All the talking points from stage eight of the Giro d'Italia
Richard Carapaz becomes the Giro’s first breakout star
We’ve grown used to the influx of prodigious Colombian talent emerging in the peloton in recent years – today, Richard Carapaz (Movistar) put neighbouring Ecuador on the map, becoming the first rider from the nation to ever win a Grand Tour stage.
Having been one of the more surprising names to finish among the favourites on the Thursday’s finish at Mount Etna, Carapaz made an opportunistic attack with 1.4km to go, just as the remains of the day’s break had been brought back in sight.
A second-year pro, Carapaz showed some potential in his debut Grand Tour at the Vuelta a España last year, surviving long periods in the lead groups to finish a decent 36th overall, and brought great form to the Giro having won the overall of the Vuelta a Asturias last month.
The 24-year-old’s lack of status benefited him today as the overall contenders were content to let him go up the road, but this is possibly the last time in his career Carapaz will enjoy such relative anonymity.
As the first rider under the age of 27 to win a stage at this year’s Giro, he also becomes first breakout star to announce himself so far. Having extended his lead in the young riders classification, and moved up to fourth in the mountains classification and into eighth overall, we could see the Ecuadorian fighting on many fronts for the rest of the race.
Froome crashes again
Things just aren’t going Chris Froome’s way at this Giro. Following his fall on the recon of stage one’s time trial, he crashed again today going around a corner on the day’s final climb in grimly rainy conditions.
From that point on it was a stressful end to the stage. His team-mates were alert and acted quickly to pace him back into the bunch and towards the front, but Froome continued to appear uncomfortable in the rain, riding raggedly on his bike, and looking unbalanced and in danger of falling again on the climb’s many tight bends.
Even when Sky crowded to the front of the peloton, in what was presumably a ploy to move him to a safer position, Froome was not immediately able to follow, and was seen talking into his radio at several points, possibly in some distress.
Such first week anxieties are not usually conducive to reaching the end of a Grand Tour as champion, and you can’t help but wonder how much the ongoing salbutamol case is affecting him.
Then again, the bottom line is that Froome ultimately only lost four bonus seconds to Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ), and no time to any of his other rivals. His situation is hardly comparable to Bradley Wiggins’ capitulation at the 2013 Giro – at this point, it would be foolish and very premature to write him off.
Mitchelton-Scott control the pink jersey with ease
It seemed like a possibility that Mitchelton-Scott would not bother working at the front of the peloton, either to let other teams hoping for a stage win to chase down the break, or to let a number of unthreatening riders go up the road and temporarily give up the jersey altogether.
However, the Australian team displayed a desire to maintain the jersey, spending much of the day leading at the front of the peloton, then upping the pace towards the end to contribute to the catching of the break.
On the final climb especially, the team demonstrated just how strong they are. For the most part Yates was surrounded by four riders, all of them quality climbers – Esteban Chaves, Mikel Nieve, Jack Haig and Roman Kreuziger.
The signs are that Yates will have more than enough support come the business end of the race, and that Mitchelton-Scott are strong enough – if need be – to defend the jersey all the way from here until Rome.
A missed opportunity to put time into Froome?
It was a subdued day in the GC, with action limited to Froome’s crash on the final climb.
Although it would certainly have been against etiquette to make an attack the moment Froome had his fall, the overall contenders did have a license to put a dig in once he’d made his way back up into the group.
It’s true that the gentle gradient offered little to encourage the favourites, but, as Carapaz demonstrated, there was the potential to gain a gap with an explosive enough acceleration.
Given Froome’s obvious discomfort at the moment, to have only lost 1-10 with just one stage of the first week left represents impressive damage limitation. With a longer time trial to come, and the very real possibility of Froome recovering and improving deeper into the race, his rivals may regret not doing more to maximise their advantage over him at this early stage.
An exciting finish in the breakaway
Despite the lack of GC action, the closely fought battle between the breakaway and the peloton kept things exciting in today’s finale.
The seven-man break looked likely to contest the finish, until the gap began decreasing at an uncomfortable rate, prompted partly by tension in the peloton among the GC teams wanting to protect their leaders in the rain.
Koen Bouwman was the last man standing, striking out alone with around 4km to go in search of what would have been an unlikely second stage win for his LottoNL-Jumbo team.
Despite being the apparent strongest in the break, his increased pace wasn’t enough to match that of the peloton, which had time to catch and then spit him out of the back.