Giro d’Italia Rest Day Review

We’re halfway there but the hard days are still to come. It’s been an enjoyable Giro so far, we’ve had a variety of stages and the breakaways have been rewarded. Egan Bernal might be on the verge of riding away with the Giro but that’s conditional, for all the drama of the ski slope finish at Campo di Felice was dramatic the 8km Turin time trial saw bigger time gaps.

We’ve seen a lot of action so far but it’s all been skirmishes and side battles. Yes Egan Bernal was great on the ski piste at Campo Felice but he took seven seconds on Giulio Ciccone, he took 22 on the Italian in the Turin time trial but to much less fanfare. Obviously Bernal’s move is a hint of what is to come but the opening time trial is as much responsible for the shape of the GC as any of the Appenine stages we see so far. Which means the time trial from Senago to Milan yet to come can make even bigger gaps and therefore Bernal needs to make bigger moves. But not yet.

Other factors have also shaped the GC. Random crashes mean Pavel Sivakov, Mikel Landa and Domenico Pozzovivo are out of the race. The weather seems to have played its part with João Almeida, George Bennett and Jai Hindley seemingly washed away by the deluge and cold of the opening stages.

Vincenzo Nibali’s doing well compared to expectations set at the same time as his fractured wrist; Emanuel Buchmann’s two minutes adrift. Next comes a collection of riders in and around the top-10 with Romain Bardet, Marc Soler, Dan Martin, Damiano Caruso and Hugh Carthy who, having seen others lose their GC bids will just be pleased to still be in the match and hoping to stay consistent in the coming days in order to have options on a top-5 for the final week. Atilla Valter’s had a spell in the maglia rosa and could try to pace himself to a high GC position but he’s had a good time and the rest is a bonus. Simon Yates is the mystery, still in contention but yet to weigh on the race and yes he might want to save energy for the third week but not at the price of losing this much time, his Giro surely hasn’t gone to plan? Now come Guilio Ciccone and Aleksandr Vlasov who seem to be tied for third place right now, Ciccone looks to be on fire but what to do with the form?

Egan Bernal and Remco Evenepoel are in a duel, witness their sprint for a time bonus yesterday which saw Evenepoel gain one second. Meaningless on GC but symbolic as their two teams went at it too. The real test is yet to come, just what can Evenepoel do in the mountains, both uphill and downhill and can Bernal’s back hold out? As things stand you’d bet more on Bernal’s back than Evenepoel but it’ll be interesting to see.

We could see a lull in the Giro this week until Saturday’s stage to the Zoncolan but tomorrow’s stage has the potential to throw everything up in the air, a puncture or a crash and it’s Giro-over. Those having nightmares – presumably team managers – can perhaps sleep a bit calmer tonight knowing that at least the weather will be benign, dry roads with the dust retained by recent rains.

Away from the GC, a few other observations. First Peter Sagan won “the Sagan stage” yesterday, his Bora-Hansgrohe team turned the Valico della Somma into a full on ramp test and the likes of Dylan Groenewegen, Tim Merlier and Giacomo Nizzolo were left gasping for air. It’s put Sagan in the points jersey and crucially kept Nizzolo at bay.

Staying with the sprinters, Caleb Ewan’s got some flak for leaving the race. He was going to leave but it seems an accident in the hotel on the morning of his exit might have forced things. Either way pulling out of a race with pre-meditated intention goes against cycling’s cultural norm of struggle to the bitter end. It’s not the first time a Lotto-Soudal sprinter has won stages, taken the lead in the points competition… and headed home. Greipel did just this in 2016 too and if you want five minutes exploring the subject try “Quit When Your Winning“, a blog post from that year’s Giro.

The breakaways have had a good time of it and should continue to do so. Simon Pellaud leads the “Fuga” competition with 408km spent on the attack. Sure these attacks don’t always work but Pellaud is value for making these and there are plenty of days to come where the breakaway should make it given Ineos wants to control “the fight for pink” as RCS call it but not the stage wins.

The Giro has an official podcast. This might sound corporate and tame but instead imagine an artists’ collective get given 45 minutes to talk about the race and regions each day, they even have spoof adverts. It’s in Italian of course but if this isn’t a dealbreaker then try it. In English The Cycling Podcast is doing a grand job, an ode to Italy and travelogue at the same time as a daily digest of the day’s racing.

