The middle part of the Giro d'Italia seemingly started and concluded with Trek-Segafredo in the spotlight. Juan Pedro López had the race lead through the week until deposed by Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) and the following day Giulio Ciccone reminded everyone why he was considered a possible overall contender with a dominant display on stage 15.
In between all manner of predictable and bizarre stuff happened which is typical of the Italian Grand Tour.
Binian Girmay fulfilled the promise he had shown in the first week by taking a brilliant sprint win from Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix). That gave cycling a piece of history to reflect upon, of just why has it taken so long to have a Black African rider win a Grand Tour stage. And then the Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux star got socked in the eye by the Prosecco cork during the podium celebration and wasn’t able to start the next day. Not that it’s any consolation but at least the organisers have acted swiftly and pretensioned Astoria bubbly is now a thing.
The following three days were a mix of relief, frustration and confirmation, the former when Alberto Dainese (Team DSM) finally gave Italy a stage victory, frustration for Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) that he abandoned the race without crossing the line first and confirmation that Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) is the fastest and most consistent of the big name sprinters.
Van der Poel continued to seek a second stage win which meant everyone concentrated on following his moves and Stefano Oldani (Alpecin-Fenix) did the business instead. That meant another home nation celebration which must have a number of the World Tour teams wondering where they’re going wrong. Israel-Premier Tech, Movistar, AG2R Citroën Team, EF Education-EasyPost and the others who haven’t had much out of the racing so far and who aren’t going to be troubling the overall results might be beginning to panic.
Undoubtedly that’s why it’s been a frantic start to each stage when there’s been the suggestion that the breakaway might survive until the end.
Looking back to the start of the second week and the conclusion was Carapaz, Mikel Landa (Bahrain Victorious) and Romain Bardet (Team DSM) were the strongest and now six days of racing later only the first named of the three remains and he’s in the pink jersey. Ineos Grenadiers have had a relatively quiet spell, they haven’t had to control things and only used energy when they had to, which puts them in a very good position heading into this final part of proceedings.
With Bardet retiring through illness and the Bahrain Victorious pairing of Landa and Pello Bilbao struggling to stay in touch with the best climbers the GC race is looking likely to be a contest between a very solid Carapaz and the surprising emergence of Jai Hindley, who despite winning on Mt Etna wasn’t hurting anyone. Now, in this intermediate phase, he and Bora Hansgrohe certainly are. Like two years ago as rivals fall to the wayside the Australian is getting better as the race goes on and he has the advantage of not losing recovery time with podium duties like Carapaz at the moment.
Of course there’s the role that Simon Yates (BikeExchange-Jayco) still has to play in how the race develops as he’s recovered from his injuries sustained in the opening week. He has the luxury of avoiding the really trying days if he wishes to concentrate on chasing stage wins instead. He could well become influential if he finds himself in the front with one of the favourites, as could Richie Porte who you might not have noticed letting go some days when it gets grippy. That’s a sign he’s being saved for something special in support of Carapaz, probably when Ineos decide their race leader has to win one of the remaining mountain top finishes whilst wearing the maglia rosa.
The return of Nibali
The return of Vincenzi Nibali to GC contention is an interesting prospect given there are three big mountain stages to come and the day to Aprica will tell if he’s going to sneak onto the podium or not in his final Giro.
So far he’s been absent when expected like in Sicily and then at the front when the terrain has been short and snappy, which the Turin circuit offered up. He’s either going to blow spectacularly or grind out a result based on experience of not trying to follow every attack. Nobody knows for sure which one it’ll be but it wouldn’t be beyond him to stay out of the Ineos versus Bora battle that’s coming and then pick up the pieces.
I know some people have criticised Juan Pedro López (Trek-Segafredo) for throwing the odd tantrum now and then during his spell in the race lead but I think they’re forgetting the circumstances of his situation. He’s only 22 so he hasn’t the experience or maturity yet to deal with the pressure he’s been under. Although he’ll be getting advice in his ear from the team car, he’s obviously been frustrated by his performance and lost a bit of self control occasionally.
I don’t mind that at all because it has shown he has character and he has expected better of himself. That’s a good sign for his future because it’s easier to learn how to have better control of your emotions when at your limit than it is to learn to have more ambition.
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Philippa York is a long-standing Cyclingnews contributor who provides expert racing analysis. As a professional rider, she finished on the podium at the Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a España, as well as winning the mountains classification at the 1984 Tour de France.