"It just goes to show, you need bike racers to have a bike race."
The UCI and Giro race director Mauro Vegni might not have liked the way they went about it, but ultimately they wouldn't have found themselves in the situation of facing down a rider revolt, had they not decided to stick the longest stage on the final Friday of the race. Should there be better mechanisms in place to prevent this kind of wildcat action? Probably. Maybe if there was a proper riders union who were invited to weigh into the route planning? What about just checking the average weather conditions for Lombardy in late October? Just some ill-informed spitballing over here.
Anyway, it's hard to imagine the racing would have been better if it had gone the entire 268k distance. The shortened version, combined with a large number of motivated racers eager to get back on the bus, meant it was advantage breakaway. Bora tried to keep them on a short lead but without assistance Peter Sagan didn't have the numbers. The first Grand Tour stage win for Josef Černý couldn't have come at a better time for him, as he approaches the end of the season without a contract for next year.
Today sees the final day in the mountains, though unusually, due to tomorrow's final day time trial, it likely won't deliver a decisive outcome. Due to Covid restrictions in France, we're also being denied the Colle dell'Agnello. Instead the race will take on the somewhat less challenging Sestriere three times. That will probably be to the benefit of Sunweb over Ineos, though a few of our number think Tao could still be the winner who takes it all. No reason for the Abba reference there. Do we really need a reason?
Alba to Sestriere
Tao Geoghegan-Hart - Team Ineos
Hackney’s finest looks to be the strongest in the mountains with - importantly - a flying, motivated team. Needs that little bit more time over the Sunweb duo, so I expect it’ll be all-out war from that penultimate time up Sestriere to the line.
Pello Bilbao - Bahrain-McLaren
And now, the end is near…. Thursday’s brilliant stage will take some beating, but this promises to be another belter. If Bilbao wants to get on that podium, it’s go big or go home time. One of the Sunweb boys has to be sacrificed, surely? Think this is the third time I’ve gone for ‘Marti’ Pello this Giro. Keeping the faith, brother.
Tao Geoghegan Hart - Ineos
If ifs and ands were pots and pans, there'd be no work for tinkers' hands. Nevertheless, looking back on the early stages of this race it's easy to find oneself wondering what might have been had Tao been set up to ride the Giro as a plan B, or a plan A.2. A win on the final day in the mountains will, I think, give him his day in pink. It's just unfortunate that it should be in the ugliest incarnation of the kit. I also don't think the margin will be enough for him to get the nicer version to wear on the podium, but boy has he put up a good fight.
Ilnur Zakarin - CCC
Though it will undoubtedly be a day for the GC in one way or another, it seems likely that Sunweb will be just as happy as not to see a break make it all the way to the finish to mop up any bonus seconds. A nice uphill finish like this should suit Zakarin’s strengths. He was close to the stage win into Madonna di Campiglio. Knowing this is his last chance for this Giro will hopefully give his legs that little extra kick they were missing a few days ago.
The Cycling Mole says
That was a lot more fun that I thought it was going to be. The riders flex their power and got a large chunk of the stage removed, why the organisers thought stage 19 should be a 260km sprint is still beyond me. Stage 20, and France have banned the Giro from going over the border, robbing us of a sensational stage, but potentially saving the day for Kelderman. The climbs aren’t too hard, but with all the fatigue in the legs, there’s a still a chance of some big gaps.
In terms of the stage picks, only Olivia is favouring the breakaway. Her pick of Zakarin is a good one, he has the class required to win this stage. The rest of the team fancy a GC day, but no one reckons Hindley go win another one. Andy and Nick are both believing in Tao, he is climbing incredibly well just now, but there is a real chance of a repeat of Thursday, with Hindley stealing the stage. Ian is looking through his Angel Eyes with the pick of Pello Bilbao, why he’s gone for him is a Sweet Little Mystery.
I’m with Olivia, this is a day for the break. Only Ineos will be interested in chasing, and as they only have five men for the whole stage, they must save riders for the big climbs. I’ll take Ben O’Connor; his current form is off the chart.