One point made on The Cycling Podcast yesterday, and also by a rider agent yesterday too, is that the white jersey competition is utterly redundant at the moment. Sometimes these ancillary competitions don’t catch fire but here this is a structural matter now, it’s not the Giro’s white jersey, it’s across the sport. Once upon a time a young rider might hope for a decent GC position while they served out some kind of apprenticeship before making their bid to win a grand tour in their late twenties. Occasionally a wunderkind would arrive, think Damiano Cunego in the 2004 Giro but that was the exception. Now so many riders are turning pro earlier that the least the young rider competition could do is become U23 rather than U26 but that still wouldn’t separate Evenepoel now, nor Pogačar at the Tour. This matters because jerseys at grand tours are big deals and marquee sponsorship deals only anyone backing the white jersey competitions these days has bought into a competition that’s been swamped.

Talking of swamped competitions, other races struggle to get a look-in. It’s great to see the Challenge Majorca series of races went ahead last week but when they’re held at the start of the season they’re the centre of the world. When it’s mid-May alongside the Giro it’s just not the same. But holding them now means they’ve gone ahead and will go ahead again as normal – fingers crossed – next January.

Italy’s roads are messy with plenty of cracks and holes. But what to do? The Italian economy’s in a funk and if there’s cash to spare it’ll probably go on schools and hospitals first. One improvement is with bikes, it’s normal to ride 25mm tires or wider now which helps smooth things compared to a decade ago.

Onto paths still be smoothed and Peter Sagan’s contractual situation is still being worked on according to La Gazzetta Dello Sport. He could move to Deceuninck-Quickstep but comes with an entourage formed in his Liquigas days of Daniel Oss and Maciej Bondar, his press attaché Gabriele Uboldi and more which takes up both budget and space on a roster. We’ll see where he goes but away from speculation perhaps the interesting thing is that this is still ongoing: it’s mid-May. As mentioned here before think of the rider market as a jigsaw puzzle and the top riders are like the corner pieces, once they’ve been sorted then you can start with others and if Sagan hasn’t been slotted in then a lot of other moves can’t yet follow. Staying with the business end, today’s Gazzetta also reports coffee giant Segafredo should renew with the Trek team and with Ciccone riding high you can see why. But Antonio Tiberi’s third place in the recent Tour de Hongrie is as much a reason to stay.

49 thoughts on “Giro d’Italia Rest Day Review”

  1. “Random crashes mean Pavel Sivakov, Mikel Landa and Domenico Pozzovivo are out of the race” Did you leave out Matej Mohoric with an implication it wasn’t as “random”?
    I think the roads down here in Sicily might be the worst in all of Italy but amazingly even some of them get repaved, at least in sections. Seems like the same thing these days with La Corsa Rosa, you see fresh stretches in plenty of places with others that still need it in-between, as your photo illustrates. Always makes me wonder how bad the stretch was that got the repaving?
    Perhaps I’ll be disappointed but I’m hoping for some real action on the Montalcino stage, though as you note plenty will think it’s too early to show their hand. But can Ineos sit on everything/everyone until the final chrono stage? I hope not!

  2. Great read as always Inrng! Although the review does refer to it, I think far too much is made of the uphill results so far. What we’ve seen so far just pales in comparison to tomorrow’s stage and what’s to follow in week 3 – especially the Dolomites stage and the final weekend. The gaps will be minutes, not mere seconds.

    With that in mind, it was really weird to see Evenepoel and Bernal waste energy on a few measly seconds yesterday, and it tells me they realise they might have peaked too early (which in Evenepoel’s case wouldn’t be all that surprising). My feeling is that all the other contenders are deliberately saving themselves for the 2nd half of the Giro. Seen in that light Carthy, Vlasov and Yates are still very much in this race.

  3. Not sure about the race so far, some highlights – Taco van der Horn’s win, Pippo Ganna’s display of power & daring and Egan Bernal dancing on the big ring to ride into pink, but the rest not so memorable. There has been considerable attrition, Tim Merlier has gone too and I guess more will follow. I wonder how much those who are left are affected by fatigue but difficult for anyone outside of the teams to know.

