Giro d’Italia Stage 21 Preview

A final time trial and maybe a reward for Filippo Ganna for towing the peloton around Italy for three weeks but it’s this that could cost him today.

Caruso’s Opera: Team DSM attacked on the descent of the San Bernardino with Romain Bardet and two sherpas in Michael Storer and Chris Hamilton. This was a audacious move but Bardet and DSM could afford the risk, the Frenchman was a respectable sixth overall, decent but not what he’d have signed for at the start. Then Damiano Caruso and Pello Bilbao jumped across and this was a bolder move, Caruso in second overall and launching a move with 50km to go and what did he stand to gain? A stage win and a few seconds? That’s just what he got but it brought something more, it gives his Giro a flourish, this isn’t the story of domestique profiting from the exit of his leader to diesel his way to a podium by stealth, he’s now become a different rider who can win outright. Romain Bardet gained a few seconds and kudos for trying although he should get rinsed in today’s time trial. Otherwise Ineos did a solid job to shepherd Egan Bernal and he burned his other rivals away within the final two kilometres, including Simon Yates, and goes into today’s stage with almost two minute’s lead.

The Route: 30.3km, fast and flat around the northern suburbs if Milan before a finish in front of the cathedral. The course changes direction several times and there’s a breeze today so finding shelter and knowing where the head/tailwind sections helps.

The Contenders: Filippo Ganna (Ineos) is hard to look past, it’s tempting to give him three chainrings and leave the other fields blank, he was over a second per kilometre faster on his way to the win in Torino. But that was three weeks ago and he’s been working hard for weeks, accumulating fatigue while others have been spared such efforts. He’s off at 2.08pm CEST.

Starting just three minutes later at 2.11pm is Edoardo Affini (Jumbo-Visma) who almost caused an upset in Turin. He’ll be more rested but this is also his first grand tour (he started last year but left with his team a week later) and this matters he’s had see how it affects him and he’s worked at times too. Team mate Tobias Foss is worth watching too to see how he’s recovered from yesterday’s efforts.

Rémi Cavagna (Deceuninck-Quickstep) is another specialist with an eye on this stage but he’s been working and stage hunting along the way. Nelson Oliveira (Movistar) can do well but a win would be a shock. Alberto Bettiol (EF Education-Nippo) isn’t really a TT specialist but can get a good result here.

As for the GC riders in the top-10 are wide, the most likely move is Romain Bardet slipping from 5th to 8th overall given the fatigue from yesterday and because Dani Martinez, João Almeida and Hugh Carthy all have better records in TTs with both Martinez and Almeida capable of a high finish today.

Filippo Ganna, Edoardo Affini
Rémi Cavagna
Bettiol, Almeida, Foss

Weather: a pleasant day, sunny and 24°C with an easterly wind of 15-20km/h.

TV: Filippo Ganna is off at 2.08, Affini minutes later. Egan Bernal should finish around 5.15pm CEST.

If there’s not much happening on the GC front towards the end, dip in and out of the Critérium du Dauphiné which features a hilly circuit race and a finish around 4.55pm CEST.

45 thoughts on “Giro d’Italia Stage 21 Preview”

  1. Until 4kms to go yesterday Yates looked comfortable, impatient to attack almost, yet fell away. A surprise, but then all of his Giro has been a little erratic.

  2. A running theme in the Giro this year and last has been the stellar performances of GC lieutenants (or gregarios). TGH’s win being the epitome of that, but Jai Hindley, Joao Almeida and now Damian Caruso all having successful rotations around Italy.
    I will save my deepest scepticism of this phenomenon, but it does beg the question what could riders achieve if they weren’t forced into bondage Labour for their team leader? It makes the use of Domestiques all the more worse when you think about Sky in that context, but do I really think that Froome’s team riders could also have won the TDF, Vuelta and Giro? The answer is ‘no’. Mostly because you only have to look at Ritchie Porte…

      • He doesn’t have a great record in the leadership role (crashing out or making daft choices when leading Sky). He finally got on the podium last year not by riding like a free man with wings, but by understanding he wouldn’t win.

