The final stage and once the peloton has arrived by plane in the morning, there’s a quick trip to the beach followed by a criterium around Rome.
Tappa e maglia: Primož Roglič started the day with a 26 deficit on Geraint Thomas and ended it 14 seconds up. Plausible on the morning of the stage but a shock result in the moment as once the pair were racing up Monte Lussari they seemed to be almost tied on time, Roglič was only a couple of seconds ahead. But surprise was to come later as the further they rode up, the more Roglič was taking time and with two kilometres left Thomas had gone from his trademark forceful but powerful pedal stroke to chopping at the pedals, his head dipping at times.
Then Roglič dropped his chain and time seem to slow as he realised pedalling was no use, then dismounted and put the chain back on himself, spinning the cranks by hand when plenty might have hurled their bike off the mountain in rage, suddenly he’d gone from taking back time to standing still in the middle of the road. He remounted only to find it was hard to get going again on the slope and a spectator and the Jumbo-Visma mechanic came to his rescue with a push. It took the best part of 20 seconds to get going again. Game over? He was gaining time and this might just have given him breather and an adrenalin shot. Plus Thomas was losing more time by now, his shorts caked in salt. Roglič came in with the fastest time to the cheers of legions of Slovenian supporters and then it was just a countdown for Thomas and he was out of the maglia rosa. Both riders have suffered at the hands of fate over the years, appointments with destiny cancelled at the last minute so one of them got a cruel twist right at the end but Thomas was gracious in his interviews.
As for the all the others, the top-5 on the stage are the top-5 overall, Thibaut Pinot climbing to fifth overall at the expense of Eddie Dunbar, who slipped to 7th. Mountain time trials are rare but they have their appeal, especially on such a steep climb the effort is visible as opposed to flat courses where facial expressions can be hidden behind visors. Although if the course offered imagery the TV production and especially the direction could do with some improvement as the coverage struggled to tell the story of Roglič’s ascent and Thomas’s troubles.
The Route: first a charter flight in the morning for the peloton to Rome. Then 126km starting in Eur, – the district built for Benito Mussolini and now Rome’s business quarter – with a trip to Rome-on-Sea, aka Ostia and back via Eur. Then six laps around Rome and this time they promise the roads have been resurfaced. The route isn’t quite a tourist bus tour of the city – there are too many things to fit in – but there’s plenty as the course passes the Colosseum and more.
The Finish: flat and with some urban cobbles – sampietrini for locals – on the approach and then a sweeping bend past the Colosseum, more cobbles with 400m to go.
The Contenders: which sprinter to pick? Jonathan Milan (Bahrain) seems the most regular and cobbled finish suits as he can launch a seated sprint without fear of bouncing around. Mark Cavendish (Astana) has made it to Rome and the fairytale ending would be a sprint win but he’s really missing a leadout specialist. Otherwise Pascal Ackermann (UAE) seems fresh despite all the climbing, Alberto Dainese (DSM) might be more confident, Arne Marit (Intermarché) and Fernando Gaviria could still get a result.
It should be a sprint with several teams up for it but none of them have big sprint trains so if there’s a lull someone else could pounce, think Bob Jungels (Bora-hansgrohe) or why not Derek Gee (Israel-PremierTech)?
|Ackermann, Dainese, Cavendish
Weather: sunny and 24°C.
TV: KM0 is at 3.30pm and the finish is forecast for 6.45pm CEST.