Arnaud Démare has his day
One notable characteristic of the sprints at this Giro has been their unpredictability. The trend in recent Grand Tours has usually been for one clearly superior sprinter to dominate the bunch finishes, such as last year when Elia Viviani (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) stormed to five stage wins, and in 2017 when Fernando Gaviria won four.
However, no sprinter has won more than two stages at this year’s race, with the spoils being shared between four different riders – Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe), Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates), Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal), and now Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ).
Démare appeared to catch the others by surprise as he opened his sprint up early at the other side of the road to where the rest of the action, and had the strength to not fade when you might have expected a surging Viviani to pip him to the line.
The victory is a first for Démare at the Giro, and also confirms his growing stature as a sprinter you can rely upon for success at Grand Tours – following single victories at the 2017 and 2018 Tours de France, that’s now three successive Grand Tour appearances in which he’s picked up a stage win.
Ending marred by crash
An otherwise quiet day of racing was given a rude awakening with a dramatic crash 1km from the finish.
The incident occurred right towards the front of the peloton, when Ackermann touched the wheel ahead of him and brought down several riders.
Matteo Moschetti was especially badly affected, and had several concerned Trek-Segafredo team-mates surround him as he lay on the floor.
None of the overall contenders appeared to go down, while the fact that it occurred inside the 3km to go banner meant that even those non-fallers who were nevertheless caught up behind the incident will not lose any time in the general classification.
Pascal Ackermann’s grip on the points jersey loosens
After gingerly remounting following the crash, Ackermann crossed the finish line with his purple jersey torn to shreds.
The image might well turn out to be symbolic, as the German’s chances of winning the jersey took a severe blow as his nearest rival Démare took advantage of his no-show in the finishing sprint to claim maximum points by winning the stage.
Démare is now just one point adrift from Ackermann, who faces a challenge to hold onto that lead – the German might either be forced to abandon the race altogether or be put at risk of missing the time limit in the upcoming mountain stages if the injuries he sustained are serious.
He might not have generally displayed the top end speed of Ackermann, Gaviria or Ewan in the sprints, but Démare has ridden consistently throughout to claim four top-six finishes before this victory, and has been committed to chasing the jersey through hoovering up points in the intermediate sprints. He might just be rewarded for this commitment with the maglia ciclamino.
An uneventful stage
Disgruntled viewers of stage 10 might be wondering whether the riders really needed a day of yesterday, given that the day was so uneventful that it virtually resembled a second successive rest day.
Even the forming of the break offered no tension, as Sho Hatsuyama (Nippo-Vini Fantini-Faizané) and Luca Covili (Bardiani-CSF) immediately went up the road, and the peloton immediately knocked off the pace, content to see them go.
From that point on the peloton road along steadily, safe in the knowledge that there were no bumps in the parcours to worry about, and confident that the duo up front could easily be brought back ahead of the expected bunch sprint.
Kudos to veteran Fran Ventoso (CCC Team) for enlivening things with a bold solo attack with 2km to go, attempting to single handedly outpace the entire bunch just as it was winding up for the sprint finish. He got a promising gap of a few seconds for a while, but faced a virtually impossible task of maintaining that speed as the peloton bared down on him, catching him just before the crash with roughly one kilometre left to ride.
Dishearteningly tomorrow looks set to be a similar affair with another pan-flat route, but fear not – from then onwards this Giro d’Italia looks set to burst into life as the race reaches the mountains.
Another chance for the sprinters tomorrow
Stage 11 might not promise much in terms of GC action, but there’s plenty to look forward to in the expected finishing sprint.
For the sprinters, this will likely be the last chance of a stage win until late into week three, while for those planning on going home the day after it will be their last chance altogether.
The rider most desperate of all to pull of a result will be Elia Viviani, who is the only elite sprinter at this Giro yet to win a stage.
He again came agonisingly close today, when he didn’t quite have the reserves to come past Démare’s wheel at the line, instead registering his third runners-up finish of the race. And of course there was the stage win he was denied on stage three due to relegation for dangerous sprinting, which may hurt even more now after he’s come so close
We can expect a big outpouring of emotion if the Italian national champion at last gets his longed-for victory tomorrow.