    Simon Yates is odd, he came into the race with really good form but has been completely anonymous so far. Perhaps his experience in 2018 is weighing on his mind or maybe Matt White has some great strategic masterplan (unlikely). He is not out of things, he is less than a minute behind the lead, pretty small beer historically at the Giro. However he can hardly hope to play the “hold ’em in the mountains, mow ’em down in the chrono” card so he needs to make a statement ride sooner rather than later, Monte Zoncolan perhaps?

    I am still not convinced by all the media hype around Remco Evenepoel, maybe he will go on to win and maybe he is the new “Eddie Merckx”. The one time in the race so far he was put under pressure, he did OK but lost time, maybe it was a crash in the tunnel, maybe the finish didn’t suit him but he lost time. Fighting for odd seconds at intermediate sprints shows intent but is unlikely to win the race.

    • It’s theoretically possible to ponder though that, to all intents and purposes, Evenepoel is the de facto race leader if his 2” / km TT advantage is extrapolated to the final day. That would / could / should put him a minute ahead as it stands now.
      I think yesterday’s duel for the intermediate seconds was significant in that it showed that he and Quick Step are not going to just sit back and let Ineos dictate everything.
      That was a trap that Quintana and Movistar seemed to get repeatedly seduced by.
      Bernal does look strong and his support on the flat and power climbs is the best in the race. What difference the loss of one mountain helper may make remains to be seen. Or has Ineos got a Rohan Dennis replacement with them?

      • That is a big assumption there, not sure this is really Tom Dumoulin v Nairo Quintana part 2. No one (not least the man himself) knows how Remco Evenepoel is going to react to 3 weeks of a GT. I know that all the coaches and fitness gurus now claim that they can recreate a GT in training. Maybe, but training in whatever sport is just that, training, the real thing is always more stressful & unpredictable. Certainly the best prepared athlete has an advantage but who is the best prepared?

        I agree about the loss of Pavel Sivakov, though Gianna Moscon has been surprisingly good so far. I also wonder about just how good or motivated the DQS mountain Gregarios will be when the road really goes up.

        • I take your point.
          But a couple of things to consider.
          1. Presumably Ineos have to assume that Evenepoel’s final TT can put substantial time into Bernal and race accordingly. To ignore that possibility is to risk a last day turnaround akin to their own victory in the Giro in 2020. A terrible potential irony.
          2. Have a look at Evenepoel’s TT results from last year. There are some superb rides there, with Rohan Dennis and Filippo Ganna both being beaten. This young man is a top, top TTer make no mistake about that. I’d bet that he’ll put a lot more than 2” / km into Bernal too. Maybe 3” or 4” /km?

          Unless Evenepoel’s form drops off a cliff, there’s plenty racing left in this Giro. Bernal might need 2’ to feel safe going into the last day?

          • Do you really think Ineos don’t know that? I realise that everyone has to be an Evenepoel fan boy now but how many GTs has DSQ won? The final ITT is an irellavance, the climbs will decide this race.

        • Those DQS “gregarios” are pretty good… Almeida, Knox and Masnada are all top 10 Grand Tour GC riders (nearly for Knox anyway) while Cavagna is obviously super strong until the road goes really steep. In the absence of Sivakov, DQS are arguably more stacked for the high mountains than Ineos.

  4. Evenepoel started from reasonably far back in the bunch on Sunday but finished the stage in 4th so I don’t think this really shows anything. So far we have had so little to go on other than a few very short climbs.

  5. With regards various comments I have seen online about Simon Yates ‘being smart, biding his time and letting the others waste energy taking a few seconds’, I’m sure that if he could have stayed with Bernal when he went up the road he would have. All the comments about Ineos sandbagging in the pre-Tour stage races last year turned out to be nonsense/wishful thinking. There is definitely a difference in going for bonus seconds and getting dropped on a climb though.

    Is it really possible to ride into form during a Grand Tour? Surely riders that appear to improve over the course of three weeks are just deteriorating in condition at a lesser rate than their rivals. It would be interesting to run the same TT at the start as at the end and see how the results differ.

    • “it would be interesting to run the same TT at the start as at the end and see how the results differ” – this is a fascinating idea; I would be so interested to see how that played out.

