The waiting game: why the Giro d'Italia's cautious GC fight is no surprise

Our leading protagonists at the Giro don't have a history of flamboyant attacks

The first reaction was one of disappointment, despondency. After a morning of talks and meetings, stage 13 of the Giro d’Italia was shortened from 207km to 74km due to the prediction of yet more foul weather and unsafe riding conditions in the Alps. Once the news settled, anticipation and excitement became the dominant emotions. This was going to be a blockbuster, two major climbs in such a short distance; fireworks were being unboxed, lighters at the ready.

When the race flag dropped for a second time (the riders had completed the neutralised section in Borgofranco d’Ivrea before hopping into their team buses to the new start across the Swiss border in Le Châble), attacks came off the front. Jack Haig, 11th overnight, immediately drifted off the back. Thibaut Pinot, in pursuit of the KoM jersey, was active immediately, he and Jefferson Cepeda of EF Education-EasyPost going onto be engaged in several fraught back-and-forth tussles. It was living up to the hype.

But behind them in the peloton, nothing. The hope, the anticipation that there might be a bomb set off from a rider further down the GC to spice things up never materialised, Hugh Carthy aside. Geraint Thomas in pink, and Primož Roglič two seconds adrift, remained obdurate, patient, unflustered. João Almeida, third and 22 seconds behind, likewise.

Read more: Giro d'Italia stage 14 preview - can the sprinters survive the Simplon Pass?

It felt like a blow, a major kick in the teeth. First the race was shortened, and then the star riders didn’t even go head-to-head. It was like stage seven on the Gran Sasso all over again. The Giro keeps trying to liven up the racing with mountains, but the actors staunchly refuse to partake.

Should we be surprised? Take a closer look at the protagonists and the answer is no. For all of the praise that can be levied at Thomas - longevity, a varied palmarès and a world-class ability to always time his condition perfectly - he is a conservative GC rider, one who continues to be a living embodiment of the traditional Team Sky model. He’s never going to throw down the gauntlet.

Roglič has been, arguably, the standout GC rider of the past five seasons, but he only knows one method of winning: wait, wait, pounce, usually doing the latter in the final few hundred metres, collecting bonus seconds on the line. Almeida, meanwhile, is a one-paced climber, a rider who has consistently been on the scene since his breakthrough in this race in 2020, but someone who still lacks the conviction to win the biggest of races, and has yet to excite with an attack or brave move.

And that’s how the rest of this Giro is going to continue (if you can set aside illnesses, injuries and other problems in this seemingly cursed edition). The top-three are not attackers, they’re not going to be adventurous and they will bide their time. The riders beneath them are all inexperienced in this Grand Tour GC game, so the hope for something dramatic is now dependent on their innocence and bravery.

Pinot was the star of the day (even if he and Cepeda were beaten to the stage win by Movistar’s Einer Rubio) and the Frenchman now leads the mountain classification and has forced his way into the top-10, just 3-13 adrift of Thomas. Right now, he looks like the only rider up for the fight of turning this race on its head, in a way that the Giro has so often done in the past. But don’t bet on it - it’s going to be slowly, slowly catchy monkey all the way to Rome.

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