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.