A time trial stage to reshape the overall classification. It’s also a small GC day, a form test and also because today supplies one third of the Giro’s total TT distance so anyone hoping to use their time trial bike as a tool to gain time on their rivals needs to get the most out of this stage.
Visegraduation: a 190km procession and then five of intense action. Two notes from along the way: first, the long ride was often lined with big crowds; second saw Nizzolo win the intermediate sprint ahead of Démare, Cavendish’s leadout Van Leberghe, Cavendish and Gaviria, all could contest the points jersey from here to Verona. A big extrapolation from one intermediate sprint? Yes but bolstered by the probability that these riders may not be at the Tour de France so they can race to the end of the Giro.
Onto the final climb and Ag2r’s Lawrence Naesen and Lennard Kämna made good attacks but it came down to a ragged sprint, many riders visibly tired, weaving and bobbing on their bikes. In the end Biniam Girmay launched first with Mathieu van der Poel having to come from further back but the Dutchman came past for the win. Van der Poel bolsters his reputation with the win and the maglia rose while Girmay confirms much of the hope in him, second place his grand tour debut with many big names trailing places him high in the sport’s pecking order and you can see why his team have given him a bumper long term contract.
One of those left behind was Caleb Ewan. The Australian crashed and it was reminiscent of Pontivy in the Tour de France last summer, in contention he overlapped his front wheel again, entirely his fault yet obviously not deliberate. It wouldn’t be surprising to learn he had tunnel vision because of the hypoxic effort. Otherwise all the GC contenders made it in safely, with only modest time losses, Guillaume Martin lost 16 seconds.
The Route: just 9.2km and on big boulevards between Buda and Pest and along the Danube, but a sting in the tail. After the time check it’s uphill on a cobbled climb with some 10% slopes before it eases to the finish, riders will need to save something so they can surge over the steepest parts. The pavé are polished, slippery for TT bikes with too much air in the tires.
The Contenders: there’s no Filippo Ganna, a loss for the Giro as he’s a rising star of Italian sports whose name has gone beyond cycling’s cognoscenti and the Italian audience will miss him. Eduardo Affini (Jumbo-Visma) is almost a body double and due a big win but there’s huge competition, starting with team mates Tom Dumoulin, Tobias Foss and Jos van Emden, with Dumoulin and Foss more suited to the final climb. Apparently Dumoulin’s joked with van der Poel “if you take the maglia rosa, I’ll take it off you“, or words to that effect but a stage win is one thing, taking the maglia rosa much tougher.
There aren’t many TT specialists in the field, let alone short distance experts. Israel have Matthias Brändle and Alex Dowsett and if neither’s won a time trial for years they might find the field is more open but they’ll have to get past Jumbo-Visma.
João Almedia (UAE) and Simon Yates (BikeExchange-Jayco) can feature but a win is a big ask.
Matteo Sobrero (BikeExchange-Jayco) is the Italian TT champion – and a winemaker – who was a decent fifth in the recent Romandie prologue, plus he’s not heavy for the final climb. Still, a win here would be a big move.
Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) has a good chance. He’s yet to win a time trial but that’s often because he hasn’t had to, now with the maglia rosa he’s here to race and has been training on his TT bike of late in anticipation of today. The course with its corners and he can hit the final climb better than the rest.
|MvdP, Sobrero, Affini, Almeida|
|Foss, Yates, van Emden|
Weather: 23°C and an outside chance of rain which can obviously cost seconds in the corners although humid conditions make the air faster.
TV: it starts at two, the finish is for five, and how much you watch is up to you. (times are CEST).