Mohoric puts his descending skills to good use
Having broken away at 40km to go with Davide Villella (Astana), Matej Mohoric (Bahrain-Merida) was able to use the unexpectedly lumpy terrain of the final part of the race to setup his victory on stage 10 of the Giro d’Italia.
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The profile of the stage, despite having a category four climb just 30km from the finish, looked more set for the sprinters than a potential breakaway, but the Slovenian was able to put his expert descending skills to good use the wet, treacherous descent to help distance the main peloton.
It’s not the first time Mohoric has used descents to help claim a major victory, soloing away in the final 10km of stage seven of the Vuelta a España last year to take the win.
But today it was slightly more complicated, with Nico Denz (Ag2r La Mondiale) able to link up with him in the final 20km and at first help him extend the gap the peloton after Villella was dropped on a descent.
As the pair entered the final 5km or so, they were assured of contesting victory with still over a minute back to the peloton, and Mohoric on paper looked to have the better sprint of the two.
And so it proved in the flat finale, with Denz unable to even get close to passing Mohoric as he kicked from behind towards the line, with the Bahrain man able to hold his sprint to take a second career Grand Tour stage win.
Chaves out of contention
The major talking point of today’s stage was seeing second placed Esteban Chaves (Mitchelton-Scott) drop away out of overall contention completely.
The Colombian seemingly couldn’t respond on the category two climb that immediately opened the stage after the rest day; a quite cruel way of reintroducing the race from the organisers.
At first Chaves was able to hold the gap to the main peloton to around about a minute for a while, even coming back to 30 seconds with the help of his team-mates and the Quick-Step Floors team, who were trying to bring their sprinter Elia Viviani back into contention.
But eventually the effort took its toll, with a such a long stage and a lot of kilometres still to go. That gap quickly slipped to five minutes, then 10, and eventually the final time gap at the finish read 25-25.
While that leaves Chaves well out of the GC fight for the remainder of this Giro, it does mean the full focus of Mitchelton-Scott will be on race leader Simon Yates, who could do worse than to have a team-mate like Chaves given license to get up the road on the big mountain stages.
With the opening category two climb of the long 244km stage, it looked like the race would play to the formula of a huge fight to get in a big breakaway on the opening climb that could get a substantial gap on the peloton and contest victory.
And that’s how it began to play out, with 12 men establishing a lead, before it all changed with Chaves going out the back.
As he began to get dropped, the GC teams then started to apply the pressure to leave him there and in turn, that saw much of the break caught with around 80km gone. Tony Martin (Katusha-Alpecin) was the last to hold on out front, but eventually relented and returned to the bunch with still 135km to race.
That meant for much of the stage the peloton set the pace out front ahead of the Chaves group, with the decisive break only able to get away in the final 40km.
Yates extends his lead
While it wasn’t much, Simon Yates was able to extend his lead on stage 10 by three seconds over his nearest rival Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb).
That was in part thanks to his dropped team-mate Chaves, which led to the initial breakaway getting caught. It meant the peloton was able to contest the second intermediate sprint point along the route and, with maglia ciclamina, Elia Viviani already dropped, the GC riders fancied their chances at some bonus seconds.
Thibaut Pinot put his FDJ team-mates to the task of leading him out for it, but he was tracked by race leader Yates and couldn’t stop him from nabbing the three seconds to extend his lead in the maglia rosa.
Sprinters play the waiting game
While today’s stage had the potential to play out into a sprint if the break could be held within reach and the fast-men had their climbing legs on, it always looked like a tough ask compared to some upcoming days.
This Giro is only lightly peppered with flat stages, and even some of them have a sting in the tail.
Tomorrow’s 156km stage to Osimo looks to suit a punchy finisher more than a fast men with the uphill finish, while stage 12 to Imola culminates in a bunch finish on the motor circuit if they can prevent attacks over the top of the climb around 9km before the end. Friday’s stage to Nervesa della Battaglia should be assured for the sprinters, before a really tough weekend in the mountains.
Grand Tours continue to become a real test for sprinters, and the main contenders here like Viviani and Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe), fighting for the points jersey and stage wins, have to wait patiently and take the opportunities when they do come along.