Peter Sagan is back with a huge performance
It’s been more than a year since Peter Sagan last raised his arms in victory, but it was worth the wait for the Slovakian superstar.
With three second-place finishes in the Giro d’Italia this year, Sagan was on another level on stage 10 to Tortoreto.
After a huge effort to get into the day’s six-rider breakaway (440 watts for 12.5km to be precise), Sagan then needed to be the driving force in the front group as Groupama-FDJ put in a frantic chase to try and close down the attack for Arnaud Démare.
While Sagan and his breakaway companions finally managed to snap the elastic, much to the relief of the others in the break, the effort didn’t fall away as UAE Team Emirates then took up the chase.
Sagan rode relentlessly throughout the day, holding off the bunch, dropping the last man Ben Swift (Ineos Grenadiers), and finally staving off attacks from the GC contenders, taking a solo victory up there with his most memorable.
The former triple world champion now has a stage win in all three Grand Tours, has overcome his dry spell, and closes the gap in the points classification to 20 points behind ciclamino jersey Démare.
It was also a deserved victory, as Sagan and his Bora-Hansgrohe team have been the aggressors throughout first the Tour de France and now the Giro d’Italia, but Sagan has found his fire once again.
An unexpected GC day
The defining characteristic of this Giro d’Italia has been the unpredictable profile of each stage.
So far we’ve seen a healthy mix of breakaway days and bunch sprints, but before each stage it has been almost impossible to guess which sort of rider will triumph.
We’ve seen Arnaud Démare triumph after climbing over some tough mountains and we’ve seen Alex Dowsett escape from the breakaway on a hilly stage eight, and once again stage 10 could have gone either way.
While Sagan took his stage from a breakaway, the general classification riders also saw their opportunity in a relentless hilly final 40km to Tortoreto.
Pello Bilbao (Bahrain-McLaren) attacked from the GC group with 20km left to race in the hopes of improving on his current second place standing, while Tao Geoghegan Hart (Ineos Grenadiers) also dug in with his own attack 18km out to try and make up some of his 2-41 deficit.
Neither attack stuck and by the finish race leader João Almeida (Deceuninck - Quick-Step) was able to slightly extend his advantage thanks to the third-place bonus seconds.
Domenico Pozzovivo (NTT Pro Cycling) managed to cling to his position on GC after suffering a mechanical and desperately chasing back on, but Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) wasn’t so lucky.
The Dane suffered a rear-puncture during a fast stretch of road 10km from the finish and never made it back in touch with the main group, finishing more than a minute down on his rivals.
João Almeida leads by 34 seconds over Wilco Kelderman (Sunweb), while Fuglsang drops down to 11th, 2-20 off the lead.
Stage hunting Ineos Grenadiers light up the race
Ineos have not had any luck when it comes to the GC in 2020, losing out in both the Tour de France and now the Giro after Geraint Thomas abandoned.
But the team bounced back early in the race with a breakaway stage win for Filippo Ganna and they were back on the offensive on stage 10.
Ganna was once again on the attack with British national champion Ben Swift also making the day’s break.
While TT specialist put out some huge numbers once again (350w for the opening 100km, mind-blowing), Swift was the only man to match Sagan into the final kilometres, eventually losing touch when Sagan launched into another gear 12km from the finish.
Swift eventually finished fourth on the stage after an impressive ride, but we’re seeing how exciting Ineos can be when they turn their attention away from the leader’s jerseys.
Most exciting stage of the Giro (so far)
The first day of racing after the Giro’s first rest day bought another level of excitement for the fans, with multiple storylines playing out on the road.
From Sagan making the break and Groupama’s massive chasing effort, to the breakaway tactics featuring some of the strongest riders in the race, and the GC moves late in the day, this stage had everything to offer.
Aside from the Etna stage, with Geraint Thomas’s crash and the first pink jersey shake-up, this Giro has been lacking in unforgettable race moments - until stage 10.
This stage was certainly the most exciting of the race so far, even without any major changes to the GC, but the unpredictable cat and mouse ran throughout the day and we saw a huge solo performance from the stage winner.
Whether riders were feeling refreshed after a day off from racing, or if the overnight news suddenly threw the fate of the race into doubt, hopefully we can expect more of the same in the coming days.
Coronavirus news threatens to overshadow the racing
The big question for cycling fans now is whether the Giro d’Italia will make it to Milan, after the news overnight.
After the coronavirus tests for all riders and staff on the first rest day, two riders and six team staff members tested positive for Covid-19, causing huge uncertainty and a number of withdrawals from the race.
Sunweb’s Michael Matthews has been pulled from the race after being diagnosed with the illness, along with GC contender Steven Kruijsijk.
But more significantly, Kruijswijk’s Jumbo-Visma team have opted to pull the entire team from the race as a safety precaution to protect their riders and staff, while Mitchelton-Scott have also withdrawn after four of their staff members tested positive for coronavirus.
Race director Mauro Vegni is convinced the Giro will make it to Milan, but that decision may be taken out of his hands if the teams or Italian authorities feel continuing to race is just too risky.
Expect more all-out attacking in the coming days as teams respond to the uncertainty.
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