The Giro d’Italia pauses for a day on the shores of Lake Como where on a good day you can see the snowy peaks of the Alps twice, first on the horizon and second reflected in the crystalline waters. Richard Carapaz, Vincenzo Nibali, Primoz Roglič and Mikel Landa have plenty to reflect on as they prepare for the final stages of the Giro.
A week ago Richard Carapaz was 20th overall and 3m16s down on Primož Roglič, hardly out of the picture given he’d already got a stage win but not an obvious contender for the Giro given his time losses. He’s now ahead by 47 seconds on Roglič and if we extrapolate his loss of 3 seconds per kilometre from the San Marino time trial we get a loss of 51 seconds in Verona. The point here isn’t the science, more the proximity and the uncertainty. He’ll want to take more time, his rivals will want to find ways to beat him.
As the chart shows, the momentum of the last few days with Carapaz as he’s overhauled Roglič, Nibali, Mollema and Majka. First he made a strong ascent on the slopes of Colle del Nivolet, taking 1m19s on Roglič and Nibali. This effort could have come with a price – Ilnur Zakarin won the stage and lost 7 minutes the next – only Carapaz took more time on the stage to Courmayeur, profiting from the hesitation in the chase group to take every second he could. Then in the chaos of yesterday’s stage finish on the climb to Civiglio he matched Nibali to take time on the rest.
What next for Carapaz? He seems very strong in the mountains, he’s got a punchy finish for time bonuses – remember he got the jump on Caleb Ewan in Frascati – and he’ll probably be ok in the final time trial, plus Movistar look strong enough to support him and there’s the Mikel Landa card to play as well. So far so good but we’ve yet to see him assume the burden of leading the race for days.
After the San Marino time trial Roglič had been sitting on a cushion of time only ever since it’s turned out to be an inflatable one with a leak, each day time has been hissing out. Yesterday’s stage was a farce, reportedly he couldn’t get a bike from the team car because his managers had stopped to urinate, unthinkable in the final 20km of a crucial stage on twisting roads with their cracks and potholes. Roglič grabbed team mate Antwan Tolhoek’s bike but even if the riders are the same height and use the same frame size, chances are the bike set-up is completely different with different saddle heights, forward adjustments and stem length. He coudn’t follow the moves in rhe the finale, crashed on the descent of the Civiglio and in the end lost 50 seconds to Carapaz and Nibali.
Vincenzo Nibali is keeping the home fans excited and paint sales must be up in Italy as locals rush to daub pelagic pictograms across the Alps. His duel with Roglič is partly why he’s third overall at 1m47s, he’s been marking the Slovenian, and complaining the Slovenian has been marking him, and their rivalry has let Carapaz through. Nibali had been hoping to crack Roglič and could still do, but now Carapaz sits ahead.
Among the others Bauke Mollema is riding strong but there’s a long way to go, he lost time in yesterday’s stage and it’s hard to see him turning the race upside down. Rafał Majka’s in an strong position, but awkward too, fourth overall means little room for stage wins.
Mikel Landa is having a great Giro, isn’t he? In asking the question we know he’s making up for lost time but so far hasn’t got a result. He can help Carapaz and get a stage win but is only three minutes down, he can finish on the podium too. Are Movistar more invested in Carapaz given talk Landa could be going to Bahrain-Merida? Probably.
Simon Yates and Miguel Angel Lopez aren’t out of road yet but Lopez seems to be struggling on the climbs that were supposed to suit him although he’s only seven seconds behind Pavel Sivakov for the white jersey, a reminder he’s still a work-in-progress. Yates is trying moves but he’s clawed back a few seconds when he needs minutes to get a podium finish but a stage win could be within reach as he’s still not a priority to close down. But each time this happens in the race the overall classification changes.
The GC contenders are only one part of the race. Since Thursday the stage contests have been great with breakaways making it to the end on Thursday, Friday and Sunday, a reward for attacks and risk-taking. The final few days are also the last chance for teams who’ve been discreet, the likes of CCC, Dimension Data and Israel Academy come to mind although easier said than done to win a stage, nine teams have a stage victory so far, 13 don’t.
Giulio Ciccone leads the mountains jersey and by some margin, he’s only a couple of sprints atop a pass from securing the jersey.
Arnaud Démare and Pascal Ackermann remain in the race and face a final week battle for the points jersey where the Frenchman leads by 13 points and Thursday stage offers 50 points to first place and 35 to second place, a vital stage for them although Ackermann is still sporting some big bandages, they’ve got the mountains to negotiate… plus Richard Carapaz is closing in too.