The final stage and a time trial in Verona on a familiar course. There’s still a stage win up for grabs even if the big story is whether Jai Hindley can avoid a wobble to win the race overall.
The Marmots of the Marmolada: between 8.5km and 7.5km to go on the Passo Fedaia, RAI TV’s commentators started talking about the marmots that live in the Alps, informing viewers about their herbivorous diet, the whistling sounds they make and their hibernation. Why? Well there was not much to talk about. A break had gone clear and from that Alessandro Covi had attacked on the Passo Pordoi to go clear solo, quickly building up a lead of two minutes as he scaled the early ramps of the Passo Fedaia. Behind the Bahrain team had set the pace in the peloton but barely ate into Covi’s lead and if the maglia rosa group was reduced by the last climb, the stage had a slow, processional feel to it.
Bahrain led to Malga Ciapela, the ski area that marks where the road kicks up and a name synonymous with trouble to come, like Plan Lachat on the Galibier. Here Domen Novak attacked from the breakaway and begin to chop into Covi’s lead, a tantalising headline of Novak’s against Covi(d).
Behind Ineos took over from Bahrain just as the gradient went above 10% and more riders were being ejected. Pavel Sivakov upped the pace further and some of the top-10 overall began to drop away, likeVincenzo Nibali and Pello Bilbao. Soon it was just Sivakov, team mate Carapaz, Jai Hindley, Mikel Landa and Hugh Carthy. Sivakov was straining, his eyes seemed to be closed at times as he gave all he could. Once that was done, Carapaz launched. Hindley countered and the pair were away, finally the Carapaz-Hindley-Landa trio was a duo. Hindley was out of the saddle for a good while with Carapaz on his wheel. He had a target up ahead on the long straight and bridged across to Lennard Kämna who’d gone in the break earlier. Then suddenly just after the 3km banner Carapaz couldn’t hold he wheel anymore, a gap opened up. Hindley piled on the pressure, looking agile as he spinning to win. Suddenly Carapaz was at 20 seconds, then 30 seconds. He kept losing ground, soon a minute down and he finished 1m28s behind Hindley. Game over? Never say never, but with a late attack on the Fedaia, surely Hindley couldn’t have hoped for more and has a plump margin for today.
And Covi won the stage, a big win that suggests range well beyond the “Ulissi 2.0” label he’d been riding under, already no bad thing but going solo and staying away for a win like this in the mountains shows a depth. If any marmots were watching from high on up, they’d have enjoyed the show on the road below.
The Route: 17km around Verona with the climb of the Via Torricelle, a familiar course as it’s identical to the one used on the final stage of 2019, the year when Chad Haga won and Primož Roglič topped Mikel Landa from the podium’s third step. It’s also been the circuit for world championships in the past too.
The Torricelle climb is a long drag up with slopes of 3-5% and irregular in places, riders will be working their derailleurs and standing on the pedals. The descent down the Viale dei Colli is on a wider road but has more corners, riders might take risks but they should be measured as there are only a couple of technical moments. The course flattens out, there are junctions and urban cobbles to cross and they ride into the arena, the Roman amphitheatre.
The Contenders: just like in 2019, which TT specialists have been biding their time for today? The stage win on the final day feels almost incidental compared to the prize of the overall win but it’s a big deal for those left in the race.
Matteo Sobrero (BikeExchange-Jayco) fits the bill as TT specialist who can handle a climb or two. Close in the Budapest TT, he’ll find the hilly course here suits, as long as he’s coped ok with the three weeks of racing. Several team mates also have a chance
Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) can almost do it all. He’s been frisky in the third week, launching moves in the mountains he shouldn’t be able to win so can he land something today? Second in the Budapest TT, being able to win today after three weeks would be a big deal.
Wilco Kelderman (Bora-Hansgrohe) should be up for the win, he’s been active throughout the race but is a TT specialist as well.
Edoardo Affini (Jumbo-Visma) is a TT specialist but the Toricelli climb is a big ask. He was in the breakaway two days ago and beaten in the sprint which means fatigue but signals form if he was so close. Tobias Foss should tick all the boxes, especially if he’s been sitting tight all the time until today but that’s the question, has he been waiting for today because of the stage win, or just hoping to end it all.
Thomas De Gent (Lotto-Soudal) was third here in 2019 but how to top the field today?
Finally just in case you’re wondering, Jai Hindley should be safe today. Sacked in the Milan TT in 2020 after starting the stage tied for time with Tao Geoghegan Hart, now he’s got a 1m25s cushion on Carapaz, almost five seconds per kilometre.
|Matteo Sobrero, Mathieu van der Poel|
|Edoardo Affini, Wilco Kelderman|
|Foss, Cort, Arensman, Tulett, Barta, Hepburn, Craddock|
Weather: a chance of rain earlier, but clearing and sunshine later, 21°C
TV: it’ll all be over by 5.15pm CEST.