    • I’m sure that you are right. If Yates could have avoided those repeated dropped seconds, he would have done so. I would be delighted to see him find form and confidence but feel he will lose much more time on the harder stages to come. It looks a struggle for him.
      As for Evenepoel, his results in 2020 were truly remarkable: four stage races started (including one WT) and four GC wins with numerous stages too. Can he maintain such exceptional performances?

    • I chatted with a coach about managing form in a grand tour once – and stress it was just a chat, not a scientific presentation for a sports science journal and one coach, not a panel etc – and their view was you can’t really ride into a form during a grand tour. Fatigue means you can only try to manage the decline in form. But it’s relative so a rider who comes in feeling 100% might spend too much too soon and start to fade, while a rider maybe just a touch because they’re rested/tapered more before a grand tour than they would before a one day/one week race, might lose less over the three weeks. Then this varies from rider to rider, grand tour to grand tour, year to year.

      • Of course, the concept of “getting into form during the three weeks” is probably best mirrored by the idea of “flattening the curve” which Covid made so famous. It’s more often than not an idea of “form” which is relative to others.

        That said, sort of a “double-ITT test” idea like the one d. nixon suggested above (which would be an high price to pay for science’s sake if it was to be repeated GT after GT 😉 given that it’s way better to have intellegently mixed ITT courses) more or less happened in recent races, and might suggest that the likes of Tao or Hesjedal actually “rode into full form” at the Giro. Same could be said for Froome comparing stage 1 and stage 16, even if the results are probably affected by Froome’s recon crash – yet, the difference is huge and race events in other stages would support this theory.
        The TdF allergy to ITTs in the last decade or so makes it very hard to use them as a form test, yet Wiggins and Froome look like they grew into actual better shape in 2012, just as Contador 2009 or Sastre 2008. Same is true for the full *final* podium in 2007. Leipheimer was clearly growing better and better as the race went on, but so were Contador and Evans.
        The Vuelta really doesn’t love ITTs, even less so repeated ones, so it’s hard to find adequate stats, yet it’s pretty much clear that in 2018 Simon Yates was displaying growing form in absolute terms between stage 1 and 16, but, as in the 2007 TdF, so were doing Kruijswijk or Mas.

        I’m aware that there are several factors at play (better said, a whole lot of factors!), but that’s what figures suggest – and it’s more or less coherent with what was seen during the race.

      • Well that’s definitive then.

        We might see the effects of the cold wet early stages later on. Whilst they didn’t have an impact on the times on the day it may be that certain riders, maybe smaller ones, were more affected and it took more out of them. Similar in a way to when the Tour goes over the cobbles. In 2018 I recall Dumoulin and Thomas making comments about how they could have gone deeper and felt relatively fresh afterwards whereas the likes of Bardet that finished with a similar time probably couldn’t relate.

      • There was a good podcast recently where a prominent coach/trainer who is very into the science of performance (a cyclingtips podcast?) made the same point at Inring, that you cannot “ride into form” during a grand tour, and you’re only managing the decline. I think one of his key points was that building form is dependent upon alternating hard efforts with sufficient rest and recovery, and that without adequate recovery the damage (to muscles, to red blood cells) can only accumulate, and the form necessarily declines.

  6. If the white jersey competition is redundant, does that mean the whole u23 category is too? There are world and national championships at u23. Been saying for a while that top riders are getting younger and careers are possibly shorter.
    Does this also mean that the business side – agents and team owners, plus sponsors – now has more leverage over the riders than back when a kapo could swing around with an entourage and personal sponsors? Perhaps Sagan is the last man standing at this game, with no interest in helping quickly to resolve the jigsaw puzzle. – Why not spin things out, when this increases the pressure on all your rivals as well as the team owners he might end up with?

    Observation: It’s worth being a bit careful when commenting on the state of some roads in Italy when the race was going through areas where many of the buildings were still in ruins from earthquake. Local politics is a strong force everywhere in the world and voters are quick to spot where money is being wasted. Bike races are a luxury item.

    • One can’t blame earthquakes for roads in need of repair – even in relatively rich places here in Italy the budget for road resurfacing has been squeezed by economic factors and now the pandemic, which has whacked the tourist-related economic turnover for over a year now. They still find the money to fix the worst roads of the route of La Corsa Rosa, but you don’t hear about those vs the broken, worn-out pavement blamed for crashes like Mohoric’s.
      As I wrote earlier, back-in-the-day guys like Alex Zulle’s Giro experience made him think all the roads in Italy were fantastic…and don’t forget, he was from Switzerland where everything is perfect.

