After four sprint and breakaway stages across central Italy, the Giro d’Italia heads into the Piemonte hills and mountains at the weekend for a double whammy of climbing that is expected to shake up the overall classification and reveal the true form of the overall contenders.
Richard Carapaz and his Ineos Grenadiers teammates have suffered in the heat this week, like everyone in the Corsa Rosa, but are ready for stage 14 in the hills overlooking Turin on Saturday and then the mountain finish in Cogne on Sunday.
While the likes of Simon Yates (BikeExchange-Jayco) and now Romain Bardet (Team DSM) have lost any chance of overall victory, Carapaz is perfectly second overall, just 12 seconds down on leader Juan Pedro López (Trek-Segafredo).
“Now we’re going into terrain that suits us better,” Ben Swift said after the stage to Cuneo after again protecting Carapaz for much of the fast stage from Sanremo.
“I think Saturday will be one of the hardest days of the race and then there’s Sunday too. People had perhaps underestimated the possible impact of the last four stages before the race. They perhaps looked easy on paper but have been far from it. They’ve been hot and fast.”
Everyone in the Ineos Grenadiers eight-rider roster here at the Giro d’Italia have done their utmost to help and protect Carapaz so far in the race, be it protecting him from the wind on the flat, in the sprint finishes, on the climbs or simply on the ride back to the team bus post-stage.
Swift is Carapaz’s bodyguard in the peloton and mentor for young riders like Ben Tullet, who will play a key role in the mountains.
“Having a guy like Richie makes my job easy,” Swift said modestly. “I don’t have to look around to know he’s there and safe. He’s gained seconds so far and we’re well placed.”
Carapaz has tried to keep a low-profile each stage as Swift and his teammates protect and guide him. Media duties are kept to a minimum and recovery is given priority so that he can be at his best from now until the finish in Verona.
The 20-year-old Tulett is making his Grand Tour debut with Ineos Grenadiers but the British climber is looking forward to the mountain stages.
“It’s exciting for us. Richard is in a super good place, in second overall and riding to win. I’ll give my all to help him win,” he told Cyclingnews in Cuneo.
“We’ll take the stages as they come and use our strength when it works best for us but sure this weekend there are two stages that can shake up the GC.”
Matteo Tosatto, lead directeur sportiff, has preached a philosophy of recovery, highlighting the importance of even 40 extra minutes in bed each night or a 20-minute nap on the team bus. Marginal gains are still a thing at Ineos Grenadiers.
Tosatto has also carried detailed reconnaissance of the two stages and knows what Carapaz and his riders will face this weekend.
“They’re two very important stages and two very different stages that could combine to make Sunday especially difficult,” he warned when speaking to Cyclingnews.
“They’re important but they won’t decide the Giro. But they will give it a kick and a shake. Saturday’s stage is like a Classic, it’s a mountain stage in the city and very technical, where everyone will fight to be up front to stay safe.”
Tosatto is not afraid to take the maglia rosa at the weekend and then try to defend in the mountainous third week.
“We’ll be happy to take the maglia rosa whenever we can,” he said confidently.
“We’re not scared of the responsibility of race leadership and so why not take the maglia rosa with a great ride this weekend?"
Thank you for reading 5 articles this month*
Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
after your trial you will be billed £4.99 $7.99 €5.99 per month, cancel anytime. Or sign up for one year for just £49 $79 €59
Join now for unlimited access
Try your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and Cycling Weekly, among other publications.