Review: Intense drama in the third week of the Giro d'Italia
May 28 2018 07:16 pm CET

Review: Intense drama in the third week of the Giro d'Italia
Review: Intense drama in the third week of the Giro d'Italia
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It’s likely that for years to come cycling fans will return to this last week of the 101th edition of the Giro d’Italia, six days of racing that have been a roller coaster of emotions. Some riders reached glory on the unmerciful climbs of the Italian Alps, while others paid the price of more than two weeks of intense racing and gave away all their options. This is a recap of what happened, and an analysis of what we’ve seen in this edition of the Giro.

Chris Froome’s path to take the Giro by assault started in the individual time trial between Trento and Rovereto, on Stage 16. The 5th place of the Briton on the stage allowed him to climb three positions in the GC to place himself 4th. Froome was back in the game, although the time gap to the two frontrunners Simon Yates and Tom Dumoulin was still significant.

At that point of the race the GC victory of Yates seemed secured. After being invincible for two weeks, the leader of Mitchelton-Scott now emerged from the Time trial with the maglia rosa over the shoulders and an advantage of almost a minute to Dumoulin. Seemingly, all he had to do was to defend himself in the difficult alpine triptych of stages 18 to 20 and he had a solid team behind him.

The winner of the ITT was Rohan Dennis (BMC) who pulled out a great performance, even when he had been working hard during the whole Giro to limit his losses in the mountain stages. Dennis arrived to the third and final rest day in the 11th place of the GC at only 6’41” from the leader and after a very strong time trial he managed to climb six positions. The Australian national time trial champion has improved his climbing skills and was really consistent through the whole Giro, even arriving in an impressive 18th position on Stage 19, the day of Finestre and Jafferau. It’s going to be interesting to see how much Dennis can develop his Grand Tour profile in the near future.

The 17th stage featured a massive sprint that went to Elia Viviani. The Italian has been, undoubtedly, the strongest sprinter of the whole race but that doesn’t mean that he didn’t have close competition from Sam Bennett. The Irish rider of Bora-hansgrohe went in a crescendo from the first stages in Israel and took a total of three stages, including the final circuit in Rome, which isn’t bad at all in a tough race such as this.

Simon Yates’ leadership of the GC started to crumble on the arrival to Prato Nevoso, the finish line of the 18th stage. On the final kilometers of that long and only climb of the day, the maglia rosa had some difficulties to keep the pace after the attack unleashed by Chris Froome, and soon followed by Dumoulin, Domenico Pozzovivo and a counter attack by Miguel Ángel López. The stage winner was the young German promise Maximilian Schachmann of Quick-Step, in one of the very few days where the breakaway took the stage.

Little did all of us know, but those 28 seconds lost to Froome and Dumoulin were the first crack in the dam of the leadership of Yates. Sky’s leader also realized then that the seemingly large advantage of Yates in the GC could be torn down, and the opportunities to do so were maximized with the following stage having the chain of climbs: Finestre – Sestriere – Jafferau. Once again the power of Sky’s squad had a very important role in the development of the stage, after Mitchelton controlled the pace in the first section of the route. At the start of the Cima Coppi of this edition, Colle delle Finestre, Sky put a hard pace in place and in a few kilometers, they had the maglia rosa in trouble. This was the beginning of a magnificent display of cycling from Froome, and the end of Yates’ leadership.

Kenny Elissonde was the last domestique to pull the peloton, at a moment when only a handful of riders were hanging on. Moments later, with almost 80 km to go, and with several kilometers of Finestre and another two climbs ahead, Froome made the jump and launched his attack. An attack that smashed the GC and all his near rivals.

While Froome was gaining more and more time, getting more than a half minute on the top of Finestre, Dumoulin had the responsibility to go after him. At the first moment, it seemed like the Dutch rider had things more or less under control, but then during the Finestre descent he shared the chasing work with Groupama’s Sebastian Reichenbach, who joined the chasing group of Dumoulin, Thibaut Pinot, Miguel Ángel López and Richard Carapaz. Perhaps that was the key decision that finally ended his possibilities to wear the maglia rosa. Reichenbach spent a lot of energy on the Sestriere, and the flat sections in the valleys between climbs, but it was clearly not enough. Meanwhile, López and Carapaz chose to keep their energy for themselves and the personal battle they were fighting for the white jersey.

