An unlikely stage winner
You’d have got long odds on Nans Peters (Ag2r La Mondiale) as a pick for today’s stage winner. Even when the 25-year old made the early break, few would have expected him to compete with the bigger names accompanying him.
Whereas Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), Fausto Masnada (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec), Bob Jungels (Deceuninck-Quick-Step), Esteban Chaves (Mitchelton) and Valerio Conti (UAE Emirates) are all former Grand Tour stage winners, Peters had yet to claim a single professional victory in his career, his previous best results being fourth on a stage of the 2018 Vuelta a España.
The other escapees certainly didn’t look concerned when Peters attacked 16km from the finish, and allowed the gap to grow up to one minute before beginning to attack each other.
At this point you’d expect the gap to start coming down, but the Frenchman displayed some excellent form to maintain his lead. Yet more surprisingly, the gap even started going up, and had increased to a substantial 1-30 by the finish line.
That suggests that this win was no fluke, and that Nans Peters will be name to look out for in the future.
Mikel Landa attacks and gains time
Mikel Landa hasn’t been let off the leash much at this Giro as he has mostly spent his time riding in support of his pink jersey-wearing Movistar team-mate Richard Carapaz, but the Spaniard showed what he was capable of by attacking on today’s final climb.
As with Vincenzo Nibali’s (Bahrain-Merida) attack yesterday, Hugh Carthy (EF Education First) was the only rider to follow the move, and he too was dropped as Landa upped the ante on the steeper part of the climb.
By the finish, he’d gained a useful nineteen seconds over Nibali and Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma), both of whom looked tired from yesterday’s efforts.
Perhaps eager for his leadership status to not come into question, Carapaz too attacked with Miguel Ángel López (Astana) towards the top of the climb. Team harmony at Movistar nevertheless still looks solid, and they’re in an even stronger position now with Landa within one minute of Roglič and 1-10 of Nibali.
It’s looking increasingly difficult to see how anyone can prize the pink jersey off them.
Esteban Chaves comes close
We don’t see much of Esteban Chaves (Mitchelton-Scott) at the highest level these days. Once a young Grand Tour hopeful who looked destined for great things after he podiumed at both the 2016 Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España at the age of 26, the Colombian has never been the same since injury problems began to pester him.
There was a brief return to form at the Giro this time last year when he claimed a stage win on the summit of Mount Etna, but the Colombian hasn’t got close to that level at this year’s race.
So it was heart-warming to see Chaves out on the attack today. He was the rider from the break who took on Nans Peters, taking off in pursuit of him in the final kilometres. Although everyone else lay in his wake, Chaves was unable to bridge the gap to the leader, but second place on the stage still marks his best result since his win here last year.
Renowned for his wide smile and polite manners, Chaves is one of the most likeable characters in the peloton, and his return to the action at the front of the race will please cycling fans across the world.
Can Carthy make the top-10?
It was another great ride from Hugh Carthy, who for the second day running was involved in the action among all the major GC favourites.
Yet his hopes of making the top-10 arguably look weaker at the end of today than they did yesterday. Although he kept the pace with the likes of Roglič, Nibali and Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo), and gained time over Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), Rafał Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Pavel Sivakov (Ineos), one of his biggest rivals for a top-10 place Davide Formolo (Bora-Hangrohe) smartly slipped into the day’s break, earning him nearly three minutes over Carthy without putting much more effort in, and rising to 10th overall.
The 24-year-old from Preston is in danger of not converting his fantastic form into something that will stand out on his palmarès, be it a top-10 finish or a stage win. There are just two mountain stages left to come, and he remains in 13th overall, still 5-43 adrift of Formolo in 10th.
Nevertheless, we can expect Carthy to give it at all to claim the reward he’s deserved from his performance so far.
Unsurprisingly, today’s breakaway included representatives of some of the teams most desperate to salvage something from the Giro.
Sunweb have been virtually anonymous since their leader Tom Dumoulin crashed out of the race in week one, so it was encouraging to see Jan Bakelants and Chris Hamilton on the attack; as have CCC, who also had two in the break courtesy of Amaro Anturas and Victor de la Parte.
Deceuninck-Quick-Step don’t usually have to resort to hoping for the best on a breakaway stage, but Elia Viviani’s barren run in the sprints have left them scrambling as much as the other win-less teams, with Bob Jungels the rider today trying his luck in the escape.
However, all of these riders fell short, missing their chance to latch on to the wheel of Nans Peters (himself riding for a win-less Ag2r La Mondiale, who had in fact gone a whole eight years without a stage win at the Giro) when he made his winning move 16km from the finish.