    • The answer is that there are talented bike riders who have a winners mentality and accept the responsibility that goes with that attitude. There are also talented riders who lack the killer instinct and don’t like taking on responsibility. It has always been so.

      Those who ride in the service of others are well paid for their efforts – their job, and can hardly be considered as in ‘bondage’. Riders, like everybody else make choices, and those choices should be respected.

      • Exactly as BC says for me. Having the physical attributes is one thing, being able to supply them regularly – once or twice a year on delivery, on differing courses – while coping with leadership, media expectations is another. Some mountain lieutenants can earn a million euros or more per year in going for this secondary role, it can suit them a lot more.

      • Agree that there’s something in that. Having watched the Movistar documentary last year, it seemed clear (at least in the edit) that Carapaz had far more of that killer instinct than Landa.

        • Take EBH as an example. Lots of win sure, most in lower level races. Except for TdF 2011, most valuable as instrumental for both Wiggins and Froome wins as a helper in Sky. Too kind and not a cynical bone in his body. Physically and technically probably as good or better as any top rider, but lacking that killer instinct. Also prone to be misguided by trainers and directors. I’m not being negative about the guy, one of my favorite riders of all time. That Pinarello win was an epic, him winning and all the drama behind gave a stage for history.

    • Don’t underestimate role of pressure. Takes a huge toll on some riders. So much easier to be number 2 for most humans.

  3. I find Caruso an interesting case. Prior to the Giro he already had a top 10 in every grand tour so is clearly a talented guy over 3 weeks. Even more so when you think he’d have got all of them working for someone else, Nibali most likely. He came into this as Landa’s super domestique and has finished what should end up a fairly comfortable second. Ahead of some noted riders, including a past winner, some golden boy youngsters and only behind a man with a glass back who might well have dropped away and left him to win. But if Landa hadn’t crashed he’d have rolled in somewhere between Bardet and Martin in all likelihood, and wouldn’t have got his stage. Landa this is who has never finished second in a GT. And most likely wouldn’t have done so in one with a 30km pan flat fast TT at the end. It makes you wonder both how many of these riders are there out there who could perform but never get the chance, and why are riders like Landa (and probably Porte, Martin and a few others, Pinot maybe) humoured for so long when they deliver so little?

    • We’ll never really know about Landa, but your supposition is believable. My assumption is that the teams know very well beforehand which of their riders is the strongest and Landa was very much their leader, as far as I recall. With bilbao and caruso towing him up the big climbs, Landa might have had a miraculous Giro and gained enough in the mountains to cover his weak TT. We’ll never know, but past experience suggests he’d actually have ended up no higher than caruso has.

      Personally, if I was a DS, I would tend to back a leader who isn’t so perennially unlucky. You do make your own luck, up to a point, and Landa has crashed or been caught out too often.

      • It’s a fact that Landa has been often put off by pure misfortune (very different from, say, Porte). Then you add what his very peculiar limits or attitude imply… That said, the argument «he never came second before» is just laughable. Caruso didn’t either, and Landa’s previous score is better! Porte hadn’t ever podiumed. And Thomas? Hesjedal? Krujiswjik? Of course, your previous results set a range of probabilities, but within that range some riders have at least the outright physical possibility to fight for final victory, whether they actually ever win or not. Purito never won a GT, and there were (nearly) always good reasons for that, yet if he won a couple of them it would have been no surprise or miracle either… we would just be underscoring the equally good reasons because he could do it.

        • That’s my point. Caruso has never come 2nd before, but hasn’t had the opportunity. And if Landa had stayed upright he wouldn’t have had the chance here. He’d have sacrificed his own chances and probably quietly come 9th or 10th without anyone noticing. Meanwhile Landa will have lost time on the gravel stage and the final TT abs perhaps come 4th.

