As the Giro d'Italia pauses for its first rest day, it's time for our resident expert Philippa York to deliver her latest analytical update on the contenders for the title.
With the first 'week' comprising no fewer than 10 stages, we're almost half-way through the Giro and, although we've yet to hit the true high mountain stages, there's been plenty of opportunity for the pre-race favourites to show their hands.
Following the opening-day time trial, we had a first uphill finale at Sestola on stage 4, followed by the first proper summit finish at San Giacomo on stage 6, while the exacting stage 9 finished with an explosive gravel climb at the Campo Felice ski resort in the high Apennines.
After rating each of the contenders out of five stars before the race, and then again after stage 5, here's York's latest report card ahead of week two.
Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers)
Former rating: ★★★★★
Egan Bernal is in the race lead and it's no surprise. He's been the one constant amongst those who came to the Giro with ideas of winning the race.
Every time there's been a hill-top finish, he's been in the front. Every time there's been a hint of sidewind or an opportunity to put his rivals under pressure, his Ineos team have taken charge and kept him out of any trouble. It helps that, as a squad, they are the strongest but even so, Bernal's awareness of his responsibilities and where he has to be is as impressive as his acceleration to win atop Campo Felice.
That he's also willing to contest bonus sprints shows he understands that it's better to be taking seconds here and there rather than losing them.
As a former mountain bike racer, the gravel roads of stage 11 won't worry him unduly and if he reaches the last week without incident, the climbing stages suit him and Ineos perfectly.
Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck-QuickStep)
Former rating: ★★★★★
Remco Evenepoel might be riding into unknown territory, given this is his longest number of days racing, but that doesn't seem to be bothering him at all. He's riding with a maturity way beyond his years and any nervousness of returning to competition after his injuries appear well and truly forgotten.
It helps that he has an experienced team round about him deep into the chaotic finishes on the flatter stages, while also having Fausto Masnada, James Knox and Joao Almeida for company on the climbs. However, it's one thing having the support and another being able to stay focused, survive the weather, follow the attacks that matter, and recover again for the next day.
That Evenepoel is racing for the seconds with Bernal speaks volumes about how seriously he considers his chances. Even if he starts to fade later in the race - and that's not something I can see happening - how he has ridden this first half of the Giro has been fantastic.
Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana-Premier Tech)
Former rating: ★★★★☆
Aleksandr Vlasov has recovered from what looked like a few weather-induced glitches to haul himself back to the very pointy end of the GC battle.
He hasn't had the capacities to respond directly to the biggest accelerations of Bernal but, as the race goes on, his basic strength ought to come to the fore.
I particularly like that he's willing to attack and force a reaction from his rivals, and that being countered by the likes of Bernal hasn't changed his attitude to racing positively. In these days of waiting and calculating, he's a bit of an anomaly.
Vlasov needs to pay a lot of attention for the upcoming gravel stage - those steep sections might hurt - but overall he and Astana have to be happy about how things have gone so far.
Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo)
Former rating: ★★★☆☆
Giulio Ciccone has definitely replaced Vincenzo Nibali as the Trek-Segafredo leader and, if he continues to ride as he has been, Italy could be celebrating a new potential Grand Tour winner.
It's telling that so far only Ciccone has been able to stay with Bernal when the Colombian attacks, even if he got dropped on the second acceleration on stage 9. The intent and ambition showed by the Trek rider mean that, having started out as an outsider, he's now going to have to temper his attacking nature slightly with an eye to preserving more energy for the bigger mountains.
Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation)
Former rating: ★★★½☆
Dan Martin has to be happy with how these first 10 days have gone. Despite the dreadful weather, the Israel Start-Up Nation leader is in a good position. I suspect the cold and rain haven't been conducive to his usual finishing bursts but, even so, he's there or thereabouts and certainly can't be dismissed with the larger mountains still to come.
There's a bit of concern about surviving the gravel stage given his propensity for misfortune, but if he keeps himself in a similar position to how he has raced so far then he ought to be ok.
Realising that a Grand Tour podium is possible after placing fourth at last year's Vuelta a España has changed his perspective.
Hugh Carthy (EF Education-Nippo)
Former rating: ★★★★☆
Hugh Carthy remains a steady presence in the general classification contest and, despite being in survival mode on some days, there have been others when he's seen directly what's happening at the very front.
EF Education-Nippo have had enough resources in the final hours of each stage to keep him well supported so the tactics will remain the same for them until the final week, when Carthy comes onto terrain that entirely suits his abilities.
That he's currently sixth on GC without anyone really noticing is an ideal position to be in, as his team don't have to control the race or initiate any big attacks. In fact, they're the perfect example of the waiting game. Watch, learn, and race to your strengths.
Simon Yates (Team BikeExchange)
Former rating: ★★★★½
Simon Yates is either playing a fantastic bluff or he's on a downward spiral of form and can't participate to any meaningful degree. Maybe the conditions have had their effect on him more than the others but he's had no influence on what's been happening at all.
Given he won the Tour of the Alps easily and came into the Giro as the hot favourite, the way things have gone so far is pretty disappointing. I'm amazed he's still less than a minute down on GC, as it could have been much more and Bike Exchange probably realise that.
They'll no doubt hope he can improve if the sun comes out but first he's got to get through some tricky stages where he'll have to pay better attention to his positioning, as that's been getting worse as the race has gone on.
Romain Bardet (Team DSM)
Former rating: ★★★☆☆
Romain Bardet is almost the perfect example of racing with no pressure. Coming into the Giro he wasn't team leader, there were no expectations, and he wasn't talking about GC at all.
Reaching the first rest day in a top-10 position can only be considered a surprise to him and probably Team DSM. In contrast to Simon Yates, the Frenchman seems to be getting better and gaining in confidence as the days go by.
If the poor weather keeps up then I won't be surprised to see him take off on a long-range attack, which, if there's the slightest hesitation from his rivals, could well see him become a serious podium proposition.
Joao Almeida (Deceuninck-QuickStep)
Former rating: ★★★☆☆
Joao Almeida looks to have had his bad day and be back to something resembling the athlete that animated last year's race. Now that's he at the service of Evenepoel, the mental pressure and expectation is less but the chance to learn a supporting role will be something he can use to his advantage if given the opportunity.
Deceuninck-QuickStep have been riding a proper GC race and we can expect that Almeida will still be an essential part of that. The fact that's he's lost a few minutes allows a bit more freedom and I'd expect to see him on the attack in the coming days.
The ★★★☆☆ group
Jai Hindley (Team DSM) falls into the clutches of the group who see the front leave them behind when the big moves are made. The likes of Marc Soler (Movistar), Davide Formolo (UAE Team Emirates), Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe), Vincenzo Nibali (Trek-Segafredo), and Dani Martinez (Ineos Grenadiers) seem to be swapping places day-by-day.
The arrival amongst them of Damiano Caruso (Bahrain Victorious), Louis Vervaeke (Alpecin-Fenix), and Attila Valter (Groupama-FDJ) may be temporary or may be permanent depending on how well they recover as the race goes on.
Soler and Martinez look most likely to progress to the detriment of those who are ahead of them at the moment.
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