Viviani roars back
By his own admission, Elia Viviani has had a bad few days at the Giro d’Italia, and wasn’t even close to contesting yesterday’s finish to Imola which was won by his closest sprint rival Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe).
But the Quick-Step Floors rider put all of that right on stage 13, once again showing he’s the man with fastest sprint in this peloton.
Once again it wasn’t a traditional drop off from his Quick-Step team-mates, with Viviani surfing the wheels before responding to Sacha Modolo’s (EF Education First-Drapac) early move on the left of the road.
The Italian did well to find the space to open up his sprint, avoiding the late attacker Marco Coledan (Wilier Triestina) as he drifted backwards, and managing to squeeze between two riders to find open road in front of him.
From there, there was no stopping Viviani, who simply had to open up his sprint and leave his rivals in his wake to take a third victory at this Giro.
His roar after crossing the line was clear demonstration that this was a well needed win for Viviani after a frustrating few days at the Giro.
Bennett still in ciclamino hunt
Although, to be frank, Sam Bennett hasn’t looked like he’s really been too bothered at all about the ciclamino points jersey at this Giro, allowing Viviani to hoover up most of the intermediate points as he pleases.
Still, the Irishman remains the only rider who could steal the jersey from Viviani before Rome, sitting just 40 points behind after taking second on the stage today.
It’ll be a difficult and close fought task though, with just two potential sprint stages left in the race on stage 17 and the final day, with a lot of mountains in between.
Viviani has made it clear that he wanted to carry the jersey all the way to Rome, making it two in two years for Quick-Step after Fernando Gaviria won it for the Belgian team last year.
Meanwhile, Bennett will just be happy to have finally got his first Grand Tour stage victory and then add another one – but could he be tempted in to the fight for the maglia ciclamino?
The first uneventful day for a while
Let’s face it, this wasn’t exactly the best day of racing we’ve seen in the Giro this year.
After some tough days out since the rest day and a big weekend to come, both the sprint and GC teams seemed more than content to let the five-man break drift up the road and out of sight, meaning they could relax for the most part of what was a fair weathered and rolling day.
There were small moments of action in the final 25km or so, with Tony Martin (Katusha-Alpecin) briefly heading up the road with three other riders after the break’s gap fell under a minute, before he came back and helped Katusha work hard on the front to bring it all back together within the last 7km.
Wilier Triestina, who lost their sprinter Jakub Mareczko earlier in the race, made a late solo attack through Marco Coledan, with the Italian make an admirable fist of holding the chasing teams off until the final few hundred metres.
But in the end all that brief excitement was just a tease, and the race concluded with it’s inevitable sprint finish.
GC riders get a rolling rest
While the likes of Mitchelton-Scott, Sunweb, Bahrain-Merida and Groupama-FDJ were all attentive enough as the racing got going towards a sprint in protecting their leading riders, today’s stage was the rolling rest the GC contenders had been eyeing all week.
When second place overall Esteban Chaves was dropped early on the Giro’s longest stage on Tuesday, the racing went from a potential breakaway day (and a quiet ride in the peloton), to a full gas effort for almost all of the 244km.
After the steep uphill finish of stage 11 on Wednesday, Thursday’s ride to the Imola racing circuit looked like it could be a possible active recovery day for the climbers, but instead the weather bucketed down and the riders were forced to survive a plethora of attacks on the harder than thought final climb shortly before the finish.
So while Simon Yates has had to work hard to extend his overall lead so far this week, even winning the stage on Wednesday, he and the other top contenders would have been more than pleased with the lower intensity of today with what’s to come tomorrow…
There’ll certainly be a few riders struggling to get to sleep tonight with what’s on the cards tomorrow.
It’s a summit finish like no other in this Giro and it’ll put a lot of riders into a level of suffering they’ve probably not experienced for a while.
Potentially the hardest climb in any Grand Tour, the Zoncolan stands at just over 10km in length but with an eye-watering average gradient of around 12 per cent along with pitches of 22 per cent in some places.
It’s no wonder we’ve been hearing that some riders are considering using a lowest gear of 34×32, including some of the GC contenders.
It’s a day we’ll get to see if anyone can really challenge Simon Yates in the maglia rosa, but this won’t be a day full of attacking, it’ll be a day just trying to hang on to the leading riders as well as you can.