Review: The second week of the Giro d'Italia
May 21 2018 06:28 pm CET

Review: The second week of the Giro d'Italia
Review: The second week of the Giro d'Italia
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Simon Yates has delivered one of the most successful weeks in recent Grand Tour history. During the last six stages, the Giro traveled across undulated terrain to reach the Dolomites on the weekend. With virtually no easy stages, Simon Yates took two victories and a healthy time gap to face the individual time trial.

The week started with the stage between Penne and Gualdo Tadino, the longest of this edition. The main event of the day was of course the sinking of Michelton-Scott’s Esteban Chaves. The Colombian had a terrific first week, but he couldn’t keep the pace on the first climb of the day, early on the stage, with the result of losing more than 25 minutes at the finish line alongside at least 30 other riders. The stage went to an ambitious Matej Mohoric, who jumped from the peloton behind Astana’s Davide Villella after a long time in which no breakaway could consolidate. A fast and nervous stage which went to the most ambitious rider of the day, while Tom Dumoulin experienced a crash without injury.

The next day, the 11th stage, was the first act of the Yates exhibition of the week. With Esteban Chaves out of the GC fight, the Mitchelton-Scott squad was now entirely focused on keeping Yates in pink, a task not too difficult since the British rider isn’t only very strong but has been really ambitious too. The final kilometers of that day in Osimo featured uphill urban roads which included cobblestones sectors, a very picturesque scenario for a battle between the GC contenders. Yates was the first to initiate hostilities, after a failed attack of Wellens, and was strong enough to drop all his rivals. Although Dumoulin was able to maintain a regular distance with the British rider, the Mitchelton-Scott leader crossed the line first and looked very solid.

The 12th stage with arrival at the Imola circuit was, on paper, a stage for the fast men where the GC leaders could keep their efforts relatively low. Nevertheless the finish kilometers, under heavy rain, were more intense than anybody could predict. On the climb of Tre Monti several important riders tried to attack. Of course Tim Wellens was among them, but also Rohan Dennis, Richard Carapaz and Carlos Betancur shook things up. Yates himself had to close the gap at some point, an eventually, in a very close finale, Sam Bennet claimed his second stage victory of this Giro.

It was clear after this day that the fight not only for the maglia rosa, but for podium and Top 10 positions was open and it was going to be fought on any terrain suitable. Rohan Dennis also continued with his relentless fight to control his time losses. Instead of reserving energy for the time trial where he is a candidate for stage victory, the Australian has chosen to fight in every stage and his reward was to stay in the Top 10 until the Zoncolan stage, and even after the big challenge of the Dolomites, he remains in 11th place in the GC.

The 12th stage was for Elia Viviani. For the first time in the week sprinters had the entire control of the situation and there wasn’t any climb so Viviani, whose abilities for even the slightly uphill roads are very limited, had a clear shot. The Italian reinforced his leadership in the maglia ciclamino classification on the day before the hardest stage of the week.

In that state of things, the peloton faced the stage with summit finish on the top of the terrible Zoncolan. Valerio Conti, from the original breakaway, was the last man standing ahead of the main group which was controlled by Mitchelton-Scott at the start of the Zoncolan.

Igor Antón, and later Michael Woods tried to jump from the peloton. Antón was caught shortly after his attack, while Woods was able to stay in front of the peloton for a little longer but was caught thanks to the effort of team Sky.

The first of the main riders to drop of the main group was Fabio Aru. The Italian hadn’t shown good conditions during the Giro so far, and in the final 5 kilometers of the steep Zoncolan his chances for the GC fight started to fade away. Sky’s Wout Poels, as he has done in the past, took the responsibility to accelerate the pace of the group, dropping Richard Carapaz and closing the gap to Woods. A few kilometers up to the climb, he delivered Chris Froome to launch his attack, that initially couldn’t be followed by anybody.

The renaissance of Chris Froome took everybody by surprise, among both fans and contenders. Nevertheless, Simon Yates kept his eyes on the prize, to gain as much time as he could against Tom Dumoulin. And he achieved exactly that. The Mitchelton-Scott leader chose to follow Froome at his own pace, and that was enough to distance himself from Pozzovivo and Miguel Ángel López, and even more from Dumoulin. One of the most affected GC riders after the Zoncolan was Thibaut Pinot, who managed to stay at the wheel of Dumoulin for a while, but was then dropped. And of course there is Richard Carapaz, who lost the white jersey to Miguel Ángel López.

The Ecuadorian rider wasn’t up to the challenge to remain with the best riders over the hard steeps of the Zoncolan, but that doesn’t mean he is losing strength. On the next day, on the uphill final kilometers of Sappada, Carapaz not only stood with the other GC contenders until the finish line but he launched two attacks.

The Sappada stage was another one in which Yates made an exhibition of cycling. This time the pink jersey wearer attacked with 17 km to go, what could be considered a long distance, and showed to everybody that he is feeling great. The rest of the GC contenders weren’t able to follow the attack, and later in the flat kilometers between hills the lack of cooperation among them benefited Yates.

The British rider took his third stage, and an additional 41 seconds to the Dumoulin group. With an advantage of 2’11” on the Time trial world champion, Yates will face the pink jersey battle with a little more confidence. But he isn’t naïve and has declared that even with the current differences he could lose the lead. Dumoulin has spent a lot of energy controlling his losses over the weekend and will have to take the most advantage of the rest day in order to crush his rivals on the time trial. If the Dutchman isn’t able to regain the pink jersey on Tuesday, the Giro will perhaps be getting out of his hands. He could always hope for a collapse of Yates on the last stages, but there is no certainty and Mitchelton-Scott looks strong enough to manage a minor crisis of its leader.

The main victim of the 15th stage was Chris Froome, who lost a minute and a half at the finish line and fell two positions in the GC, losing almost all the time he gained on the Zoncolan.

Meanwhile, the fight for the podium spots between Pozzovivo and Pinot, and the fight for the white jersey between López and Carapaz will be the biggest side battles of the last week. The time trial will probably put some definitive differences between them, but the last round will be fought in the three mountain stages left. Nothing is defined yet in the Giro.

By Marcelo Hernández
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