Giro Rest Day Rant: As we hit the first rest day of the 2021 Giro d’Italia and so far the Italian Grand Tour has not disappointed. PEZ Grand Tour oracle Ed Hood has been glued to the TV screen, although he would rather be ‘Roadside’, to give us his thoughts on the race so far.
Egan Bernal in pink all the way to Milan?
Like the Four Tops said; ‘It’s the Same Old Song’ with big Filippo Ganna starting this Giro as he ended his last one, with a crushing display of power and nerve, throwing that beautiful blue Pinarello into the corners like a Belgian Kermis King.
Winning again – Filippo Ganna
Whoever thought of bringing ‘aero ace’ Dan Bigham into the commentary box, ‘Chapeau!’ his observations were music to the ears of an old chrono anorak like me. I was a wee puzzled though when the team reckoned that Matthias Brändle taking the lead was a ‘surprise,’ seven times Austrian TT Champion might not be a big recommendation as a ‘chronoman’ but the man was the world hour record holder.
No surprise – Eduardo Affini
And whilst they mentioned second placed Eduardo Affini’s [Jumbo Visma] win in the Tour of Britain TT they overlooked that the Italian was European u23 TT Champion and the winner of the prologue in the Baby Giro – in other words, ‘a specialist.’ A cracking ride to take third spot from young Norwegian, Tobias Foss [also Jumbo-Visma], he won the Tour de l’Avenir in 2019 and we saw him well in the mix at the end of the 2019 u23 Worlds in Harrogate.
The GC men?
Young 2020 ‘man in pink’ for 15 days, Joao Almeida [Deceuninck QuickStep & Portugal] was the best of them in fourth place with Belgium’s ‘wonder kid’ team mate Remco right there in an impressive seventh place Aleksandr Vlasov [Astana & Russia] was in 11th spot while Dan Martin surrendered 40 seconds to Almeida. And the 2021 Pink Race is WELL under way.
Those two words that strike fear into a commentator’s heart, ‘sprinter stage.’ This one as a throwback to the old days when the race only started when the TV helicopter appeared with an hour to race; trouble is, the helicopter is there from the get go, these days.
Stage 2 for Tim Merlier
The race ran way behind schedule but the finalé was a rapid affair with Tim Merlier [Alpecin Fenix & Belgium] the fastest, big Giacomo Nizzolo [Qhubeka ASSOS & Italy] bagged ANOTHER second place and good to see Elia Viviani [Cofidis & Italy] back in the mix with third spot – but like PEZ mentor and soothsayer, Vik says; ‘if you’re a sprinter then there’s only one place that counts.’ Merlier’s fourth big win of the year after le Samyn, GP Monseré and Koksijde – not bad for a ‘X man.’
Extra seconds for Ganna
Ganna consolidated his GC lead with a cheeky intermediate points gain whilst good to see Scot, John Archibald’s Italian team mate, Vincenzo Albanese grabbing the climber’s jersey for minnows EOLO-Kometa – nice one. But it all gets a tad more serious tomorrow with the first ‘real’ climbs of the race contained within the 190K between Biella and Canale.
INEOS sport director, Dario Cioni back when he was a rider with that super-cool Liquigas squad, once said to me; ‘sometimes it’s nice when the peloton gets it wrong.’ Never a truer word as the drama became about a David and Goliath struggle where the field sprint became the ‘B’ movie. But where did Taco Van Der Hoorn’s beautiful win come from?
Yes, yes, the moment he crossed the line, amazed and delighted, we know – but before that? When he joined the ‘break of the day’ – or when he jumped away from his flagging companions? It was way before that; as most of us enjoyed the Festive Season the man was in self-imposed isolation in Spain, racking up the hours, six plus most days. As ‘Classicers’ from Van Looy to Van Avermaet will tell you, the big races are won in the winter, well before the first flag drops.
A very happy day for the Intermarché team
It was all those Iberian ‘kilometros duro’ that won that stage for the big man from a team that doesn’t subscribe to, ‘controlled’ bike racing. CHAPEAU, Taco! And a dip of the hat to my fellow Scot, John Archibald’s EOLO Kometa Italian team mate, Vincenzo Albenese for his clever defence of the climber’s jersey – nice to see the minnows getting the better of the barracudas, even if just for a few days.
