Giro Rest Day Rant: Nine stages down and twelve more to come and another rest day, but the first week has fed our Covid-19 need for bike racing. Ed Hood has been tied to the TV in ‘Sunny Scotland’ watching the 2020 Italian Grand Tour unfold. Here are his thoughts as the peloton enjoys the first rest day.
The 2020 Giro d’Italia teams presentation
D minus one:
I know, I’m an old guy who thinks that the GB team should never have messed around with the classic red and blue national jersey from the 60’s and 70’s – but I guess things have to move on.
The classic Great Britain jersey as worn at the Worlds by Robert Millar
However, the EF Giro jersey is taking change for change sake too far; ‘skate board culture,’ has nothing to do with the Pink Race, the jersey is a mish-mash. But it has guys like me writing about it and is thus doing it’s job – so I guess it’s, ‘advantage EF;’ shame about the big fine from the UCi though, guys. . .
Marmite – Love it or hate it
Julian Alaphilippe’s bike’s colour scheme? Just a good job he’s not riding the Giro. . .
Better than plain black
He’s 6’4” turns a 60 x 11 gear and clocked 100 kph plus in the opening time test, covering the 15 kilometres in 15 minutes at 58.831 kph average; Filippo Ganna’s win in the opening chrono was expected but no less impressive for that, a beast of a man.
A big strong Italian
But also cracking rides from the other two young men on the podium. Patrick Lefevere has extracted another gem in the shape of 22 year-old Portuguese rider, Joāo Almeida in second spot whilst it’s hard to believe that Mikkel Bjerg is only 21 years-old and has been three times u23 World Time Trial Champion. If I had to put money on a future world hour record holder, it would be the Dane who previously held his national hour record with 53.730 at sea level – Martin Toft Madsen has since updated that to 53.975 but with a Giro under his belt, Bjerg’s core will be so much deeper.
Another young fast-man – Mikkel Bjerg
A good day for Geraint Thomas putting time into all of his rivals and not too bad a day for co-race favourite, Simon Yates ceding just 26 seconds to ‘chrono’ specialist, Thomas.
‘Bad day at Black Rock’ however for podium hopefuls, Kruijswijk, losing 1:21 to the Welshman, Fuglsang dropping 1:24 and Majka 1:37.
Not a good way to leave the Giro
Adding to the Dane’s woes was the loss of ‘mountain man’ team mate Lopez, confirming Nikolai Razouvaev’s recent assertions here on PEZ that time trial bikes can be dangerous devices. On the bright side it means we don’t have to listen to Rob Hatch on Eurosport’s exaggerated pronunciation; ‘Soooper Maaan’.
Campenaerts hit the tarmac
Also on the deck, continuing his Giro TT woes (remember that bike change ?) was world hour record holder, Victor Campenaerts but still finishing in 36th spot. A brilliant winner and lot’s to talk about, the Pink race is off to a good start.
I reckoned Sagan for this one with it’s, ‘just too tough for the pure sprinters’ finale – that was how it proved but with Sagan just out-foxed by another man who revels in this kind of finish, Diego Ulissi who continued the UAE team’s sparkling season.
Clever win for Diego
The man himself had this to say: “I’m really happy to get my seventh career victory at the Giro. It’s a great personal satisfaction, but also for the team; we got off to a great start in this Corsa Rosa, putting into practice what we planned in the team meeting. Bjerg, Gaviria, Richeze all did great work on the flats. Then, on the final climb, I asked Conti to up the pace, to tire out the sprinters; Valerio was perfect and laid the foundations to allow me to play my cards in what was a difficult sprint, especially when Sagan came back.”
Geraint Thomas kept his eye on the action
None of the GC guys took their eye off the ball with Thomas, Yates, Nibali and Fuglsang all in the top 20; but more woes for the Dane following the Stage One crash exit of Lopez, his team mate, season 2020 Russian revelation Aleksandr Vlasov climbed off with ‘stomach problems’. Etna tomorrow, just three days in and already the GC will begin to take shape.
And take shape it did but not in the manner most of us expected; we knew Filippo Ganna would surrender his maglia rosa on this stage, ending as it did high on the volcano the mountain where, according to the Greek mythology, Zeus trapped the monster Typhon who had challenged him for the supremacy of the cosmos.
But we didn’t expect race hot favourite number one, Geraint Thomas to crash in the neutralised section of the race then get up to finish 12 minutes down on the winner – it’s over for the Welshman.
Geraint Thomas out of the Giro
Nor did we expect race hot favourite number two, Simon Yates to get shelled on the final ascent and drop 4:22 on the winner. Wow! It’s not over for Yates but to take back three minutes on Nibali, Fuglsang, Majka and Kruijswijk – who are now the race favourites – will be difficult.
Vanhoucke quietly getting on with it on Etna
And yet again, Patrick Lefevere pulls a rabbit from the hat with his 22 year-old Portuguese, Joāo Almeida getting his rewards for an his outstanding Stage One chrono by becoming only the second Portuguese rider, after Acacio da Silva back in 1989, to wear the hallowed maglia. The man from Caldas da Rainha in Estremadura is also best young rider so takes the white jersey too; but that will be worn by Lotto Belgian, Harm Vanhoucke who took a surprising third place on the stage.