          • This is surely Landa’s last big leadership contract.

            He’s never going to win a grand tour, but worse than that, I don’t even see him picking up individual stages. He has this huge rep in the mountains but aside from 2015 Giro he’s never looked like being the best climber at any race.

            His leadership ambitions mean he isn’t allowed in breaks but he isn’t strong enough to win from a group of the true elite, either. I sort of feel sorry for him as he always looks like he’s having a miserable time but he has to be one of the most overhyped riders, when you compare it to what he’s actually delivered.

            Rafa Majka’s probably had a marginally better career, during a similar time frame to Landa. He’s the same age, same number of GT podiums, maybe more stage wins / KoM jerseys etc. But people would think a team was nuts if they gave him the opportunities that Landa’s had. Landa seems to make journos a bit weak at the knees for reasons which escape me.

          • @Michael B
            I’d say that it’s because people watch races, not result sheets, hence some know that Landa often was the best climber in many a WT race. Then, some also happen to know that without another couple of factors you won’t win big all the same… both things are true.
            Ps Hype helps contracts.

          • “Hype helps contracts.”

            My point exactly. Pleased you agree.

            I watch races too not just results sheets, thanks, and I doubt there’s a single person on this blog who isn’t obsessed by cycling. But what a privilege to be patronised by the most knowledgeable poster on this blog (host aside).

  4. What an absolute delight of a stage! Beautiful and breathtaking scenery with all the hairpins up and down, and a truly well deserved winner. It has been a long time since I have cheered so much for the man in front, to hold on to his slender lead. Caruso has ridden a very measured Giro, but at the same time yesterday defied those who labelled him as defensive. His move yesterday was aggressive in a way that could vey well have lost him at least his second place.
    And it was genuinely nice to see him give Bilbao a pad on the shoulder when Bilbao finished his work. It echoed well with the Caruso that came across in this interview:

    • Interesting article, perhaps highlighting that not everybody actually wants the life that goes with winning GTs, however much that might seem to appeal from the outside. There was a recent discussion between Tom Boonen & Geraint Thomas where Tom was questioning why on earth G put himself through all the pain to try to win the Tour & Giro when he could have a better life by concentrating on the Classics.

  5. I was worried about Bernal’s condition this time yesterday, and glad that it came to nothing more than limiting losses. If you’re 2-0 up in injury time, you’re not going to surge forward looking for another goal.

    Brilliant ride by Martinez to drop him off inside the final kilometre. Smart of Ineos to wait for him when they nearly dropped him on the descent.

    In contrast, perhaps where Bike Exchange got things wrong yesterday was putting July-Jensen on the front after the DSM and Bahrain guys had broken free. Yates was comfortable in 3rd by some margin, and Bernal was in greater danger of losing his place at that point. They’d already lost Nieve leaving Yates isolated with several kms to go compared with Bernal only having to ride the last 8-900m solo.

    My highlight of yesterday and what will be a sporting highlight of 2021 was Caruso patting Bilbao on the back when it was job done. One domestique recognising the service of another. Chapeau team Bahrain.

    • I think I would liken it to being 3-0 up, and conceding. At 3-1 you can continue to play your same game as the outcome as even if you concede one more you still win. 2-1 is a bit more nervy. Players might feel more unsettled and the opposition scent blood in the water.
      Arguably there was an element of this with Bernal conceding some time, but his time losses were never that significant, and only once did he concede to his nearest rival (Caruso). The excitement largely came from the prospect of the pre-race favourite (Yates) inflicting a role reversal on Bernal. The chances of this predicated on two things: Yates own spectacular implosion, and Bernal’s injury from the previous season. But in all honesty Bernal has not looked in any real discomfort this Giro. A win at a canter.

  6. Net Boulting and David Miller were wondering whether not having a rain jacket slows the DSM guys down on the 2nd descent.

    What’s it with DSM and rain jackets? You’d thought the first thing they do after last year’s debacle is to practice putting on jackets.