Albenese in KOM blue
I’ve had a good look at the GC – because it’s going to look A LOT different after Stage Four and it’s second half, ‘saw tooth’ profile. . .
It doesn’t seem like 10 years since I sat outside the US team hotel on a sunny afternoon in Copenhagen interviewing Joe Dombrowski. It was a day or two before the Worlds and whilst almost no one had picked up on it, at PEZ, we had; Dombrowski had ridden an excellent Valle d’Aosta – the u23 stage race, which along with the Tour de l’Avenir and Baby Giro is a major, ‘shop window’ for the professional teams. He’d won a stage and come second overall to Fabio Aru in the race. But a year later he turned to tables on Aru and beat him to win the 2012 Baby Giro after an epic duel with the Italian on the fearsome Passo Gavia. Team Sky were soon on the phone and a contract signed. Some may say it wasn’t a good move, just another, ‘super domestique’ for the team with the biggest budget in the world. However, the American’s bank manager was happy with the deal. Iliac artery surgery meant his time there wasn’t the best; however, his move to Cannondale looked like a good ‘fit’ but the Tour of Utah apart – where he won a stage and the GC in 2015 and another stage in 2019 – the wins haven’t come. He moved to UAE last year and has finally pulled off the big win that folks like me always thought he had in him. CHAPEAU! Joe.
My Alessandro De Marchi, the new maglia rosa, story? Ponferrada 2014 and the big chap is in a break of four in the closing stages, a podium looks on the cards but then the peloton, hitherto uncommitted, starts to ride. Who’s doing the damage? Italia – riding for Sonny Colbrelli. The break comes back, Kwiatkowski clips off to win and Sonny – as he usually does in the big races – disappoints to 13th place.
A less than pleased De Marchi
At the finish, 45th placed De Marchi’s face told its own story about his team management’s decision. Nice to see him smiling on this day. It’s over for Almeida – ‘all for Remco’ now – but Bernal, Yates, Vlasov and Carthy will all be content. Pan flat tomorrow and a chance to recover. . .
Yes, ‘pan flat’ and an, ‘easy day’ – but tell that to Mickie Landa who goes home; Joe Dombrowski who started the day just 22 seconds away from rosa with a real chance at the maglia on Stage Six’s monstrous ascent to the finish, but ended it @ 8:37 and then was DNS for Stage Six; as was Pavel Sivakov. A moment’s inattention or simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time is enough to ruin all those carefully laid plans.
Caleb Ewan is ‘special,’
Stage winner, Caleb Ewan is ‘special,’ Aussie ex-pro, columnist and pundit, John Trevorrow recalls back in 2012 a 17 year-old Ewan besting Elite Worlds medallist and Primavera podium finisher, Allan Davis to win one of the Bay Crits in Australia, rendering Trevorrow, ‘speechless.’ Since then there have been nine stage wins, ‘Down Under,’ five in le Tour and today was his fourth Giro stage to go with wins in the Scheldeprijs, Brussels Cycling Classic and Hamburg Classic – and he’s still only 26 years-old. But Caleb is only, ‘king for a day,’ – 15.5K @ 6.0% to the line tomorrow. Gruppetto!
With no late charging Roglič in the mix to pinch the win – as happened in the ‘Race to the Sun,’ Gino Mäder held on from the break to take the biggest win of his career. He was top five in the junior World TT in 2015 then, in 2017 came the first big result with a podium in the Piccolo Lombardia, with names like Hirschi, Pogačar and Vlasov all in the top 10, that year. In 2018 he took two stages in the ‘shop window’ Tour de l’Avenir, a contract looked certain. And he did indeed turn pro with Dimension Data in 2019 with no results to write home about but staying with the team as NTT last year he took second spot to David Gaudu on the tough Alto de Covatilla Stage 17 in the Vuelta before coming over to Bahrain for this year. As well as his second place on Stage Seven of Paris-Nice this year, he made the top 10 on GC and has now announced himself as a ‘player.’