Joāo Almeida on the stage 3 podium – New boy on the block
Da Silva was a good rider, as well as his pink jersey he took five stages in the Giro, including one atop the same volcano as today where he beat ‘Lucho’ Herrera, Tony Rominger and Marino Lejerrata – all very handy gentlemen.
Acacio da Silva in the 1986 Worlds in Colorado Springs with Laurent Fignon on his wheel
In the Tour he won three stages, including an audacious lone win in his adopted home city of Luxembourg in 1989 which gave him the maillot jaune, early in the race. He also won the Zurich Classic, Giro del’Emilia, Copa Placci and Coppa Agostoni, a quality rider. And the word is Almeida can win a Grand Tour, we shall see.
Nice ride – Shame about the jersey
Oh! Nearly forgot, Caicedo’s prize money for winning the stage should cover the fine for that ‘quackers’ jersey of his.
Bidons, versatile thing; you can squirt pretty ladies in bikinis with them as you pedal past, hurl them at intrusive press motor bikes a la Laurent Fignon, use them as weapons as Tom Steels did to Fred Moncassin, cut the top off them and put your spare tubular in them – and, they can crash you out of a Grand Tour. Commiserations to Geraint Thomas, one of the ‘Good Guys’ who didn’t deserve to leave the Giro in that fashion.
One of the top favourites leaves the Giro
A proper finale with BORA-hansgrohe and Groupama-FdJ drilling it to keep Gaviria and Hodeg at bay; lots of bumping and boring in the last couple of K’s and a photo finish – good racing.
Stage 4 was close
I first came across Arnaud Démare at the Copenhagen Worlds in 2011 when he won the u23 Road Race. But even before that he was demonstrating his class; a stage win in Canada’s Tour de l’Abitibi – ‘The Junior Tour de France’ – in 2008 then second in the junior Worlds in 2009 to another man who’s moved seamlessly up through the ranks, Jasper Stuyven of Belgium.
The Frenchman was fifth in the u23 Worlds in 2010 before stepping onto the top of the podium in 2011. As a first year professional he won a World Tour race, the 2012 Vattenfall Classic in Hamburg besting Greipel and Nizzolo – no slouches.
Démare first in Sanremo’16
Since then he’s added a Monument in Milano-Sanremo, two Tour de France stages and this is his second Giro stage – in addition there’s a raft of stage wins in the likes of Dunkerque, Poitou Charentes, Luxembourg, Wallonie, Slovakia, Switzerland, Paris-Nice. . . And his total victories now creeps up towards the magical three figures; he’s class. Marc Madiot must be wishing he’d gone, ‘all for Arnaud’ in le Tour rather than ‘tout pour Thibaut’.
Another second place for Sagan
Peter Sagan was denied his first Giro stage win by millimetres but took consolation in topping the points classification – but to me he just doesn’t look like he enjoys it anymore, where has his sense of fun gone?
Still in pink
Almeida retains pink to keep Monsieur Lefevere’s window and floor boys in the limelight. The race takes the ferry tonight; watch out for that shark in the Straights of Messina.
Filippo Ganna; there’s little I can add save, Wow! It’s surely the first time there’s been an 83 kg, 1.93 m. rider leading a Grand Tour king of the mountains competition? I hope there’s a jersey to fit him?
Big lad for those climbs
His second stage win of the race makes it a much less disastrous Giro for INEOS. And Almeida is now sitting much prettier in pink; taking third on the stage whilst Caicedo tumbled down the standings to the tune of 16 minutes.
Pello Bilbao – Hanging in there
It’s Bahrain-McLaren’s Pello Bilbao who’s now second at 43 seconds with Kelderman at 48 seconds.
Nibali, Fuglsang and Kruijswijk are close behind covered by 20 seconds and waiting for the first BiG showdown which doesn’t come until Sunday’s Stage Nine; 200K plus with the tough Passo Lanciano at half distance then a savage second half which grinds remorselessly ever upwards towards a mountain top finish at Roccaraso. There’ll be a few licking their wounds on Sunday evening. Yates was in trouble again today and unless he’s, ‘riding into form’ then his GC hopes look faint.
The pink and the blue – Both jerseys seem to fit well
‘Team Press Officer,’ sounds like a good gig, standing at the bus and throwing a few crumbs to hungry journos. All well and good if you’re with BORA, Deceuninck or INEOS – but what if you’re with Cofidis and it’s time to put out the press release? “The riders of the team managed to do a great job in the peloton. Stéphane Rossetto stood out by finishing 2nd best Frenchman of the stage (39th).” ‘39th and second best Frenchman in the Giro,’ yes, we’ll be forming an orderly queue at the Cofidis bus for sure. . .
Stages Six & Seven:
Le double pour Démare. Two different stories but the same happy ending.
