ROCCAMORICE, Italy — Nairo Quintana rode away from his main rivals up the grueling climb to Blockhaus to win the ninth stage of the Giro d’Italia and take the leader’s pink jersey in a leg that was marred by a mass crash involving a police motorbike.
The crash Sunday virtually ended the overall title hopes of Sky teammates Geraint Thomas and Mikel Landa, plus Orica-Scott’s Adam Yates.
Quintana, the Colombian who won the 2014 Giro and was twice runner-up in the Tour de France, finished 24 seconds ahead of Thibaut Pinot of France, who edged Tom Dumoulin of the Netherlands in a sprint for second.
Bauke Mollema crossed fourth and two-time Giro champion Vincenzo Nibali came fifth.
"I showed that I’m happy with my legs and the legs of my teammates," Quintana said. "The whole team was strong and I was strong."
Quintana dedicated his victory to 2011 Giro champion Michele Scarponi, who died after a collision with a van while training last month.
"There’s still a long way to go in the Giro," Quintana said. "We’ll get to know in the coming days if the 30-second lead I have over Tom Dumoulin is much or little, but I feel good. That’s the most important for now."
In the overall standings, Quintana leads Pinot by 28 seconds and Dumoulin by 30 seconds. Mollema is fourth, 51 seconds behind, and Nibali is fifth, 1:10 back.
With 15 kilometres to go — just before the climb — riders in the main pack made contact with a police motorcycle stopped alongside the road, prompting the crash that involved Thomas, Landa, Yates and about a dozen other riders.
All three of the overall contenders got back on their bikes but Landa appeared to be in severe pain, Yates had his knee bloodied and Thomas’ jersey and shorts were shredded.
Immediately after the crash, Nairo Quintana’s Movistar team set a blistering pace at the front, which prompted previous leader Bob Jungels to drop off during the early stages of the climb.
It didn’t take long for Quintana, Nibali and Pinot to form a three-man group in the lead.
Quintana attempted several attacks before finally pulling away on his own and then Nibali eventually dropped further back.
Yates finished about 4 1/2 minutes behind and Thomas crossed more than five minutes back.
Entering the stage, Thomas stood second overall and Yates was third.
Thomas, who has been Chris Froome’s best support rider during his three Tour de France victories, was aiming for his first big individual success.
Yates was looking to improve on his fourth-place result in last year’s Tour.
"It shouldn’t (happen)," Thomas said of the crash. "It’s ridiculous. My shoulder popped out. … Race over. It’s really disappointing."
The climb lasted 13 kilometres (eight miles) at an average gradient of nine per cent with stretches at 14 per cent.
The stage marked the 50th anniversary of Eddy Merckx’s first Grand Tour victory in a stage at Blockhaus, which is located in the Abruzzo region.
After a rest day Monday, the Giro resumes Tuesday with a 39.8 (25-mile) individual time trial from Foligno to Montefalco through the Sagrantino winemaking region in Umbria. Then there is another mountainous stage Wednesday before the Alps next weekend.
The 100th Giro ends in Milan on May 28.