Arnaud Démare makes it four
Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) became the first rider since Elia Viviani at the 2018 Giro d’Italia to win four stages of a Grand Tour, as he triumphed yet again in the bunch sprint in Rimini.
By the time lead-out man Jacopo Guarnieri delivered him for the sprint on the finishing straight, the result never looked in doubt, and the Frenchman produced another devastating sprint to win by a clear bike-length ahead of Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe).
Démare looks invincible right now, and is in the form of his life. In previous years, he’s had a habitat of winning one stage per Grand Tour, usually coming good on a day not so well-suited to the pure sprints. Now, however, he both continues to excel in the trickier terrain while also the quickest finishers in a pure sprint, as reiterated once again today.
Four stage wins is already an extraordinary haul, made all the more so by the fact that there remains (all being well) ten stages still to race. Just how many more stages could he win?
Other sprinters left frustrated
This was a particularly clean, straightforward sprint, with a fast lead-out by Groupama-FDJ and two tight corners heading into the finish straight ensuring the riders were stretched into one long, single-file line.
In such circumstances, and having been so well-positioned by his team, Démare was always likely to triumph given his current form. And indeed all the other sprinters were once again left in his wake, left to rue missing another of their rapidly diminishing chances of taking a stage win at this year’s Giro.
Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) must be especially disappointed. Despite managing to place himself on Démare’s wheel, and giving himself a clear run-in at the front of the peloton to launch his sprint, the Colombian simply didn’t have the legs, and virtually sat up after being passed by Álvaro Hodeg (Deceuninck-Quick-Step), Simeone Consonni (Cofidis) and Rick Zabel (Israel Start-Up Nation).
Second-place yet again was Peter Sagan, who must by now be sick of the sight of Démare’s rear wheel. But the Slovak does at least remain very much in contention in the points classification, having drastically reduced the gap with his stage win yesterday. Now 36 points adrift, he'll look to the undulating terrain of tomorrow and Friday’s stage as a chance to take the ciclamino jersey from his French adversary.
Sander Armée gives the peloton a fight
Although a bunch sprint looked inevitable virtually all day, there was a short time in the run-in to the finish when Lotto-Soudal’s Sander Armée looked like he might just pull-off the unlikely and hold on for a breakaway win.
The peloton mostly managed to comfortably keep control of the break, which itself began to fracture towards the end of the stage, but Armée briefly and surprisingly managed to defy the usual trend, and with 15km to go still held a lead of almost two minutes over the peloton.
Had the peloton been too lax? Were they lacking in the usual firepower, what with numbers so depleted following all the Covid-related withdrawals? Not so, it turned out, as the gap began to plunge once other teams joined Groupama-FDJ at the front of the peloton to assist bringing Armée back.
At this point it began to tumble, until it fell below one minute 11km from the line, before Armée was brought back all together 5km later.
Still, Armée can be proud of having made the peloton work for his capture, and provided a good advert both for his teams’ sponsors and himself, as he looks for a contract for 2021.
Crash sees Elia Viviani’s bad season gets worse
Elia Viviani (Cofidis) can’t catch a break this season. Almost nine months on from starting his season at the Tour Down Under, the Italian is still without a win, and has had to suffer through a Giro parcours that offers barely any opportunities for pure sprinters like himself.
Now today, on a stage that was at last flat enough for him to realistically challenge for victory, Viviani’s was clipped by a motorbike trying to make its way up past the peloton. He was in good enough condition to remount, but the chase back to the peloton lasted over ten kilometres, and it took his team a while to get organised in the approach to the sprint.
Whether still suffering from his fall, or from a lack of organisation from his team, come the sprint Viviani was distanced from his lead-out man, Simeone Consonni, who himself sprinted for fourth place just before turning around to find out what had happened to his leader.
He didn’t have to look too far, as Viviani came in at 10th place, but it was yet another disappointing end to another frustrating day for the Italian, who must be wondering where his next win is going to come from.
The Giro lives on another day
After all the drama, both on and off the bike, that surrounded yesterday’s stage, a sense of calm returned to the peloton.
The spate of confirmed positive Covid-19 cases coming out of the rest day had plunged into doubt the continuation of the race altogether, but stage 11 was almost uncanny in its familiarity, with the riders continuing as normal despite the atmosphere of nerves and uncertainty.
If there was doubt as to what the future beyond today holds, there was little as to how the stage today would unfold. With only one small categorised climb on the menu, a bunch sprint looked guaranteed, and no-one in the peloton did anything to challenge that expected outcome, or put João Almeida’s pink jersey under any threat.
It was bike racing at its most mundane and familiar. The Giro lives on for another day — but for how much longer can it last?
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