According to many at the Giro d’Italia nothing in recent years could compare to Froome’s stage 19 ride, and that you’d have to go back 69 years in the history books to Fausto Coppi’s 1949 Giro d’Italia to find such a performance at the Italian race.
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With his attack on the Colle delle Finestre, Froome turned fourth place overall, 3-22 minutes behind Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), into a pink jersey lead of 40 seconds over Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb).
“Never has a champion done something like this,” said Pier Bergonzi, vice director of Italian sports newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport. who has been covering professional cycling for more than 30 years.
Some have chosen to make comparisons with Floyd Landis’s comeback ride in the 2006 Tour de France, which was struck off due to an anti-doping test, but Bergonzi prefers a more favourable comparison for Froome’s epic ride
“The closest comparison is that of Fausto Coppi, in the most important stage in the Giro’s history to Pinerolo. The stage of stages – or tappa delle tappe – in 1949,” Bergonzi added.
“On stage 14 he went on the Col de Madeleine, the first of five climbs, with 192 kilometres left to race. When he went, Gino Bartali said, ‘He’s crazy!’ – just as Froome said of himself on the Jafferau stage.
“When he saw that Coppi was gaining time, he had to follow. It was a pursuit of 190 kilometres, Coppi versus Bartali. In then end, Coppi won with 11-55 minutes over Bartali. Alfredo Martini, third, was at 20 minutes.”
Coppi won that Giro in 1949 and went on to win the Tour de France the same summer.
Watch: Giro d’Italia 2018 stage 19 highlights
Froome’s ride on stage 19 left him with one mountain day to control, which he duly managed as he covered Tom Dumoulin’s attacks to cross the line with his pink jersey in tact.
“You hardly see that any more, especially in recent years with cycling so controlled,” was BMC Racing sports director Valerio Piva’s assessment of Froome’s stage 19 ride.
“For Froome and Team Sky, that may have been the first time that they have raced in such a manner. It was their last chance, they bet everything.
“That ride was from another time. But everyone was expecting it. Clearly, a team like that had to try something. They saw the pink jersey in trouble the day before so they tried.”
Another comparible and heroic ride was that of Marco Pantani’s 1998 Tour de France attack, escaping on the Galibier and winning at Les Deux Alpes comes to mind. The Italian upset Jan Ullrich, leaving him behind by around nine minutes, and took the yellow jersey. But that effort was over a smaller distance – ‘just’ 47 kilometres.
Eddy Merckx also produced rides such as this, underlining his dominance adding to his yellow jersey lead when attacked solo for 140 kilometres in the 17th stage of the 1969 Tour de France. He gained around eight minutes.
“I don’t remember anything like this in recent grand tours, you have to return to old times. To Coppi,” added Piva.
“Claudio Chiappucci won a stage with a long attack, but not the race leader’s jersey. When you consider a comparison to Froome’s ride, you talking about another era.
“You just have to say ‘chapeau’ to Froome,” added Bergonzi. “The Italians look at him differently after that, not just a man looking at numbers, with the big bus, the big budget team, but a rider of old that races on instinct. That’s what the tifosi like.
“Pinerolo went into the history books. There were other stages like Andy Hampsten’s over the Gavia. Years from now, we are still going to referring back to this.”