Gino Mäder made sure of the win
Meanwhile, the clay on the potter’s wheel of the GC begins to take shape; a new name in pink and a rare maglia rosa for a French team as FdJ Hungarian climber, Vatilla Attila takes that beautiful jersey – a day to remember for the 22 year-old who last year won his national tour. How far can he go in pink?
Attila in pink with his Groupama guards
‘The road will decide,’ as teams with ‘joint leaders’ often have it.
There are no such dichotomies at Deceuninck now though, after Almeida’s ‘giornata no.’ And how far can Remco’s tiny frame take him? That’s one we’re all eager to see answered. Whilst Bernal’s back certainly seems to be holding out, it’s well covered with domestiques like Ganna, Martinez and Moscon. Other favourites, Vlasov, Carthy and Yates are all within 50 seconds of pink; the GC battle will re-commence with Sunday’s Stage Nine to Campo Felice – Stage Seven is for the sprinters and Eight for the baroudeurs. Ewan again tomorrow?
I have to be honest, I’m no Caleb die hard. And much as I admired and respected Cav, I wasn’t a fanatic. I like my sprinters to be a bit higher on the deranged scale; I loved Eric Vanderaerden, ‘back in the day;’ Cipo goes without saying and of the current crop, Bouhani is possibly the last of the ‘crazy’ sprinters in these politically correct; ‘perhaps we should have them sprinting in lanes at the finish?’ times.
Stage win No.2 for Ewan
I do like Viviani, perhaps because he’s classy and I saw him right back at the start of his career with Liquigas on the boards of the Grenoble track in the six days where he was knocking out 200 times not far short of the French track sprinters. Let’s hope the rumours about him going back to Deceuninck for 2022 are true?
Left arm tattoo for sprinters Nizzolo and Ewan
Big Nizzolo is another fave of mine, he fits my sad stereotypical idea of a, ‘big strong beast of a boy.’ All of the above said, I was hugely impressed by the small Lotto Soudal antipodean’s win in Termoli; his positioning in a tricky finale was perfect, he went from way out putting out huge power – 1010 watts for his 18 second, 270m sprint, according to Velon – demonstrated total commitment to win and his speed spoke for itself. CHAPEAU Caleb!
Affini – Last man home
And I thought I’d have a peek at the other end of the classement; last man home was big Italian ‘chronoman,’ Edoardo Affini, not surprising given the Saturn Five spell he put in coming into the final for Jumbo Visma team mate, Dylan Groenewegen. PEZ soothsayer and mentor, Vik reckons that the Dutch fast man is the quickest around – but it’s unrealistic to expect that he can come back from suspension and beat the likes of Ewan who’s been racing – and winning – since February. One for the breakaway tomorrow – but will they withstand the GC battle on the finish climb?
Yes, they did stay away with Victor Lafay capping a great week for Cofidis after Christophe Laporte won the Circuit de Wallonie, and Jesus Herrada won the Trofeo Serra de Tramuntana on Mallorca.
French teams doing well in Italy
Lafay is 25 years-old and from Lyon, this was by far his biggest win but he rode a strong Valenciana prior to the Giro. That’s the positive stuff done for the day, now the negative: there was me praising Caleb Ewan to the rooftops yesterday but it’s hero to zero time. You don’t cynically climb off with the maglia ciclamino on your back unless you crash out, have GENUINE health problems or miss the time cut.
Ewan – Maybe not the best way to leave the Giro
The professional thing to have done would have been to go in the gruppetto, slide out of it on that long drag to the finish and miss the time cut claiming a ‘giornato no’ then slip quietly home to Monaco and the Lambo. Karma is funny old thing, Caleb.
I won’t do what English comedian, John Cleese used to call; ‘going for a degree in stating the bleedin’ obvious!’ about the finale of Stage Nine. So all I’ll say about Egan Bernal is, ‘Wow!’ Earlier in my ramblings I mentioned that his team, ‘have his back,’ I got that right, Puccio and Moscon in particular were terrific in support of the slim Colombian.