  7. Just want to savour the moment when two GC contenders, each with a lieutenant, were away and flying against the leader on stage 20 with the whole Grand Tour in play.
    Then for Caruso – Caruso of all the possible wing men!?! – to take a home tour stage win and second on the podium, having staked it all out there on proper mountain roads; well that was just fantastic.
    Martinez’s support up that final climb was key, and he so nearly got dropped on two descents. Need to take another look, but it’s hard to explain why those with Bernal did not make an attacking move.
    Fabulous stage!

  8. Yates and company try very hard to take the Pink jersey from Bernal. I think the 16 stage was in fact the key for the possibility for Bernal to take the jersey home. The rest day was a killer for legs, or was it? the fact is that Bernal looked very vulnerable the following day, or was that just a mind game. Yates went all the way out to put time on the champ and at the end he finished very tired. We’ll never know the plan. Go Bernal/

  9. The best thing about Caruso’s magnificent win: that it was so unexpected that not even INRNG could predict it.

    INRNG Tuesday 25 May: “ Damiano Caruso is second overall and obviously delighted with this, don’t expect any heroics with a podium in reach, we and he know he’s not going to beat Bernal in an uphill pedalling contest.”

    It not often that he gets it wrong, but so lovely to see a magnificent stage when that does happen. Thanks INRNG!

    • Caruso was hardly going to win the Giro though. Certainly a surprise he jumped and went with Bardet, but Bernal had him on a leash on them. It was more a move about cementing second than winning the stage. Caruso covered Bardet’s move because he feared him gaining too much too, but also saw an opportunity to distance Yates, who might’ve made a late attack which could’ve unseated him from second. The opportunity for the win was only afforded to him at the end.

      • Caruso put himself in a position where he could actually win the Giro – albeit under very specific circumstances, namely Dani Martínez not being there along with Bernal (which wasn’t that far from happening). Plus, obviously, any sort of other race accident. It wasn’t just Dani pulling hard, it’s also that with no gregario back there, a group of top GC men would have probably stalled. That was Caruso’s winning option (small percentage, no doubt, but the only position from which he had a clear chance of sort – if he was back with the rest, he’d had to jump away – quite difficult – and Bernal could simply mark him, v. Hindley 2020 on Sestriere).

  10. There was a moment at the end today as Bernal looked around after the finish, and then when being interviewed, where I was suddenly struck by the notion that he looked as if he regretted the end of the race came so quickly. I know if I were in that position I would have wanted those last few pedal revs – in sight of the line, victory in hand, adoration of the tifosi showering down – to last for days.

    Everything after is just after-ness…

  11. Thanks for all your stuff mr inner ring.

    This giro has highlighted without a doubt that a great team does not make you a winner but it eases the path.
    A great team helps you on your off days and helps set you up on your good days.
    Without a great team bernal even if he was the best over 3 weeks would have really struggled. Probably would have lost more time and controlling that last stage would have been very tricky if not impossible.
    Note that when bernal finally came out from behind his team mate on stage 20 he couldn’t really take time back on curuso. Bernal was still strong at the end of the giro but he was fading and a far cry from the strength in the first half of the race. If he had to control things more himself in that last week i have strong doubts he could have.
    Sending bernal to the giro was a good idea. Ineous has all the data and they probably decided that Bernal likely had not had the quality of training since his back injury to challenge for the TDF. A good call.

  12. ((Sort of a pet peeve, but: a Sherpa is a member of an ethnic group from the Himalayas. Some Sherpas are mountaineers and porters, but I am sure lots of them are doctors, engineers, etc.))