So, disorganization primed in the chasing group, with Dumoulin having to do most of the work. This only helped to increase the time gap for Chris Froome, who got 3 minutes over the runner-up at the finish line although he climbed Sestriere and Jafferau completely by himself, like in old school epic cycling. Later on the day Froome declared. “I had to try from far out and the Colle delle Finestre was the place to do it (…) it was now or never,” and he was right.

Carapaz managed to get the second place after a tremendous attack in the final 500 meters, crossing the line 3 minutes behind Froome, discounting some seconds against López. Thibaut Pinot had attacked a few kilometers before on the Jafferau but with no success. Yates meanwhile would end the stage almost 39 minutes after Froome, in what must have been an excruciating ride for him.

So, with Froome solid in pink, 40 seconds ahead of Dumoulin in the GC, and everybody else being more than four minutes behind, the scenario was set for the final mountain stage, the 20th of the Giro with arrival on top of Cervinia. The leaders had just enough energy after the brutal effort of the day before but being the last day of competitive racing they had to spend all their efforts. One of the main features of the day was the fight for the white jersey between López and Carapaz, separated by only 47 seconds. Mikel Nieve took the stage having done most of the last climb by himself after he attacked from the breakaway, claiming a fifth stage victory for Mitchelton-Scott. The Australian team has always pulled off good strategies and have a united and synergic squad, and even taking the Finestre debacle into consideration, this has been a positive Giro for them: five stage victories, and thirteen days in pink.

Tom Dumoulin tried again and again to drop Froome on the final climb to Cervinia. The peloton arrived to the start of the climb with plenty of riders in it, after Astana put a moderate pace on the first two climbs of the day. But it was hard enough to take Pinot out of the GC fight. The Frenchman was dropped on the first climb of the day, pretty much in the same situation as Yates the day before, affected by the supreme efforts of the three weeks and especially the Jafferau stage. Surrounded by his teammates, Pinot arrived to the finish line 45 minutes behind Nieve and almost 39 minutes after the GC riders.

It was only within the last 10 km of the stage that Movistar took the front of the group and, with the white jersey as their target, the group was reduced to a dozen of riders. A little bit later Dumoulin started launching his attacks. It is remarkable how well he arrived to the last stages, after the great performances on the Zoncolan or Gran Sasso stages, and after a third place in the ITT. Being a big and heavy rider, compared to the pure climbers, it was impressive that after his effort in the high mountains, he had enough left in the legs to attack Chris Froome on the last climb of the race. Sam Oomen also took part in the offensive of Sunweb against Froome. Oomen was supposed to be one of the main domestiques for Dumoulin but once in the high mountains, there was little he could do in favour of the Dutchman against the dominance exercised by Mitchelton-Scott first, Astana at some points, and Sky at the end. Nevertheless, he was there until the end, and managed to end in 9th position in the GC.

Carapaz tried to take some time on López in the final two kilometers of the climb, but the Colombian was always firm at the wheel of the Ecuadorian, and at the finish line all the GC riders crossed together. López was able to keep the white jersey and the third spot of the podium. And Froome was the winner of the 101th edition of the Giro d’Italia.

The final stage in Rome, designed to be a triumph walk like the Champs Elysees, wasn’t free of controversy. The peloton demanded a time neutralization because of the danger of the narrow roads and the cobblestones of the circuit, and they pretty much paralyzed the race until the organization agreed to it. Nevertheless, Rome’s ancient town was a splendid scenario for the closing of the Giro and the victory of Sam Bennett. The Irishman surpassed Elia Viviani in the final 100 meters after the Italian was the first to launch his sprint, and took his third stage of this Giro. Bora-hansgrohe did a good job throughout the whole Giro, even when they were surpassed by Quick-Step, and its reward was to have their leader raise his arms three times, one of them in Rome.

At the end, this Giro was a dramatic and tough race beyond all expectations. Froome was one of the main favorites to gain the Senza Fine trophy but he had to suffer a lot to get it. We saw the rider in pink being demolished by the hardness of the mountains, and the day after the holder of the third place in the GC going through the same and having to be hospitalized after the stage. We also saw the never-ending struggle of Dumoulin, who has become a Grand Tour contender with all credentials. The rise of the young riders López and Carapaz showed the potential of these south American riders to be protagonists in stage races for the following years.

The Giro has finished and has crowned a new king, who has written his name in the highest ranks of cycling history after becoming the current champion of all three Grand Tours. The race is over, but the memories will be carved in the minds of the cycling world forever.

By Marcelo Hernández




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