1. Simon Yates is the strongest rider at the Giro
Proving that his authoritative ride on the race’s previous mountain-top finish at Etna was no fluke, Yates was once again the strongest of the GC riders today, and this time was awarded with a stage win.
In the slug-fest towards the top of the hideously long Gran Sasso, Yates bided his time, and did not put his nose to the front until the finishing sprint.
To add to Mitchelton-Scott’s joys, Esteban Chaves finished close behind in third place, gaining enough time over Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) to move up to second overall, meaning the team now occupy both first and second on the overall classification.
Many tests still await at this Giro with two more weeks yet to ride, but at the moment Simon Yates looks the man to beat.
2. Froome dealt serious blow
Up until now Chris Froome’s form had been worrying but hardly fatal, with any time loss sustained limited to just a handful of seconds.
Today, however, he was dealt his first serious blow, losing 1-07 to Yates. That more than doubles all the time he has already lost, sending him 2-27 adrift on the GC – a gap that looks very difficult to bring back even for a man of Froome’s ability.
Whereas Froome usually paces himself up a climb, sometimes starting slowly only to storm his way towards the front, this time he went into the red in a desperate attempt to hang on. With two kilometres remaining he was twelfth in line in the GC group, but lost his legs from that point on, being passed by several riders including even his team-mate Wout Poels to ultimately finish 23rd.
Whether suffering the physical effects of the crashes he has suffered, the psychological effects of his ongoing salbutamol case, a lack of form or all of the above, it can now be comprehensively said that this Giro is not going according to plan for Froome. Any strategy of gradually building his way into form throughout the Giro as part of the Giro-Tour double would not have involved him losing this much time in the first week.
3. Fabio Aru the day’s other big loser
Even before the dramatic moment that Froome was dropped, another major contender had been drifting out of the back in the shape of Fabio Aru (UAE Emirates).
The Italian has looked undercooked all race, putting in a disappointing opening day time trial, and slow to respond to the other contenders in the GC stage since.
Finishing 1-14 behind Yates, today was Aru’s most expensive so far, meaning he now lies 15th overall at a distant 2-36.
The tifosi will be especially disappointed, as Aru had represented the best chance of a home victory. But Aru does not look like the same rider who podiumed in his last two Giro appearances, and has much to do to redeem this race.
4. Thibaut Pinot is riding a very solid race
While Mitchelton-Scott have grabbed the spotlight, Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) has quietly ridden a very solid first week, that has put him in a very promising position to target the pink jersey.
He didn’t quite manage to win the stage today, but did again finish at the front of the group of favourites, and utilised his impressive sprint to gain six bonus seconds at the line.
That leaves the Frenchman fourth overall at 45 seconds, a happy state of affairs for a rider who tends to go best in the third week. He’ll be dreaming of pink come Rome.
Others to come out of the first week in strong positions include Tom Dumoulin, who despite being dropped again lies only 38 seconds adrift and has a long time trial to look forward to; and Domenico Pozzovivo (Bahrain-Merida), who is fifth at 57 seconds and looking strong, even if the Italian will have the opposite feelings about that upcoming time trial.
5. Young Italian Masnada denied
Sprints for points in the mountains classification are rarely the sight for much drama, but today’s was characterised by an unusual amount of controversy.
Androni’s Fausto Masnada attacked on the category two Roccaraso with the intention of claiming maximum points, only to drop his chain before reaching the summit. His team-mate and companion in the break Davide Ballerini took the initiative to push him up the rest of the way to claim the points, a manoeuvre that might have seemed smart at the time, until you remember that giving a teammate such an aid is in fact against the rules.
Masnada had the points taken off him, which, after he sealed maximum points at the subsequent category one Calascio, ultimately cost him the chance to rise to the top of the mountains classification, which is now lead by Yates.
His day wasn’t yet over, as he was the surprise final survivor of the day’s break having struck out alone with 18km to go, but looked absolutely spent with 3km to go when the peloton swallowed him up.
Either the mountains jersey or a stage win would have been a major coup for local pro-continental outfit Androni, but the team at least has the honour of putting a man in the break on every single road stage of the first week.