A much needed win for Katusha-Alpecin
The last time Ilnur Zakarin won a stage race was in July 2016 on stage 17 of the Tour de France, but this win will come as more of a relief for his team, Katusha-Alpecin, who up to this point have had a torrid 2019.
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Before Zakarin’s win, they had only managed two wins, Rick Zabel taking stage two of the Tour de Yorkshire and Marcel Kittel’s Trofeo Palma victory at Challenge Mallorca.
It was in fact their German sprinter that had caused the most headaches over the first few months of the year, though, with Kittel being dropped on the flats of Scheldeprijs in the spring, with the team and rider then engaging in a rather public war of words over the sprinter’s form.
Kittel then quit Katusha-Alpecin last month, leaving the team without one of their main guys to bring home victories for the rest of the season, so Zakarin’s win will help to relieve pressure from the Swiss outfit.
As well as the stage victory, Zakarin now finds himself in third on GC, 31 seconds behind Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) and 2-56 behind Jan Polanc (UAE Team Emirates).
A solid day for Primož Roglič
On the first proper day in the mountains, Primož Roglič held his own to keep his spot as the highest placed GC contender. While a number of his rivals did go up the road to take seconds back on the Slovenian, Roglič seemed happy to mark his closest competitor, Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain Merida), as the pair crossed the line together.
Roglič now has a 1-44 advantage over Nibali, 2-43 over Mikel Landa (Movistar), 5-23 on Miguel Ángel López (Astana) and a whopping 5-51 over Simon Yates (Mitchelton Scott) – more on the Brit later.
Another big test in the mountains awaits Roglič tomorrow, followed by a slightly easier day on Sunday and then the second rest day on Monday. After that, there’s only one week, albeit one massive week, of Italian tarmac standing between the 29-year-old and a first Grand Tour win.
Mikel Landa bounces back
It was the second day in succession that Mikel Landa (Movistar) clawed back some much needed seconds in the overall classification, having lost a fair amount of time on both of the time trials ridden so far.
However, today he went on the attack with 15km remaining, soon reeling in and passing a number of remnants of the day’s break and opening up a gap on Roglič and his other GC rivals.
The Spaniard now sits eighth on GC, 5-08 down on Jan Polanc (UAE Team Emirates) and less than three minutes behind Roglič, a more promising position than he found himself in on the first rest day.
Landa’s team-mate, who has sneaked under the radar a bit, is Richard Carapaz, who finds himself two places higher in the overall classification, currently sixth, 1-26 behind Roglič and 13 seconds down on Nibali. We’ll have to wait and see if this turns into another Movistar multi-pronged tilt at a Grand Tour title, or failing that, a podium place.
Simon Yates’ race is almost over
It was yet another bad day for Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) as he lost two more minutes to Primož Roglič in the overall. Speaking after the race, Mitchelton-Scott team boss Matt White said Yates had struggled to hold other riders’ wheels on the final climb of the day as he started dropping back, and he wasn’t immediately sure as to why Yates went from doing reasonably well on the climb to suddenly doing not so well.
Yates now trails Roglič by 5-51 in the overall classification, with the Brit having a lot of work to do as the remaining kilometres in the Giro continue to tick down if he is to turn his race around.
All in all disappointing day for the Brits
Disappointing performances aside, Simon Yates was at least fortunate enough to finish the race. James Knox (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) had been struggling with injuries since crashing on stage three and stage four, and despite finishing stage 12 he was advised by team doctors to not take the start on stage 13.
Fellow Brit Tao Geoghegan Hart (Team Ineos) had also succumbed to early crashes, coming off his bike twice on stage three, and he crashed again with 120km left to race on stage 13. After an impressive performance in the Tour of the Alps last month, Geoghegan Hart came into the Giro confident, and sat within seven minutes of the GC lead after stage 11.
Geoghegan Hart’s crash forced him to abandon, though, with Team Ineos saying their rider was OK and the doctor was with him and checking a potential injury to his shoulder, according to team director Nicolas Portal.