Three weeks racing the length and breadth of Italy (not to forget a section of Hungary, too) all finishes with this — 17.4km of time trialling in Verona. Until stage 20 barely anything had separated Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers), Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe) or Mikel Landa (Bahrain-Victorious) on the climbs, but the Bora rider's stinging attack yesterday now means he has an advantage of over one minute on his Ecuadorian rival going in to the final stage.
While it may not be that the race against the clock will determine the winner of this Giro, this stage is still going to be crucial in deciding the top-10 positions on the overall GC. 17.4km might not be that long, but it’s long enough for significant gaps if a rider is having a bad day.
Verona > Verona, 17.4km
The stage is set for Shakespearean levels of drama here in Verona, for the final stage of the Giro d’Italia. Almost twice the length of the race’s previous time trial in Budapest on stage two, this 17.4km course (which nearly replicates the circuit used for the road race at the 1999 World Championships, won by Óscar Freire) has the potential to cause potentially race-defining time gaps at the top of the general classification.
The course is split into approximately four parts. The first 5km sees the riders navigate through the central streets of Verona, going through several 90 degree turns. Then the riders spend the next 4.5km climbing to Torricella Massilimana, a category four climb with a steady gradient averaging 5 percent. Finally, after descending the next 5km back into town, the riders have just 3km left of flat, technical roads until the finish at Piazza Bra.
Richard Carapaz has history in Verona. It was here where, three years ago, he sealed overall victory at the 2019 Giro d’Italia, defending the pink jersey on a time trial course that will be replicated today.
The Ecuadorian actually lost time to most of his rivals that day, including one of the men hunting him down at this year’s race, Mikel Landa. But he has improved against the clock in that time, and recent history suggests he now has the edge over both Landa and Hindley.
In the stage two time trial in Budapest Carapaz was the quickest of the three, completing the 9.2km course five seconds faster than Landa and six seconds faster than Hindley. And the three also all raced against each other at in 13.9km TT at the Tirreno-Adriatico earlier this season, when Carapaz put 18 seconds into Hindley and 36 seconds into Hindley.
These results all point to Carapaz being the strongest against the clock, but the time he lost to Hindley in the final mountains yesterday means the Australian rider probably has enough of a time buffer to hold on to the race lead. But, it should be remembered that strange things can happen this late into a Grand Tour. Time trialling after a few days of racing is a very different prospect to doing so after three weeks, especially after the favourites have just pushed their bodies to the very limit over some of the highest mountain passes they’ll have ever climbed.
Image: Zac Williams/SWpix
As none of these GC contenders are specialists against the clock, the stage win is up for grabs among the time trialists. Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) is the only rider from the top three in the Budapest time trial to still be in the race, but he’s less well suited to this longer, less punchy route. The man who finished fourth that day, Matteo Sobrero (BikeExchange-Jayco), stands a good chance though, especially as he’ll be better rested than the restless Dutchman.
Rather than rest and wait for the time trial, Eduardo Affini (Jumbo-Visma) chose to get into the break on stages 17 and 18, and came very close to being awarded with a stage win in the former. That runner-up finish could be a sign that he’s now in better form than in Budapest, where he placed an underwhelming thirteenth, but the effort of racing hard all day might also have taken a significant amount of energy out of him.
Thymen Arensman (DSM) has impressed throughout this Giro, already coming close to a stage win with second-place on stage 16. As well as being a very promising climber, he’s also one of the best time trialists in the race, and the fact he finished third in the final time trial of last year’s Vuelta suggests he’s still able to excel against the clock this late into a Grand Tour.
Image: Zac Williams/SWpix