A mountain time trial to settle things. Geraint Thomas leads the race and could well the stage today but his slender lead means the maglia rosa is still up for grabs. The order of the podium can be settled, likewise the other places in the top-10. Primož Roglič hardly needs any encouragement but this is right on the Slovenian border.
Tre Secundi di Lavaredo: a lively start to the stage heightened by Ben Healy’s efforts to jump clear and Groupama-FDJ’s work to contain him, Thibaut Pinot was chasing him down to protect his lead in the mountains competition, the efforts risked costing Pinot his GC and in turn this was annoying the peloton as if Pinot had to chase Healy, they had to chase Pinot so that he couldn’t take time overall.
A break got away and they stayed away. They had three Ag2r Citroën riders and if that wasn’t advantageous enough to them, their team car took out Movistar’s Carlos Verona although he was up and racing quickly while the team car was ejected from the race. Larry Warbasse provided a more positive image for the team as he led up the final climb but couldn’t sustain it and was overtaken by Derek Gee, Santiago Buitrago and Magnus Cort. Gee rode to his fourth second place, and he’s second overall in both the points and mountains competition, and the Fuga breakaway competition too, a Poulidor Giro in every sense with all these second places and his rising pou-pou-larity.
This time you could see he was going to be beaten, turning the pedals like a worker with a sledgehammer. Santiago Buitrago floated across, put in a lively acceleration and rode away for the win, almost overdue for the Colombian given his form pre-race suggested a stage win was very likely. As for Gee he started the Giro ranked 627th in the world, and that boosted by his UCI points haul from the Canadian TT title, and his stock will have risen.
As for the GC riders, another day with little action. The Tre Cime have seen legendary sport in the past but not this year. There weren’t big bold attacks, nor riders imploding. Roglič attacked before the final kilometre but Thomas reacted instantly and Almeida took his time and got back and things calmed down again until Thomas jumped with 500m to go. Roglič and Thomas duelled again, the Welshman seemed to be away but Roglič honed in on the finish line and surged past for a three second gain on Thomas, with Almeida a further 20 seconds back. Eddie Dunbar was the day’s loser, losing just under a minute to Damiano Caruso and slipping from fourth to fifth overall.
The Route: locals and visitors alike normally take the ski lift. Here there’s 10.8km of freshly resurfaced valley roads around to the foot of the climb, this isn’t all flat nor straight but there’s nothing too technical.
Then comes the brand new climb of Monte Lussari, although it’s also known as Svete Visarje in Slovenian, the border is close. Obviously the mountain’s been around for a bit now but the route up has been an unpaved trail, the creator of the Strava segment branded it “Lussari MTB Long Climb 2014”. But it’s been paved for the Giro and there’s 5km at 15% and with some very tight hairpins, think the Mur de Huy five times over, and under woodland canopy. Oh, and instead of smooth tarmac, it’s part concrete with rasping drainage groves.
Today’s bikes allow for all kinds of gearing to the days of riders almost being unable to pedal up a slope are over. The hard part is pacing the effort, do you attack a short ramp, or back off and spin? Or rather how many of the changes of gradient can be soaked up. It’s awkward and is more than a W/kg test, there’s an element of freshness needed here too.
The Rules: bike changes are allowed and it’s likely we see those riders going for the win today and the GC on time trial bikes for the first 10km then switching in the dedicated zone to a specialist road bike for the climb. Team cars are diverted and parked at the foot of the climb, the road is narrow and anyone catching the rider ahead of them won’t be able to overtake if there’s a car in the way. So from here on riders can be followed by motorbikes supplied by the race, each team can have a mechanic in obligatory team kit ride pillion carrying a spare bike. For the top riders on GC they can have two motorbikes, so two mechanics and two spare bikes, just in case the spare malfunctions.
Also the start is in reverse GC order as usual but after the first third of riders have gone there’s a 90 minute break so that all the motos can drive back down and get into position. Then a second third followed by another 90 minute break.
The Contenders: Geraint Thomas (Ineos) is the most regular in the Giro so far, that’s why he’s in the lead. He’s looked steady throughout but if he’s riding diesel-style, he’s showed there’s a turbo on top which will help for the change in the slope today. A stage win would seal his win and make sure he doesn’t being quoted alongside Federico Balmanion as a Giro winner who didn’t get a stage win along the way. As good as Laurens De Plus and Thymen Arensman have been in the mountains, Thomas should be stronger today.
Poor Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma), not only did he get sacked at the end of the 2020 Tour de France and saw the yellow jersey picked off his shoulders, he’s probably been asked about this moment again and again in the last 24 hours. This time obviously he’s not in the lead but he won’t dwell on the psychology too much, it’s all about how he can perform today. Quicker than Thomas yesterday but only in the last metres, this will give his fans plenty to hope for and they should be legion given this is as close to Slovenian as the Giro gets without crossing the border.
If it rains on the later starters it could suit those going earlier, they’ll have more traction on the climb and less weight too as they won’t be soaked. Jay Vine (UAE) has the physiology for a stage win here but how’s the form, he’s been ill and so isn’t 100%, team mate Brandon McNulty could be more steady. Sep Kuss (Jumbo-Visma) is climbing well but liable to lose time on the flat section.
|De Plus, Zana, Arensman, Kuss,|
Weather: sunny and 20°C to start then clouds building and the chance of rain for the final finishers.
TV: the first rider is off at 11.30am and Geraint Thomas starts at 5.15pm CEST.