    • The U23 category is still very important, the calendar has been hit by the pandemic but for every junior recruited by a pro team there must be 20-25 recruited from the U23s. Or see Geoffroy Bouchard in the Giro who turned pro aged 26.

      As for the roads, of course quake damage can be explained but the roads are cracked and have holes far away from any seismic activity. It’s not a big complaint here, more an observation and the racing and even tech choices can be different. You tend to see it vary region by region. As you say resurfacing a road just so the bunch can go over it is a luxury, although having ridden part of the route you see crews out on the road because in anticipation of the Giro, the race coming is a reason to repair roads and other roads can wait until next year.

      • I read Plurien’s comment as meaning not so much that the quakes caused the road damage, as that the money may not have been there to repair them because it was needed for rebuilding.

    • People joke about this but it’s hard to see what other categories you could have. A reminder that under UCI rules a race can have up to four jerseys. You could have “best Italian” but that’s parochial although most of the audience is Italian so can imagine RCS tempted; French TV can’t stop themselves from talking about “best Frenchman” either. The Vuelta’s had a combined competition but nobody really goes for it and it tends to go to the race leader as by definition they’re already leading on one front and have scored highly elsewhere. The Giro could revive the idea and actually award a “black jersey” for the last place rider but nobody would see this, no sponsor would like it. A headscratcher.

      • Yeah I was wondering about this too, the “Old Rider” jersey is the one (half?) joked about, but what about a breakaways/intermediates sprints jersey? Award points at the intermediate sprint for it and the Sprinters jersey (or have 1 sprint for each). Potential to reward the smaller teams, people like Simon Pellaud, and maybe add a bit of competition to those long flat days.

      • I’m not really arguing for it, but how about a “time spent in breakaways” jersey? It’d be good for the non-WT teams, although it’s not always easy to define what is or isn’t a breakaway.

        They’re probably better off just sticking with the white jersey as a concept, these things are circular, and there’s no guarantee 21yo riders are going to be winning GTs forever.

    • He’s a GC project for the team and was supposed to try for a high place at the Vuelta but Nibali’s injury looks to have given him more space but his form has too so he can aim high. Nibali gave an interview to Italian TV the other day saying Ciccone’s been allowed to “race with his head” more, to do as he pleases so if he wants to attack he can and maybe this freedom helps in that he hasn’t come into the race with his team and a whole country expecting a big result. He seems to have form that’s like 2019 or better and then he was the KoM and not just because of lucky breakaways, he was very good on the Mortirolo. Saturday’s Zoncolan stage is going to be a big one, we’ll see how he does in a longer climb, a 45 minute effort.

      • With all due respect I think you’ve got it backwards Mr. Inrng. From what I’ve read Nibali’s trying to hold his young teammate back a bit, encouraging him to race more with his head than his heart so he’ll not be fried in the crucial third week.
        Dunno how that’s gonna work of course, I think The Shark’s results of late have suffered since his last instinctive attack – the move that won him La Primavera a few years ago. Every time I hear him or someone from the team say “Well, his/my numbers are good…” I wanna throw up! FORZA SQUALO!

  7. Bike helmets come with instructions that they should be replaced after an accident even if no visible damage. Why aren’t replacement helmets given to riders after they crash? I was aghast to see the first thing that Mohoric’s team car did was offer him a new bike. I understand they wouldn’t have seen the crash, but they saw the bike in pieces. Not sure what answer is; g sensors on helmet, if over a certain number, doctor required to assess.

    • “Bike helmets come with instructions that they should be replaced after an accident even if no visible damage.” Sure, but how much of that is the manufacturer/importer/marketer’s CYA vs reality? They also claim you should replace your helmet regularly even if you’ve never crash-tested it, based on what evidence? Mechanics jump out of the car and yank a replacement bike off the car almost as instinct, are they gonna have to have a helmet in the other hand, just-in-case?

      • Larry this isnt just marketing blah. For instance climbing helmets must be replaced if they take any sort of blow, the same should apply to any sort of safety helmets. There could be cracks in the material that are not visible to the naked eye. It really is impossible to know how much stress the helmet has absorbed and how much damage has been done without some sort of scan which will cost more than a new helmet. I realise this is a “could” but if you decide you want to wear a helmet then make sure you wear one that will protect you.

