The second rest day at this year’s Giro d’Italia is almost at a close but Philippa York has found time to once again look at the overall standings and provide her expert analysis of the main contenders.
Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) has proven to be worthy leader after taking his second stage of the race and the Colombian has a healthy lead over surprise package Damiano Caruso (Bahrain Victorious) who has withstood everything thrown at him after his team leader Mikel Landa crashed out of the race in the first week.
With five stages remaining and several key dates in the mountains, the Giro d’Italia is far from over and the likes of Hugh Carthy, Simon Yates, Aleksandr Vlasov, Giulio Ciccone and Romain Bardet all find themselves within touching distance of the podium. York picks apart the races for each of the contenders so far, looking at both the positives and negatives as the Giro enters its final and most crucial stretch.
Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) ★★★★★
Former rating: ★★★★★
Egan Bernal is firmly established in the race lead and safely ensconced at the heart of Ineos Grenadiers who have so far had everything under control. If the final mountain stages go the same way as all the other important days of this Giro d’Italia, then Bernal will be wearing pink on the podium in Milan next Sunday. On the gravel roads to Montalcino, he handed down a demonstration to all but Emanuel Buchmann and definitively put paid to Evenepoel's challenge for the maglia rosa.
Though there was a warning from the Colombian with his previous Strade Bianchi podium, the manner of his ride showed he, and Ineos, would stamp on any weaknesses of the other GC riders. Monte Zoncolan provided further evidence that even the temporary return of Simon Yates' climbing legs hadn't troubled Bernal too much. Winning on stage 16, and in pink, shows he understands that the psychological part of racing is as important as the physical, though he'll still take time whenever possible to build up a buffer for the last time trial. (5 burning brightly stars)
Hugh Carthy (EF Education-Nippo) ★★★★½☆
Former rating: ★★★★☆
Hugh Carthy has had a mixed second week of racing with a decent performance on the gravel stage raising hopes and then a more difficult climb of the Zoncolan tempering them again. That EF Education-Nippo then set about challenging Bernal and the Ineos armada on the slopes of Passo Giau was a major indication of the confidence levels that exist for both the rider and the team. It may not have worked just as they planned, however Carthy now sits in a podium position and looks a solid bet to keep that place or even move up. Probably one of the few looking forward to more opportunities in the coming days rather than defending his position. (4 stars)
Simon Yates (Team BikeExchange) ★★★★
Former rating: ★★★½☆
Simon Yates survived whatever was hindering his performances of the opening two weeks and burst back into the proper GC battle on the steepest part of the Zoncolan with an acceleration that only the race leader could follow. That Bernal gave the BikeExchange rider no leeway at all was thought to be an indication of things to come as the race hits the big mountains because a resurgent Yates can only be a good thing for livening the fight for pink. However, whatever has been hindering him has left its mark and Passo Giau proved that this isn't the Simon Yates of 2018, despite the more conservative tactics and more experience of leading a Grand Tour challenge. This Giro has turned into a bit of a game of snakes and ladders for him. (4 flickering stars)
Damiano Caruso (Bahrain Victorious) ★★★★
Former rating: ★★★☆☆
Damiano Caruso has stepped into Mikel Landa's shoes as leader of Bahrain Victorious in an almost apologetic fashion. In fact, if the team kit wasn't so distinctive then we wouldn't have noticed the careful positioning that he's always been well protected, and the few moments when the Italian couldn't follow the best riders. Experience counts for a lot but you need the legs to be in the front until the final sort-outs and Caruso has mostly been watching the GC favourites disappear one by one, so that now he's second on GC without ever really instigating anything. It's a bit unfair to highlight that but that's the problem - there haven't been any really stand-out moments. Of course that's how you ride when taking on the role of leading a team in a Grand Tour, but come on, maybe just one day we could get a hint of something brilliant. (4 pale stars).
Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) ★★★★
Former rating: ★★★★½
Giulio Ciccone is within less than a minute of the final podium place and there's still hope in the Trek game plan to make that happen. It's good that some teams and riders are still willing to race for the win. He has the guidance and experience of Nibali to fall back on which has obviously helped him maintain his GC thoughts and he's still in good shape and racing well as he only lost a little over a minute on the hardest day so far. He's another who'll be looking to go on the attack - if he can - but he's still looking solid. (4 stars)
Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana-Premier Tech) ★★★★
Former rating: ★★★★½
Aleksandr Vlasov has been a bit of an enigma over the middle part of the race, on days when you think he'll struggle he turns out to be competitive and on others, like the steep mountains, he has been lacking. Astana still have pinned all their hopes on him and continue to probe Ineos Grenadiers whenever they can, like on all the dodgy downhills, which have becoming a bit of a speciality for the Kazakh team. It's a pity he had a problem that delayed him at the foot of Passo Giau just when Bettiol and Carr upped the pace for EF Education-Nippo so we didn't get to see his true worth, but noting that he could have shipped way more time after doing both sides of Passo Giau with only Gorka Izaguirre for help. (4 stars)
Dani Martinez (Ineos Grenadiers) ★★★★
Former rating: ★★★☆☆
Dani Martinez might be at the service of the race leader Egan Bernal but he's creeping up the GC despite the fact that he's riding on the front when the going gets really hard. Make no mistake the other Colombian at Ineos Grenadiers is strong and looking extremely focused and it was telling that only Yates and the maglia rosa outperformed him over the Monte Zoncolan’s final kilometres. He may not have been the protected rider on the Strade Bianchi stage but the team have been saving him for this last week, and given his progression up the standings he could, given the right circumstances, be looking at further improvements. (4 stars)
Romain Bardet (Team DMS) ★★★★
Former rating: ★★★½☆
Romain Bardet, the change of team has signalled a return from the shadows cast by fellow countryman Thibaut Pinot. The circumstances of this edition of the Giro are a reminder of the heady days of Bardet's career when he finished second at the Tour de France. Both had bad weather in the mountains and both had a back-loaded final week. I'm not saying he's going to get that far up the standings by Milan but he's been slowly but surely finding his way into the final selections and has to be considered a genuine hope for a stage win on the mountain top finishes that lie ahead. DSM aren't looking after two leaders anymore so things seem bright for their remaining GC contender. (4 stars)
João Almeida (Deceuninck-QuickStep) ★★★½☆
Former rating: ★★★½☆
João Almeida is almost back to the rider we saw at the 2020 Giro, not afraid to attack and not afraid to be noticed. Now with the Remco Evenepoel's GC challenge well and truly over he has resumed his position at the front of the race with his usual effervescence. With ten minutes deficit he's got the margin all those who were Tweeting #freealmeida were asking for and given he was the best finisher from the six-rider break on the road to Cortina d'Ampezzo there's a lot to look forward to. His bad day is well and truly forgotten about and he's been strong in this second phase of the race. (3.5 stars)
The ★★★ group
The barely 3 stars group of those in 11th to 15-16th position is looking decidedly smaller as the race goes on. Tobias Foss is rarely seen, despite being 9th on GC and the others are either swapping places daily or disappearing completely like Marc Soler and Jai Hindley. Nibali is feeling his age and Dan Martin is falling back into the clutches of this mob but none of them look strong enough to return to the overall battle. It's one good day, one bad day and lots of hanging on the back of the GC group which is the harsh reality of three week races.
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