  13. Funny old Giro – although over the last decade a friend pointed out to me the Giro has been far and away the best of the Tours, I had thought it was the Vuelta but it’s undeniable when you list them –

    ’11 Contador destroys field gets DQ’d, not the best race to start with, ’12 Hesjedal wins, great race despite not the best lineup, I remember this (stupidly probably) as the race of the biological passport where for the first I really noticed how tired riders were looking on the hills for the first time in a long time, ’13 Nibali first win, Cav also good, but wasn’t the best race though, ’14 – Quintana’s win, I never liked the way he took the lead when race neutralised but now we’re getting into the great races, ’15 Contador’s win, brilliant race, the year Landa should have won, amazing day on the Mortirolo, ’16 – Nibali, the Kruijwick crash, was great race, ’17 – Dumoulin, this was spectacular, Dumoulin beating Quintana up climbs that didn’t favour him was amazing such a shame TD hasn’t fulfilled his potential, ’18 – Froome, despite first wk being average this is the best stage race I have ever seen because of stage19, ’19 Carapaz, again boring first wk, great there after, ’20 Tao, fantastic last week, ’21 Possibly not at the level of the previous few but did have a very good first week at least.
    2020 – Tao, great race plus got better and better at the end 9/10

    • Quintana hasn’t really fulfilled his potential either IMO… His TT weakness was always going to be an Achilles heel, but I still expected there to be a couple of years where he was the GC rider.

      • Re: Quintana. I wonder if it was his team or, on occasion, his own attitude. I remember a couple of times on the Tour, one where Froome attacked over a summit and Quintana claimed it was down to other teams to do the chasing and another when Froome & Thomas attacked in the crosswinds. The response from Quintana (or maybe his team) was that the route was dangerous because it went through too many small villages. Neither excuse impressed me, they came across as petulant and whiny, not the mindset of someone gritting their teeth to fight for a win.

      • Re Quintana. He won the Giro in 14 and I think it was the Vuelta of that year when he crashed in a TT when in the lead and going well. He’s arguably never been the same since.

        • Well, He arguably was better in Tour 2015. If not for time loss in cross wind he might have won that Tour (Sure it had almost no TT). He gave an ill Froome major headache in the last few stages.

          • Even more so in Vuelta 2016, where he was pretty much superior to Froome uphill and eventually got the victory despite a course with a decent flat ITT (some 37 km).
            And he was still very solid in 2017, dominating the Tirreno against strong competition and then coming extremely close to getting the Giro against an impressive Dumoulin.
            After a difficult TdF (no wonder) he ended the season with convincing perfomances in hard one-day races like Mi-To and Lombardia.
            I believe he really went a step down in 2018-2019, although he still was able to be a force in GC in short stage races plus winning mountain stages at the TdF and so. However, it was both physical and psychological.
            In Movistar, season after season, they really clipped his wings, even if in a very *human* and *familiar* and *supportive* (!) way, which make it so hard for him to get away. Too late.
            Re: Tour 2015, the main problem Quintana had to endure was team orders about avoiding attacks in key moments to keep Valverde alive (well, and that story about Porte feeding a bonking Froome 😀 )

    • Was Kruiswiks crash really in 2016?! How time files when you’re having fun. For me the Giro is always the best GT of the year.

    • 2011 was actually great. No need to say that Contador DSQ had nothing to do with that specific race, just politics and burocracy (he was probably happier that way, too). 2012 was a terrible snoozefest barring the Stelvio. 2013 wasn’t the best race (?). Perhaps, but had an impressive first half, as very few editions of any recent GT, and a notable finale. 2014 – small detail: race was never neutralised. That stage was actually great. 2017 Dumoulin didn’t beat Quintana “up climbs that didn’t favour him”. If anything, Tom took 14″ from Quintana on a single climb, Oropa, a totally flat stage with some final 17′ of climbing. Hard to say it wasn’t Tom’s thing. Otherwise, he was normally losing time to Quintana on several other final climbs, but that Giro had a lot of ITT kms for modern standards (total of 70 kms, flat or flattish) and lacked hard finales in the most difficult stages. Even so, Dumoulin, in huge shape, indeed, made it for mere half a minute. Great race, anyway, agreed.

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