Blockhaus - Colombia's Nairo Quintana soared to victory on a dramatic ninth stage of the Giro d'Italia on Sunday that secured the race leader's pink jersey and dented the victory hopes of several key rivals.
Quintana, a two-time runner-up at the Tour de France who won the 2014 Giro, had been expected to blow the race apart on a punishing 13.6km climb that gave Belgian legend Eddy Merckx his maiden Giro win in 1967.
And the diminutive Movistar team climber fulfilled predictions by leaving defending champion Vincenzo Nibali, and several others, in his wake after a series of attacks launched inside the final six kilometres.
Quintana soloed over the finish 23 seconds ahead of Frenchman Thibaut Pinot and Dutchman Tom Dumoulin to wrest the race lead from Luxembourg's Bob Jungels.
He is now 28 seconds ahead of FDJ rider Pinot in the overall standings, with two-time champion Nibali (Bahrain) 1:10 behind after trailing home in fifth place one minute in arrears.
While Dumoulin (Sunweb) and Bauke Mollema (Trek) moved up to third and fourth overall at 30 and 51 seconds behind respectively, compatriot Steven Kruijswijk is now over three minutes in arrears.
"I'm happy to win the stage and to take some seconds from my rivals," said Quintana. "I had to attack. But I want to say thanks to my team. They did a great job."
Jungels started the 149km stage from Montenero di Bisaccia to Blockhaus with a 10 second lead on Quintana but struggled on a drama-filled stage that has almost certainly ended the podium hopes of British pair Geraint Thomas and Adam Yates.
They were among several riders to come down when Sunweb rider Wilco Kelderman clipped a police motorcycle parked at the side of the road.
Despite his shoulder having "popped out", Thomas got back on his bike to finish, but is now over five minutes in arrears.
"I don't know what to say, except it's ridiculous," said Thomas.
"We were all racing towards the climb, then someone in front of me hits a motorbike. My shoulder popped out."
Injured Kelderman's race is now over, a setback that angered his team leader Dumoulin.
"I'm feeling shit because we lost Wilco," said Dumoulin, who bounced back from the incident in the final kilometres to overtake a tiring Nibali and cross the line with Pinot at 24 seconds behind an unstoppable Quintana.
"I can't be happy today because he (Kelderman) would have been be so important in the final week and I'm really disappointed for him."
Even before the last remnants of a 12-man breakaway were caught with 22km remaining, Quintana's Movistar team had set their stall out with a furious pace at the front of the bunch.
The Spanish outfit was still leading 14km from the finish when disaster struck, causing a split that allowed a reduced group to race ahead.
Jungels began losing contact with 8.5km remaining, and soon after Quintana launched the first of four attacks that prompted Pinot and Nibali to follow with a series of futile counter-attacks.
Quintana's final burst from four kilometres out snapped the elastic, the Colombian leaving a tiring Nibali to "limit the damage" after he was overtaken by Dumoulin and Bauke Mollema in the final two kilometres.
"It was very steep on the final sections so I tried to limit the damage and go up at my own pace," said Nibali.
"Quintana was better on the steeper parts of the climb, and he weighs 10kg less than me! Maybe in the time trial we can snatch something back."
After Monday's rest day, the race resumes with a 39.8km time trial on stage 10.
Results from the ninth stage of the Giro d'Italia, held over 149km from Montenero di Bisaccia to Blockhaus on Sunday:
1. Nairo Quintana (COL/MOV) 3hr 44min 51sec, 2. Thibaut Pinot (FRA/FDJ) at 24secs, 3. Tom Dumoulin (NED/SUN) same time, 4. Bauke Mollema (NED/TRE) 41, 5. Vincenzo Nibali (ITA/BAH) 1:00, 6. Domenico Pozzovivo (ITA/ALM) 1:18, 7. Tanel Kangert (EST/AST) 2:02. 8. Ilnur Zakarin (RUS/KAT) 2:14, 9. Sebastien Reichenbach (SUI/FDJ) 2:28, 10. Davide Formolo (ITA/CAN) 2:35
12. Steven Kruijswijk (NED/TLJ) 2:43, 15. Bob Jungels (LUX/QST) 3:30, 29. Geraint Thomas (GBR/SKY) 5:08, 165. Mikel Landa (ESP/SKY) 26:56
DNF: Wilco Kelderman (NED/SUN)
1. Nairo Quintana (COL/MOV) 42hr 06min 09sec, 2. Thibaut Pinot (FRA/FDJ) at 28secs, 3. Tom Dumoulin (NED/SUN) 30, 4. Bauke Mollema (NED/TRE) 51, 5. Vincenzo Nibali (ITA/BAH) 1min 10sec, 6. Domenico Pozzovivo (ITA/ALM) 1:28, 7. Ilnur Zakarin (RUS/KAT) 2:28, 8. Davide Formolo (ITA/CAN) 2:45, 9. Andrey Amador (CRC/MOV) 2:53, 10. Steven Kruijswijk (NED/TLJ) 3:06
12. Bob Jungels (LYX/QST) 3:30, 17. Geraint Thomas (GBR/SKY) 5:14, 44. Mikel Landa (ESP/SKY) 27:06