Elia Viviani’s domination continues
When the Giro d’Italia organisers throw flatter stages into the mountainous final week they usually end in breakaway victories, but Elia Viviani upset that trend in Iseo as he took his fourth stage win of the race.
This wasn’t a simple stage win for the Italian as he was dropped by the ferocious pace early in the race and had a hard chase on as Bora-Hansgrohe and Mitchelton-Scott kept the pace high, a technical run-in and a wet final couple of kilometres made for a complicated finale.
However Viviani played things perfectly as he kept right towards the front of the bunch largely thanks to the excellent work of team-mate Zdenek Stybar.
In the end he probably wasn’t as fast as Sam Bennett in the finish, but Viviani’s perfect positioning at the head of the peloton meant that he was able to hold off Bennett’s charge as the Irishman found himself too far back.
Points classification all but wrapped up
Viviani’s fourth victory – as well as the handful of points that he picked up at the intermediate sprints – means that he now has a sizeable lead over Bennett at the top of the points classification and looks set to wear the maglia ciclamino in Rome.
The Italian sprinter led his Irish rival by 40 points at the start of the day, but now enjoys a cushion of 58 points with only the one sprint stage to go on Sunday.
With 50 points on offer to the winner in Rome, Bennett must now not only win the final stage, but also pick up points at the early intermediate sprints on stages 18 and 20 and probably still hope that woe befalls Viviani somewhere along the way.
Another day ticked off for Yates
On paper stage 17 might have looked like an easy day in the saddle for Simon Yates, but in practice this was never going to be a simple spin through the Franciacorta vineyards for the Brit’s quest to take the pink jersey.
The early climb ensured fast racing straight from the gun (see below) and the fact that Wout Poels made it into main break ensure that Yates’ domestiques had no rest ahead of three big days in the mountains.
Yates also had to cope with a tricky finale but once again was kept in a perfect position at the front of the bunch, and will be delighted that he is one day closer to Rome with his lead still in tack.
Of course the next three days might be physically tougher for Yates, but he’ll be glad that today’s tricky little stage is ticked off.
A day of high tension and discussion in the peloton
If Wout Poels was hoping for Christmas cards from Ben Hermans, Luis Leon Sanchez, and Alessandro De Marchi then he might be disappointed after his presence in the breakaway led to Mitchelt0n-Scott chasing hard for much of the day.
Despite being more than 10 minutes down in the GC, the Australian team were clearly worried by Poels’ presence up the road and kept the pressure on while Poels found the ire of De Marchi as the BMC Racing gesticulated with him to go back to the bunch so the break could have a chance of staying away.
Back in the bunch Christian Knees was in discussions with Mikel Nieve to try and stop Mitchelton-Scott from chasing, while Luis Leon Sanchez had earlier made his feelings clear with some previous breakaway companions as he turned around to give them all the finger for not taking their turns.
Two and a half weeks into the race and it’s clear that there are a few tensions running high in the bunch.
Enthralling racing from the very start
With a cruelly unclassified climb at the very start of the stage, the first few kilometres were always going to be entertaining and this was definitely one of those days where start-to-finish TV coverage made complete sense.
Strong riders like Wout Poels, Sebastien Reichenbach, Giovanni Visconti, and Luis Leon Sanchez all made it into the first move of the day in a fast start to the day which even saw Chris Froome and Miguel Angel Lopez distanced early on.
And things didn’t really settle down until 90km into the 155km stage when the move of Sanchez, De Marchi, Poels, and Hermans got clear, but the pace was high all day in what was a great stage for those sitting at home watching even if those out riding it may not have had quite as much fun.