warning ahead of four summit finishes in the race’s remaining seven stages.
Battaglin, meanwhile, formed part of the day’s 21-man breakaway and mounted a remarkable late charge to beat Dario Cataldo into second and Jarlinson Pantano into third.
Battaglin said: “I’m delighted for the victory. I was away from the first kilometre. There were plenty of men in front, but I managed to come back, and it was a superb win for me.”
The 164km 14th stage contained three categorised climbs and a large breakaway was allowed to move clear early and effectively battle for victory on the day between themselves.
The group steadily began to shrink down over the second climb, the category-two Bielmonte, before Albert Timmer (Giant-Shimano) and Manuel Quinziato (BMC) attacked on the descent down the other side to take a narrow lead on to the category-one climb to Oropa.
Drama on final climb
Quinziato then suffered the most untimely of mechanicals to leave Timmer leading solo, but the Dutchman could not hold on and was caught by the chasing Cataldo (Team Sky) and Pantano (Colombia) with just over 2km to go.
It looked like those three would contest the victory, but then Battaglin and a couple of other members of the original break caught back up in the final 1km. Cataldo launched his sprint for the line early and appeared on course to win, but Battaglin produced a devastating late surge and overtook his fellow Italian in the last 15m.
Back down the road, Pozzovivo (Ag2r-La Mondiale) blew the peloton apart with two attacks in quick succession in the last 5km and Uran (Omega Pharma – Quick-Step) and Evans (BMC) were both instantly distanced by the move. Only Quintana (Movistar) followed and both men went on to profit from the move, while Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Wilco Kelderman (Belkin) were also able to make gains on Uran.
The general classification favourites will resume their battle on stage 15 on Sunday, which ends with a summit finish on Plan de Montecampione.
Quintana said: "These 25 seconds to Urán are few to what I'm still trailing by, but they're useful and show me we can gain time in the mountains. Tomorrow's difficulties are all at the end and we will keep the same plan, trying to stay close to the favourites - there's still a long way to go in this Giro."
Stage 14 result
1 Enrico Battaglin (Ita) Bardiani-CSF, 4:34:41
2 Dario Cataldo (Ita) Team Sky, same time
3 Jarlinson Pantano (Col) Colombia, +7secs
4 Jan Polanc (Slo) Lampre-Merida, +17
5 Nicolas Roche (Ire) Tinkoff-Saxo, +22
6 Albert Timmer (Ned) Giant-Shimano, +26
7 Emanuele Sella (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela, +28
8 Mattia Cattaneo (Ita) Lampre-Merida, +33
9 Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Belisol, +39
10 Ivan Santaromita (Ita) Orica-GreenEdge, +54
15 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar, +2:39
17 Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Ag2r-La Mondiale, +2:43
19 Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff-Saxo, +2:47
21 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC, +2:59
22 Rigoberto Uran (Col) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step, +3:04
1 Rigoberto Uran (Col) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step, 57:52:51
2 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC, +32secs
3 Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff-Saxo, +1:35
4 Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Ag2r-La Mondiale, +2:11
5 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Belkin, +2:33
6 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar, +3:04
7 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana, +3:16
8 Wout Poels (Ned) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step, +4:01
9 Pierre Rolland (Fra) Europcar, +5:07
10 Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) Trek Factory Racing, +5:13