Review: The first nine stages of the 100th Giro d'Italia
May 16 2017 03:04 am CET

Review: The first nine stages of the 100th Giro d'Italia
Review: The first nine stages of the 100th Giro d'Italia


As the first nine stages of the 100th Giro d'Italia have concluded, CyclingPub's Marcelo Hernández takes a look at what has happened so far.

This is a historical year for the ‘corsa rosa’ as it is its 100th edition. We have gone through nine stages so far and have witnessed a toe to toe fight for the sprints, the points classification (the maglia ciclamino) and stage victories. It is true nevertheless that due to the lack of mountain difficulties until stage eight, the Etna being a little exception, we had no significant movements in the GC or among the main riders, although we still had pretty good racing.

The first three stages were a battlefield for the sprinters and their teams but it was an outsider who took the first win and the first maglia rosa: Lukas Postlberger. The young Bora-hansgrohe rider is one of the biggest revelations of this year’s Giro and became the first Austrian to wear the pink jersey ever after a bold attack in the last two kilometers of the first stage when a bunch sprint seemed to be guaranteed. He was inspired by the success and got involved in more breakaways, finishing in third place in stage 6th and forming part of the front group of stage eight, unable to remain at the head of the race until the end.

The strength and determination of Postlberger are an example of this new generation of riders that are taking over the professional peloton in this Giro. The most brilliant of those is Fernando Gaviria, the Colombian sprinter of Quickstep Floors who has been gathering victories since last year when he conquered a stage of the Tirreno – Adriatico and Paris – Tours. He arrived to Italy with a lot of expectation and eventually proved that he was up to the challenge taking his first victory in the third stage arriving in Cagliari. Here the Quickstep Floors team delivered exceptional work provoking a late cut with a few kilometers to go in which Gaviria was the favorite to the stage and Bob Jungels was in the ride to gain some time on the other leaders. The Luxembourg champion did most of the work to secure the lead in the stage, which enabled him to take the maglia rosa the next day after the climb to Mount Etna.

Another young rider hungry for glory is Caleb Ewan. the Australian sprinter had to fight against the bad luck in stage two when a mechanical problem ruled him out of the sprint in the last 200 meters. But he had his rematch on stage seven when he defeated Gaviria and finally took a stage victory. Even though the legendary André Greipel won the second stage and wore the pink jersey for a day, it is clear that a new generation of fast riders is emerging fast and will dominate the sprints for the next years.

Among the most ambitious teams a special mention has to be made for Bora-hansgrohe. The German squad came to Italy with the clear objective of fighting in the mass sprints with Sam Bennett and although the Irishman had a regular performance it didn’t stop the team from shining. Postlberger alone saved Bora’s Giro with his stage victory and being the race leader, but other riders such as Austrian rider Gregor Muhlberger, Czech Jan Barta or Italian Matteo Pelucchi have also showed themselves in breakaways or leading the pace in the peloton.

Quickstep Floors, working for Gaviria or Jungels depending on the occasion, and Orica-Scott, which showed up at the flat finishes trying to put Caleb Ewan and Adam Yates in good positions, were some of the strongest squads. With teams as big and well-funded like those you can sort of expect it. But smaller teams such as Dimension Data, Wilier Selle-Italia, which won an amazing second place in the fifth stage with Jakun Mareczko, or CCC Sprandi Polkowice deserve congratulations for their role disrupting the hegemony of the peloton.

But Grand Tours are decided mostly in the high mountain and stage nine, with a summit finish on the Blockhaus was the first round between the favorites. There Nairo Quintana made a true exhibition of strength and took not only a beautiful solo win but also the maglia rosa.

The Colombian launched his attack with around six kilometer to go, which is kind of long for what he normally does, but this time was necessary in order to earn as much advantage as possible before the first time trial. It isn’t a surprise that Quintana is the most capable climber in the peloton right now. What was surprising is that almost nobody else could respond to him. Only Thibaut Pinot, the leader of FDJ, and a really strong Tom Dumoulin, leading the Sunweb team, could limit their losses effectively against Quintana.

Vincenzo Nibali didn’t show his best shape on the Blockhaus even when he was the first responder to the initial attack of Quintana. At the beginning of the hostilities, when only the Colombian, Pinot and the Shark of Messina himself were leading the race, the Italian hope for the GC seemed to be comfortable with the high pace that Quintana and eventually Pinot were imposing. But after a couple of accelerations he started to suffer and finally had to let Quintana go. After that the situation became even darker for the defending champion of the Giro when Pinot dropped him with around 4 km to go, and later a very perseverant Tom Dumoulin, with Bauke Mollema hanging of his wheel, overpassed him relatively easy.

At the end Nibali only lost a minute and ten seconds against Quintana in the GC, which is still manageable, taking into consideration that a long time trial is coming on stage 10 and the Giro will be sentenced in a final TT in Milan. But if the Sicilian rider isn’t able to improve his climbing, as he did the last year when he performed an impressive comeback in the third week, any time trial stage would be enough for him to get close to Quintana.

Other riders that had troubles to limit their losses were Steven Kruijswijk and Tejay Van Garderen. Both were the big cards of their teams for the GC and even when there is still a lot of Giro left, and they are not that far in the GC, they will have to make a big effort in order to secure a Top 5 spot. This is a goal according to their profile, especially in the case of Kruijswijk who almost won the last edition of this race and only an unfortunate crash could rule him out.

A really tragic incident also happened in the climb to Blockhaus during stage nine. Thanks to the imprudence of an Italian cop on a motorbike, three of the main candidates for the Giro crashed when the peloton was around 14 km away from the finish line. Mikel Landa, Geraint Thomas and Adam Yates were enormously affected in their aspirations thanks to the crash. The British rider of Sky lost around 4 minutes to Quintana, the same as Yates, while Landa who was the main Spanish candidate for the fight in the GC, suffered the biggest physical consequences and finished the stage almost 20 minutes after the winner. It is unlikely, but not impossible, that Yates or Thomas could still close the important gap that Nairo Quintana has over them as once again the time trial stages are the clearest chance to get closer to the South American and, if the British riders are fully recovered from their physical and moral harms, that is where they have to put most of their effort. Landa on the other hand will have to wait until he fully recovers and try to redeem his participation with a stage victory in the third week. There are no other chances for him.

There is still a lot of road ahead in this Giro, and even though it is likely that Quintana will lose the pink jersey after stage ten, he showed us that is the strongest man in the high mountains. Pinot and Dumoulin, now second and third on the GC, will have to manage their energy very well if they want to arrive to the Alpine stages with the same strength that they showed on the Blockhaus. If they do so, they will have a clear chance to make it to the podium, but for now Quintana seems to have no real threat to his second overall Giro victory, assuming of course that he is capable of performing a decent, not necessarily a really good, but a decent time trial. The dice are cast.

By Marcelo Hernández
Image: Giro d'Italia 100 logo