        As to the mechanics, how do they know if the accident involved the rider hitting his head? We have all been able to watch the replay showing the rider cartwheeling over his handlebars, the mechanic 30 seconds after the incident will not have that knowledge. Their job is to get the rider going as soon as possible, though I would hope they are now all being trained to spot signs of concussion so they can call in a doctor. If the incident is severe enough to need a new helmet the rider should be heading to hospital for a check up not getting a new helmet.

        • In a perfect, static world all that is great. Crash and hit your head/helmet? When/if it happens on one of our tours the rider goes into the car so we can keep an eye on them and their bike goes on the roof. If they’re OK the next day, we find/loan them a replacement crash-hat. But we’re not RACING and nobody’s in a hurry.
          UCI can’t even enforce the bottle rule they put in so they’ve caved on that already – are they gonna make every mechanic include a helmet with every bike change, just-in-case? Every crash will require a sit-down while the rider is evaluated for concussion while the race goes up the road? Where does it end?

        • Even if I find the question to replace helmets after crashes understandable, I believe that there are more important safety problems. How many riders suffered actual injuries from pre-damaged helmets? I am not aware of any case. (Of course, it could also be due to the fact that this has never been properly investigated.) In contrast, in this Giro, as in other races, we saw accidents with support vehicles, road furniture, etc. Looks like there is much more to gain for rider safety in this cases, than by exchanging helmets?

        • “the mechanic 30 seconds after the incident will not have that knowledge. ”

          Of course they can’t have that knowledge, We all hadn’t that knowledge 30s after the crash, the slow motion aired like at least 2-3 minutes later

    • The Cycling Podcast discussed this at length in thier test day podcast including the role of the mechanic, UCI training for DS to recognise/test for concussion and NFL research on head injury including helmet sensors.

  8. Good analysis. one other item on TT being decisive is GTs now focus on lots of shorter attacks in last 1-2km of summit finishes. While they incrementally build up they also leave you very exposed in last TT. Only have to look at last year to see what happened in France & Italy. Doing a TT at end of three week tour is like a sprint at end of 240km.

    • “GTs now focus on lots of shorter attacks in last 1-2km of summit finishes”.

      GTs? Definitely, that has *not* been the case at the Giro since, what, 2012?
      Of course, we’d need a better definition of “attack” in 2020’s case (no doubt at all for 2013-2019), but I’d dare to say that when 2-3 riders are left alone as on Piancavallo or in the Stelvio stage, well, that’s quite different from any sort of “shorter attack”. But, ok, let’s keep 2020’s case open to debate. Even so, barely a handful of the last *twenty* edition do come even close to your definition above.

      Of course, you might be closer to truth if you’re speaking of the Tour or the Vuelta, even if it’s worth noting that Bernal won his Tour with a long range attack, Nibali was attacking both uphill and on the cobbles quite far from the line in 2014 and in 2015 we had plenty of middle to long-range attacks. Even Froome, in his very few special days in France, was moving before the last couple of kms.
      And, at the Vuelta, we still have 2012, 2015, 2016…
      By the way, what about Roglic’s TdF attack in 2018 or Pogacar’s at the 2019 Vuelta?

      Of course, strictly speaking, if with “now” you were meaning in “2020” maybe that was more or less the case. More or less.

  9. I can only assume that One Second drama was semi-lighthearted… if either Bernal or Evenepoel win it it’ll because one of them simply rides away from the rest, they aren’t either similar enough or have the right mental constitution to suffocate each other over bonus calculations.

  10. +1 on the The Cycling Podcast. I recently binged their Giro coverage, and it’s really great (and made me hungry). They interviewed Roger Kluge – Ewen’s lead out man – who made the point that it’s not just about getting your sprinter into position, it’s also doing it while minimizing braking/acceleration to there are no watts wasted, while navigating roundabouts, road furniture, and tight corners.

  11. We need to admire the enthusiasm and grit of the young American rider of Movistar – Matteo Jorgenson. Very sick due to the change of weather. He did not leave the Giro but opted to rest with the gruppeto and wisibly getting back in front of the peloton during the stage prior to the rest day. He could give Marc Soler the much needed help as originally planned.

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