While Mitchelton-Scott's Simon Yates continues his attempt to win the 2019 Giro d'Italia, and Tao Geoghegan Hart gains valuable Grand Tour experience in his free role at Team Ineos, Thursday's stage 12 from Cuneo to Pinerolo brought mixed fortunes for two of the other British riders competing at this year's race.
In consultation with his team, Deceuninck-QuickStep's James Knox has decided to quit the race, still suffering with injuries sustained in crashes on stage 3 and stage 4, while EF Education First's Hugh Carthy has taken the lead in the best young rider competition, and will wear the white jersey on Friday's 13th stage from Pinerolo to Ceresole Reale.
Carthy's 33rd-place finish on Thursday's stage, some 40 seconds behind a group of race favourites, including Yates, Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma), Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), Movistar's Richard Carapaz and Trek-Segafredo's Bauke Mollema, was enough to jump the 24-year-old up from 16th overall to 10th – and most importantly gave him the lead in the race's best young rider competition.
Carthy took over from overnight leader Nans Peters (AG2R) in the standings, with the Frenchman falling away on the Giro's first day in the mountains. The EF rider now leads the competition by 35 seconds from last year's white-jersey winner Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana), with Geoghegan Hart's Team Ineos teammate Pavel Sivakov a further 10 seconds back.
"It came from riding well, from being up there every day, from some good teamwork," explained Carthy on his team's website as to how leading one of this year's major Giro jersey competitions came about.
"I would have liked my legs to have been better on the top of the climb, in the final, but it's the first day in the mountains, and it was a hot day. We've had a few easy days this week. Hopefully now with some hard racing in my legs, my condition will pick up," he said.
EF Education sports director Fabrizo Guidi explained that the team had had two targets for stage 12: to try to win the stage, and to try to take the white jersey. At a race like the Giro d'Italia, achieving one goal out of two isn't bad.
"We knew that the overall for the young guys was close, and Hugh was just in front of the riders that were supposedly not as strong as him on the climb, but, of course, we couldn't be sure," he said.
"The focus was to stay with the leader of the race. Hugh did exactly that, but it was a little bit full gas for him to do it. He got the white jersey at the end of the day, and it's a great result for a young rider like Hugh," said Guidi.
Knox's Deceuninck-QuickStep team, meanwhile, issued a press release, explaining their decision to send their British rider home.
"The team's medical staff have decided that Grand Tour debutant James Knox should stop the Giro d'Italia, as the injury he picked up last Tuesday [stage 4] isn't healing as expected and the team don't want to risk incurring further injury," read the press release. "In the next days, James will go for a precautionary MRI scan in Belgium to make sure there will be no further complications, following which a decision on his programme for the second part of the season will be taken."
A disappointed Knox added that the mountainous nature of most of the rest of this year's Giro helped make the decision to quit.
"I have been struggling with this knee injury, but we were still hoping I could make some kind of recovery on the flat stages and the rest day," said Knox. "Unfortunately, today was the first real test on the climbs, and taking into account how I felt and what's still to come, we decided to call it a race.
"Despite this, it's been really great to be here, part of the team, and to live this experience. I am of course pretty disappointed, as the crashes on stages 3 and 4 ruined the fun for me and put me on survival mode, but I hope to return to the Giro d'Italia in the near future, because it's such a great race," he said.
Scott Davies – the fifth and final British rider at this year's Giro – is still in the race, working for his Dimension Data team while sitting in 150th place overall, 1:37:13 down on new race leader Jan Polanc (UAE Team Emirates) ahead of Friday's stage.
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