Primož Roglič’s quest to be known as the Giro d’Italia winner rather than an ex-ski jumper is on the right course. With a week of racing he’s seen his rivals fall away, either literally in the case of Tom Dumoulin or just down the standings.
Valerio Conti leads the race and for all his talent and the hope placed in him in recent years, he’s yet to be seen as a durable GC contender. Necessity being the mother of invention, his quest is to stay in the race lead for as long as possible and without Fernando Gaviria the remaining members of the UAE team will help him as much as possible and this will include trying to keep a lid on the race although as we saw on the stage to L’Aquila they could only manage so far by themselves.
Primož Roglič has a comfortable lead over the main GC rivals and there’s the 17km Stage 21 Verona time trial as insurance, extrapolate his performances so far and he could take more time on his rivals. Only it’s not so simple, if he’s fading in the mountains then Verona could be awkward but for now it means if a rival wants to win the Giro outright they can’t just aim to overhaul him by a handful of seconds in the mountains, they have to construct a stable lead over him. Only as we saw in the Tour de Romandie he won the summit finish stage there too, even if that’s that’s just one reference point from a stage abbreviated by bad weather. It’s his race to lose but we’ve still got two weeks left and haven’t seen a mountain stage.
Vincenzo Nibali is the closest competitor to Roglič. Before the start of the race the question for Nibali was how could he win? Now we can see the answer already as the others have already fallen away. Yes he’s lost time to Roglič too but the others are much further down, he doesn’t have to monitor them directly and can wait his time and look for any weakness from the Slovenian. Of all the riders to have in contention Nibali must be the one to worry Jumbo-Visma the most given his track record, after all he rode away with the Giro in 2016 when Steven Kruijswijk looked so stable in the maglia rosa.
Bauke Mollema is suddenly a contender and the stampede of Dutch journalists out of the Giro might see some coming back. It’s a tricky for Mollema and Trek-Segafredo. Does he hang on for a podium place and UCI points by racing conservatively or try to provoke something? Bob Jungels faces a big test in the mountains as ever but there are stages to suit him, if he could get over the Colle San Carlo with the best on Stage 14 then he could use his abilities to ride away from the pure climbers on the awkward drag up to Courmayeur for example. Bora-Hansgrohe have an interesting tandem in Davide Formolo and Rafał Majka and can aim for stage wins.
Simon Yates had a disastrous time trial to the point where you wonder if he and his entourage downloaded a copy of this year’s Vuelta route to start a new target. He was matching Nibali in the time trial yesterday until the climb in San Marino where he stalled and sections of the course where Roglič and Nibali rode in their tri-bar tuck, Yates had his arms out wide and was sometimes standing on the pedals. If it’s just one bad day then he’ll be interesting in the mountains as his trademark move is an incisive attack that can’t be brought back, if he’s to get on the podium in Verona then Mitchelton-Scott need the Yates of last year’s Giro is required. And yes he’s having to eat his words after that interview with Rouleur but nevermind, all the better he said something interesting rather than the usual stock phrases of “day by day”.
Indeed several riders are now contemplating the rest of the Giro with what a best can be called reculer pour mieux sauter, they’ve gone backwards but now have to leap forwards. For the likes of Yates, Landa, Lopez and others the Giro isn’t about pinching 15 seconds in the final kilometre of a mountain stage and collecting the meagre time bonuses, it’s about taking minutes at a time. This doesn’t mean reversing it all right away, the first mountain stages could be conservative as riders get the measure of each other. Still there are so many riders so far back that things should get lively in the mountains and Jumbo-Visma don’t look like a team capable of containing it all.
While we’re projecting to the mountain stages there are sprint stages to come on Tuesday and Wednesday, virtual rest days for part of the peloton and TV audiences alike. Pascal Ackermann looks the best and has two stage wins but it’s a close call, of the big four sprinters left in the race only Arnaud Démare looks adrift, unable to convert his regular presence near the front into a win but he sits second on the points competition and as we saw in last year’s Tour de France, didn’t get eliminated in the mountains when others did so he could collect the points jersey if his rivals falter or just bail given the lack of sprint stages.
Giulio Ciccone took the mountains jersey in the Bologna TT and has been actively harvesting points ever since, he’s a strong climber who is suited to the Alpine ascents to come but the points system this year is skewed even more to the big climbs and coming first. Assuming he’s free to go for the jersey rather than shepherd Mollema he’ll need to win atop some first category climbs and pencil in the Gavia, the Cima Coppi with its double points…
…weather permitting. It’s been a cold and damp Giro since the start, probably the wettest since 2013 and the weather forecast – sometimes a harder call in the Italian Alps than picking a race winner – looks mixed, it might be sunny but summer has yet to break out in Italy, it still feels more like early April. The consequences of this might be felt in different ways, already the cold might have taken its toll and there’s talk Miguel Angel Lopez has a chest infection; there are worries about the high mountain passes like the Gavia being closed due to snow. Ignore photos of mountain passes under snow as they can be cleared in time, the problem is if it is snowing the day and night before and the during any stages in question, then the road will be impossible for a bike race.
|Bauke Mollema, Simon Yates|