A big day for the sprinters with an arrival in Reggio… and perhaps a departure from the race for some of them ahead of the all the Alpine stages to come.
Stage 10 Review: a fraternal breakaway with three riders, two of who have brothers in the pro peloton in Laurence Naesen and Mattia Bais, and Alessandro De Marchi who had a brother who rode at a high level but didn’t turn pro. For a long time not much else was happening, the Giro paid tribute to the late Michele Scarponi as the race rode through Filottrano, the parrot Frankie was even in attendance and giant banners of Scarponi hung from buildings and were draped across fields. He’d have probably found it all hilarious.
The hills of the Marche saw the sprinters pop one by one until the final climb of the day when only Arnaud Démare looked to be left in contention but he was ejected thanks to the pace set by Ineos. It wasn’t just him, the peloton was shredded and the lead group reduced to thirty-something riders and the expected attack from Mathieu van der Poel never came on the climb. Instead he tried on the descent, at first with others but his presence intimidated them, then solo. All the while the Intermarché team were closing down moves with Lorenzo Rota, Jan Hirt and Domenico Pozzovivo riding like prison guards patrolling a perimeter fence, nothing was going to escape them.
We got a fantastic sprint, a duel. Domenico Pozzovivo was an improbable leadout and offered little shelter to van der Poel who was poised on his wheel. Then Biniam Girmay launched on the right and opened up a gap. Van der Poel chased, began to draw level and for a moment it looked like momentum was with the Dutchman. But he couldn’t sustain it, suddenly he stopped pedalling up as if he’d cracked. As Girmay sat up to celebrate, Van der Poel raised an imperial thumb of approval. It was a masterpiece of a win, the team work, the tactics and the powerful sprint and who’d have imagined this of Girmay and Intermarché six months ago?
The only thing more explosive than Girmay in Jesi was the bottle of prosecco wine on the podium, the cork popped in his face, injuring his eye. He was blinking on the podium but it was serious, he needed hospital treatment and left with a patch over one eye and his start in the Giro today is now uncertain, unlikely even.
The Route: 203km and as flat as a piadina, often on the long straight Via Emilia road which has existed since Roman times. Will anyone attack? Bardiani-CSF could move as this stage is on local roads.
The Finish: a tricky part of the course today is between 8km and 5km to go just because the race takes a side road. Then it’s flat and with few obstacles in the final 5km.
The Contenders: there’s no real sprint hierarchy yet. Sure Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) has two wins so far but he needed the photofinish camera the other day to separate him from Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) who should be over his crash injuries but had a long day yesterday after being dropped early. Mark Cavendish (Quick-Step) is without his leadout man Michael Mørkøv but still has a good train with big Bert Van Lerberghe. Fernando Gaviria (UAE) has been close too. These four seem ahead of the rest, especially for a big flat stage but there’s a second wave of sprinters, think Giacomo Nizzolo (Israel) or Cees Bol (DSM) for outside picks.
Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) might contest the sprint and has a chance, he’s looked so strong, too strong that he’s used up energy in crucial moments of late but here he’ll just have to surf the wheels.
The big question is whether Biniam Girmay (Intermarché) can start. He is just three points short of the points jersey so should be in the mix ordinarily but his eye injury sounds serious and so he might well be off home instead.
|Caleb Ewan, Arnaud Démare, Mark Cavendish
|Van der Poel, Bol, Nizzolo
Weather: warm and sunny, 29°C. There will be a 15-20km/h tailwind which could be a cross/tailwind in places so there’s a risk of splits.
TV: the finish is forecast for 5.15pm CEST. Tune for the final 15 minutes to watch the trains pick up speed.
Parmigiano Reggiano: today’s branded the “Parmigiano Reggiano food stage” in honour of the umami-rich parmesan cheese, all of which is made in the area. Yet for all the massive dairy production in this area, getting on for one fifth of milk production in Italy, where are the cows? Ride or race in the area and you’ll barely see a single bovine. A prize for the first reader watching on TV to spot a dairy cow from the live TV broadcast.