Almeida strengthens grip on pink
When João Almeida (Deceuninck-QuickStep) first gained the pink jersey back in Sicily, the main question being asked was when he would lose the pink jersey. Now, following yet another exceptional performance, instead what’s being asked is whether he will lose it at all.
The Portuguese rider was sixth on today’s stage, proving himself just as adept at longer time trials as shorter courses and, as a result, gains significant time over all of the other GC riders - with the exception of UAE Team Emirates’ Brandon McNulty.
Sure, he’s only 22. Sure, this is his first-ever Grand Tour. And sure, he has been a little off the pace in all of the previous mountain top finishes. But the sheer size of his lead on GC means his prospects of hanging on to the jersey all the way to Milan can’t be dismissed. At 56 seconds adrift, Wilco Kelderman (Sunweb) is the only other rider within two minutes of him.
The others have a big chance to make a dent in that lead tomorrow, which finishes atop a category one-ranked climb to Piancavallo. But if Almeida can just about hang on and again limit his losses, they will begin to panic heading into the final week.
Ganna makes it a hat-trick of stage wins
Given his recent form, a Filippo Ganna win today seemed about as inevitable as death and taxes, and the Italian duly delivered with another scintillating time trial ride.
Despite an impressive benchmark set by his Ineos Grenadiers team-mate Rohan Dennis, Ganna once again was imperious, going 26 seconds quicker than Dennis to set a time that no-one else was able to come anywhere near to.
The course today might have been longer than the opening stage time trial in Sicily that he won, and more undulating than the course in Imola where he was crowned world champion, but the Italian was just as dominant. It was further proof of just how versatile Ganna is — he can do it in longer time trials, shorter time trials, the velodrome, and, as proven by his stage victory in Calabria during the first week, even on climbs on road stages.
The 24-year-old now has three stage wins at this year’s Giro d’Italia, and isn’t done just yet. With another time trial to come in Milan on the final day, he could yet add a fourth stage to cement what has already been one of the great Grand Tour debuts of recent years.
Daylight between Kelderman and the other contenders
When Wilco Kelderman (Sunweb) made an attack on stage three while climbing Mount Etna, none of the other GC favourites felt threatened enough to try and follow his wheel. The Dutchman gained twelve seconds over a small group of favourites that formed behind but didn’t attract much media attention as the collapses of Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) and Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) dominated the headlines instead.
Looking back, however, that attack might have been a far more significant moment in the GC race than it felt at the time. Since that stage the Dutchman has stayed out of trouble and ridden consistently, gaining a handful of seconds here and there until moving up to second on the overall classification. Now, following an excellent time trial today, he looks like he could be the man most likely to take the pink jersey off Almeida’s shoulders.
Whereas before today the rest of the top ten were all just a handful of seconds behind the Kelderman, he now has daylight between himself and the rest. His time was around one minute quicker than all of them (besides Almeida and Brandon McNulty), meaning he now lies 56 seconds behind the pink jersey, and a whole 1-15 ahead of Pello Bilbao (Bahrain-McLaren) in third.
Kelderman has picked up plenty of overall top tens in past Grand Tours but never before has he gone this deep into a race still in contention for overall victory. Like Almeida, this is uncharted territory for the 29-year-old, and it will be fascinating to see what he can do in the final week.
Brandon McNulty leaps up the rankings as other favourites remain deadlocked
Aside from Almeida and Kelderman, the day’s big winner in the GC race was Brandon McNulty (UAE Emirates). The 22-year-old put in the third-fastest time on the day, meaning he catapults up the GC from eleventh to fourth overall.
His UAE Team Emirates squad displayed faith in his abilities as early as stage three, when they set the pace at the front of the peloton looking to set him up. Although the American was unable to deliver that day, since then he’s quietly worked his way up the rankings and announced himself as a serious GC contender with his ride today.
Behind him, most of the other GC men were pretty evenly matched. Pello Bilbao (Bahrain-McLaren) and Vincenzo Nibali (Trek-Segafredo) finished with almost the exact same time to remain third and fifth respectively on GC, a handful of seconds either side of McNulty, while Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe) was a little quicker, and pint-sized climber Domenico Pozzovivo (NTT Pro Cycling) a little slower.
All four of these riders are now separated by just 22 seconds on GC and will be glad to have gotten the long time trial out of the way. As we enter the mountains of the race’s final week, they will now begin in earnest to really attack Almeida and launch their bids for overall victory, starting with tomorrow’s mountain top finish at Piancavallo.
Rohan Dennis completes great day for Inoes Grenadiers
In what was a great day for Ineos Grenadiers all around, Rohan Dennis finished second in the stage to complete a one-two for the team.
For Dennis, it was an encouraging return to form, and his best ride since winning the World Championships last year in Yorkshire. He didn’t quite look right when defending that title in Imola last month and was unfortunate to be out on the road during the less favourable weather conditions on the Giro’s opening stage time trial. But today, he looked like the Rohan Dennis of old.
Ultimately, only the supremacy of his on-fire teammate prevented him from collecting what would have been a second Giro d’Italia stage victory of his career.
He becomes the latest Ineos Grenadiers rider to finish in the top two of a stage win at this year’s Giro, following the wins by Ganna and Jhonatan Narvaez and runner-up finishes by Jonathan Castroviejo and Salvatore Puccio. Considering how rapidly their plan-A of targeting the pink jersey with Geraint Thomas unravelled, it’s been some comeback by Ineos Grenadiers, and about as much as they could have hoped for after his withdrawal.
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