The other big news of the day was Matej Mohoric horror crash; I received an email from my friend, English ex-professional on road and track in the 60’s and 70’s, Norman Hill. A man who can out-rant even Viktor and me:
“So, another crash, this time making the front page of the national media. The question again, why? I come back to multiple reasons where the bike industry is ruling the bike equipment supplied instead of knowledgeable (if they are) mechanics determining ‘geometry’ (wheel base) real strength on both engineering design including material used, ie ‘carbon fibre’ and, I guess, even the ‘position’ of the riders, ‘tyre pressure’ etc., etc. It looked to me the rear wheel slid away and the rider tried to correct it and the correction with the front wheel to the right, the top of fork crown snapped.”
“I come back to my earlier comments I’ve made to you in the past on the way frame geometry is today; effectively they are track bikes with gears on and, the weight down from 22lbs to what? 15/16 lbs? If almost needs a mathematician to equate the optimum wheelbase based on frame material, carbon fibre/aluminium/steel……rider weight, rider height, tyres pressure, terrain to be encountered and even weather and road conditions to establish final frame design – not a one fits all out of a mould. Not forgetting, the final rider set up where currently so many of the pros clearly look like rank amateurs on the bike, excluding only a few. There is of course the skill of the rider, some like Sagan, VdP, Pidcock are obviously brilliant. But I go back to Evenepoel last Fall in the ‘Falling Leaves,’ His geometry in my opinion was certainly partly and if not all to blame – especially his wheelbase. Why the DS’s/team management don’t seem to be knowledgeable, experienced or interested enough in this department amazes me – it seems as long as they have a sponsor wiling to deliver and pay to have their name on the team jersey is all that matters!”
I did say he could rant, but some very serious points therein. Transition stage tomorrow but should end in a sprint? Another for Ewan? Ah, no, he went home. . .
Jeez, that’s a long time without a rest day. . . But anyway, you’re fast but not quite as fast as you used to be, how do you play it? Simple. Get your team to burn off the fastest of the sprinters on the climbs then, in the finale, latch on to your rival’s lead out man, get round the last corner first and take the laurels; oh, and the maglia ciclamino too. Chapeau, Peter Sagan.
A ‘special’ rider began writing the story of this Giro and another closed the first chapter – it’s been a good read so far. . .
Giro d’Italia Overall After Stage 10:
1. Egan Bernal Gomez (Col) INEOS Grenadiers in 38:30:45
2. Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Astana-Premier Tech at 0:01
3. Remco Evenepoel (Bel) Deceuninck – Quick-Step at 0:14
4. Giulio Ciccone (Ita) Trek-Segafredo at 0:37
5. Attila Valter (Hun) Groupama-FDJ at 0:44
6. Hugh Carthy (GB) EF Education-Nippo at 0:45
7. Damiano Caruso (Ita) Bahrain Victorious at 0:46
8. Daniel Martin (Irl) Israel Start-up Nation at 0:52
9. Simon Yates (GB) BikeExchange at 0:56
10. Marc Soler (Spa) Movistar at 1:00
11. Daniel Martinez Poveda (Col) INEOS Grenadiers at 1:13
12. Marc Soler (Spa) Movistar at 1:21
13. Romain Bardet (Fra) DSM
14. Louis Vervaeke (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix at 1:34
15. Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) BORA-hansgrohe at 1:47
16. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Trek-Segafredo at 2:13
17. Rein Taaramäe (Est) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux at 2:16
18. Tobias Foss (Nor) Jumbo-Visma at 2:23
19. Gianni Moscon (Ita) INEOS Grenadiers at 2:29
20. Nicholas Schultz (Aus) BikeExchange at 2:31
21. Pello Bilbao Lopez De Armentia (Spa) Bahrain Victorious at 3:27
22. Jai Hindley (Aus) DSM at 4:28
23. João Almeida (Por) Deceuninck – Quick-Step at 4:56
24. Fausto Masnada (Ita) Deceuninck – Quick-Step at 6:01
25. Ruben Guerreiro (Por) EF Education-Nippo at 7:19.
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