Each day at the Giro d'Italia, riders are equipped with a tracking system that provides live data of their speeds and heart rates, but Velon's endeavour to reinvent the wheel has its limits. Although maglia rosa Bob Jungels had such a tracking device fixed to his bike on stage 8 to Peschici, his crash on the descent from Vieste still went largely unreported until Quick-Step Floors directeur sportif Davide Bramati appeared on RAI television's Processo alla Tappa programme after the stage.
"We had to slow the chase down a bit to evaluate his condition after the crash, but we decided to continue working to defend his jersey," Bramati said, adding: "Tonight he'll be assessed by the doctor and physio."
Jungels downplayed the magnitude of the incident afterwards, and he certainly showed few effects of his fall in the fraught final kilometres on the Gargano Peninsula, even when Mikel Landa (Sky) threatened his overall lead with a late attack. He rode assuredly to place 10th alongside the overall contenders on the uphill finish in Peschici and retain his maglia rosa.
"My knee is a bit bloody but it's no problem and there's no pain," Jungels said afterwards. "It was my fault. I didn't pay enough attention on a downhill, I touched the back wheel of a teammate of mine and I went down softly.
"I didn't expect Landa's attack, but I think it was a move aimed more at other teams than at me. There was still a long way to go to the finish."
Jungels has defended a slender lead atop the general classification since the Giro's first summit finish at Mount Etna on stage 4. For the bones of a week, he has remained locked 6 seconds clear of Geraint Thomas (Sky) and 10 ahead of a slew of podium contenders, including Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar). Allowing the early break its head meant that stage winner Gorka Izagirre (Movistar) and his companions hoovered up the bonus seconds, but Jungels still had to perform the considerable task of staying in touch with Thomas, Adam Yates (Orica-Scott) et al on the stiff finale in Peschici.
On Sunday, of course, Jungels' command of this Giro faces a rather sterner test, as the race reaches the Blockhaus for its second mountaintop finish and – potentially – the first major shake-up of the general classification. The 13.6-kilometre ascent pitches up to 14% and has an average gradient of some 8.4%. A lead of six seconds is not much of an insurance policy against such forces of nature.
"I think apparently now the big battle begins," Jungels said with the wry understatement of a man who has already carried the weight of leading the Giro for almost a thousand kilometres on its sweep northwards from Sicily. "Tomorrow is going to be the first big climb – after Etna, but Etna was a bit more tactical with the wind. I expect tomorrow to be a very hard final on the Blockhaus. It's about time for the main favourites to show themselves. As for myself, it's going to be about hanging on just to see how far I can go."
Beyond the Blockhaus
Sixth overall a year ago after a spell in the maglia rosa in the second week, Jungels has returned to the Giro d'Italia with the ambition of producing something similar and gauging his progress as a Grand Tour rider. Even the seemingly banal detail of coping with the post-stage media demands of race leader is a bankable, and valuable, experience for the 24-year-old.
"The pressure is rising and the press interest is increasing, but I think these are things I have to learn to handle also," Jungels said "Handling the racing itself is something I've been doing for quite some time already."
Asked if he feared the ferocity of Nairo Quintana and Vincenzo Nibali's expected accelerations on the Blockhaus, Jungels took a pragmatic view. "I'm not scared of anybody: it always comes as it comes," he said. "If somebody has more power than you, that's how it is. Sometimes it's not that complicated. And on a climb like Blockhaus, it's not going to be very complicated – everybody is going to do their best."
It helps, mind, that Jungels has an immediate opportunity to recoup any lost ground when the Giro resumes after Monday's rest day with the Montefalco time trial, a stage he went to reconnoitre after Tirreno-Adriatico earlier in the spring.
"I spend quite some time every week on my time trial bike and it's a discipline I've been good in from a young age," he said. "I'm looking forward to it. It's a pretty long and not very easy time trial, so it should suit me pretty well."
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