Stage Six might have gone to the breakaway, however a big group came in with Demare right in there but with no team mates to assist – despite that he was in a class of his own.
Stage seven was always going to be a sprint stage, despite the distraction of cross winds and those annoying Deceunincks splitting the field with their echelon riding. But it came back together with Groupama-FdJ impeccable in setting their man up – and again he was in a different race in what was the fastest road stage in Giro history at 51.234 kph. Almeida defended became the youngest rider in 41 years to collect at least five pink jerseys at a single edition of the Giro.
A strong finish on stage 6
But back to Démare. At the end of 2019 the British ‘Cycling Weekly’ magazine published a list of the top winners still active in the sport. Top of the tree was Andre Greipel on 116, a total which he’s highly unlikely to improve upon. Peter Sagan was second on 113 and despite a plethora of top five finishes in 2020 has not been able to add to his total. Third was Mark Cavendish on 94, another who is unlikely to add to that total. Fourth was the man with the legs but not the head, the now retired Marcel Kittel on 89 wins. On 78 in fifth spot was Elia Viviani who’s definitely missing Max and Michael from his dazzling 2020 Deceuninck days, zero wins this year. Alex Kristoff was in sixth spot on 74; just one win this year but as they say in Glasgow; ‘a belter!’ Stage One of the Tour de France.
Alexander Kristoff – Old school, but still a winner
Seventh was Alejandro Valverde on 67 wins but it looks like Padre Tiempo is finale catching up with him, no wins in The Year of Covid for the Murcian. Nacer Bouhanni was in eighth place with 65 wins; the fiery Frenchman is rejuvenated in 2020, he’s added another four, most recently the historic UCi 1.1 semi-classic Paris-Chauny so he’s now on 69 victories.
Our man Arnaud was in ninth spot with 61 but his 2020 season has been stunning with 13 wins to date, taking him up to 74 victories, just one behind Kristoff, who’s now on 75 wins. Very few riders make it to the magical three figures when criteriums are extracted, Démare could be the next one to achieve that stunning number. And he suits that points jersey.
My buddy, Ken Burrell has been in sales all his life, he knows the score. One time his team wasn’t performing to his expectation so at the sales meet he announced, ‘a new incentive.’ The guys ears pricked up; a holiday? Or maybe a car upgrade? The incentive was; ‘continuous employment!’ Yes, keeping those bills paid and, ‘her indoors’ happy can be a very strong motivator.
The Israeli one-two from Dowsett and Brändle
With no contract for 2021, Alex Dowsett needed a rabbit and a hat and he needed them PDQ. Stage Eight saw him pull a large fluffy white bunny from a Fred Astaire top hat. Seriously though, there are messages to be taken from Dowsett’s ride; proper team work will always deliver, Brändle buried himself to get Dowsett back after they were shelled on the first ascent of the finish circuit climb. It’s never over until it’s over, when Dowsett and Brändle were dropped on that first ascent it looked over for them but they displayed real ‘grinta’ to get back up to the others. Timing is all, Dowsett saw the lull, exploited it and was gone.
Play to your strengths, Dowsett knew he had to get clear solo and get a gap before the climb because Puccio and Holmes had showed their hand that they were better climbers – and even if he hung on, he’s no sprinter.
And finally, always give stray dogs in the finish straight a wide berth. A great ride which does his prospects of, ‘continuous employment’ no harm at all. Oh, and ciao Sen. Yates so that’s BOTH my race faves gone home.
I still think that EF jersey is a mess but the guys inside them are certainly doing a job; their second mountain stage win – and a great day for Portugal with Gurreiro taking the stage and Almeida still in the pink.
The two men from Portugal
Gurreiro is ‘warrior’ in Portuguese – very appropriate – and his battles today mean he wears the king of the mountains jersey – much nicer, with no DUCKS. It wasn’t the stage we expected but 208 hilly, hard, wet kilometres aren’t really going to inspire, ‘The Bigs’ to go toe to toe. That said, Nibali had his boys drill it on the final climb and then. . .
Vincenzo – Waiting or struggling?
Nada, he remains in fifth spot, less than a minute off the lead. Pozzovivo’s good form continues whilst Bilbao, Kruijswijk and Vanhoucke all slipped a little; but the last named continues to wear Almeida’s white jersey for him. Rest day today, Stage 10 on Tuesday has a finale which looks a little too tough for the ‘pure’ sprinters – but the way Demare is riding. . .
Giro d’Italia Top Ten After Stage 9:
1. João Almeida (Por) Deceuninck – Quick Step in 35:35:50
2. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Sunweb at 0:30
3. Pello Bilbao (Spa) Bahrain-McLaren at 0:39
4. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) NTT Pro Cycling at 0:53
5. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Trek-Segafredo at 0:57
6. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana at 1:01
7. Harm Vanhoucke (Bel) Lotto Soudal at 1:02
8. Patrick Konrad (Aut) BORA-hansgrohe at 1:11
9. Jai Hindley (Aus) Sunweb at 1:15
10. Rafał Majka (Pol) BORA-hansgrohe at 1:17.
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