Italian cycling struggles to compete at the Giro d'Italia

Viviani and Pozzovivo save national pride as Aru flops

The British national anthem rang out across the Eternal city of Rome on Sunday evening, signalling the first-ever British win at the Giro d’Italia. Chris Froome (Team Sky) stood centre on the final podium with second-placed Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) on his left and third-placed Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) on his right as Dutch and Colombian fans celebrated a successful Giro d'Italia.

This 101st edition of the Giro d'Italia was yet again a superb three weeks of racing, yet there was little for the Italian tifosi to enjoy on Sunday or during the rest of the three-week race. Elia Viviani (Quick-Step Floors) won four sprint stages and took the ciclamino points jersey, but Enrico Battaglin (LottoNL-Jumbo) was the only other Italian stage winner.

The Azzurri failed to make an impact in the overall classification, with Fabio Aru's sufferance and eventual retirement an embarrassment similar to Italy's failure to qualify for the football World Cup in Russia and that of the Italian politicians to form a government.

Only Thibaut Pinot's illness and abandon before the last stage in Rome saved Italy from an historic and ignominious and final general classification. At least one Italian has always finished in the final top five, and the Frenchman’s woes allowed Domenico Pozzovivo (Bahrain-Merida) to finish fifth overall. However, 'Mimmuzzo' lost eight minutes to Froome on the road Bardonecchia, confirming his Grand Tour level is not that of a major team leader.

The Italians classified below him reflect the decline and problems afflicting Italian cycling. Davide Formolo (Bora-Hansgrohe) was 10th at 15:16, Gianluca Brambilla (Trek-Segafredo) finished 18th overall but was 1:00:30 down on Froome. They all ride for non-Italian WorldTour teams. The first Italian rider in an Italian team was Fausto Masnada (Androni Giocattoli), who finished 26th at 1:26:13.

Aru's problems caused huge consternation within the UAE Team Emirates team. In the absence of Vincenzo Nibali, Aru started the Giro d'Italia as the only Italian Grand Tour winner and as ever, he talked up his chances, even when there were clears signs he was struggling and perhaps ill. He lost 2:23 on the Zoncolan and 19:31 on the stage to Sappada. He seemed to fight back in the time trial, only to be penalised for slipstreaming. He was penalised just 20 seconds, but two teammates were penalised two minutes, signalling a clear lack of fair play.

Aru lost more time on the road to Prato Nevoso and eventually threw in the towel before Froome lit up stage 19 to Bardonecchia. The internal inquest at UAE Team Emirates has already begun, with Aru's coach and mentor Paolo Tiralongo forced to justify his training methods. Only confirmation of a viral infection of some kind will perhaps stop heads from rolling. Aru will have to show his true self, and that he deserves a reported €2.5 million salary at the Vuelta a España.

Fonzi, Androni's aggression save the Italian Pro Conti teams

This year's Giro d'Italia was especially poor for the Italian Professional Continental teams who secured wildcard places thanks to their nationality. Giulio Ciccone (Bardiani-CSF) fought hard to try to win a stage but always came up empty handed against his WorldTour rivals.

Androni Giocattoli manager Gianni Savio made sure he had a rider in the break on every road stage, but the peloton only let the break stay away on stages 10,18 and then in Rome after the rider protest. Marco Frapporti won the Premio Fuga for spending 640km up the road, but he was made to suffer for his moment of glory, as was Davide Ballerini, who won the intermediate sprints competition.

The Wilier Triestina-Selle Italia and Bardiani-CSF teams had built their ambitions around sprinters Jakub Mareczko and Andrea Guardini. Mareczko finished second and fourth in two early sprints but climbed off on stage 10 when the Giro climbed to Gran Sasso, and Guardini was DNF on stage 4 after falling ill in Israel.

Androni finished 12th in the team classification won by Team Sky, with Bardiani-CSF and Wilier Triestina filling the final spots in 21st and 22nd place.

Only Giuseppe Fonzi turned the Italian 'disfatta' into some kind of success. The Wilier Triestina rider ensured he finished last of the 149 finishers, some 5:48:37 down on Chris Froome. That secured him a second consecutive maglia nera, the symbolic lantern rouge of the Giro d'Italia after a black jersey was once awarded to the last finisher.


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