An Italian stage winner…
The tifosi can breathe a collective sigh of relief, as Italy’s winless run over the first week of the Giro came to an end courtesy of Fausto Masnada.
The 25-year-old was unquestionably the strongest rider in the 12-man breakaway group that the peloton allowed up the road, attacking with venom on the final climb of the day and taking only one rider - Valerio Conti (UAE Team Emirates) - with him.
Conti could only just about hang on during the climb, and the two appeared to strike a mutually beneficial agreement - Masnada would ride with Conti to ensure the latter sealed the pink jersey, and in return Conti allowed Masnada to win the stage.
Masnada hinted that he was capable of pulling off a win like this last month at the Tour of the Alps, where he displayed career-best form to claim two stage wins, as well as finishing fifth in the overall standings.
He’s clearly a much-improved rider from the man who attacked relentlessly in doomed breakaways during his debut Giro last season, and this seem unlikely to be the last we see of him this Giro - now second in the mountains classification, perhaps the blue jersey will become a target?
...and an Italian maglia rosa
Valerio Conti made a great day for Italian cycling even better, by becoming the new overall leader of the race.
As the highest placed rider on GC to make it into the breakaway, Conti would have known he was in with a great chance of taking the jersey, and everything fell into place when the peloton opted not to chase them down, and when he managed to stay with Masnada’s attack.
Things could have gone horribly wrong had he collided into a stray dog that emerged in front of him as the finish line emerged, but thankfully he managed to just about manoeuvre his way around it.
Conti has been a regular presence in breakaways at the Giro over the past four years, and has a Vuelta a España stage win to his name, but wearing the pink jersey will surely be the proudest moment of his career.
And with a gap over 1-41 over Giovanni Carboni (Bardiani-CSF) in second place on GC, and with several more flattish stages to come in the following days, Conti can be confident of holding onto the jersey for some time.
Roglič happy to concede the overall lead
There has been much speculation throughout the week regarding whether Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) would be happy to concede the pink jersey should a benign enough breakaway make it up the road at some point, and indeed he clearly had no qualms about passing it on to Conti today.
You can certainly see the appeal of relieving themselves from the responsibility of having to defend the jersey this early in the race.
But has Roglič - and, for that matter, the other GC teams - taken a risk by doing so? It wasn’t so much allowing the jersey to change hands that should cause apprehension, but the sheer size of the gap the breakaway riders were given - over seven minutes in total, meaning the top-10 on GC is now made up exclusively of riders who were in the break.
Masnada and Conti are not renowned as GC riders (although as young, improving riders, could yet spring a surprise), but there are other names which could provide cause for concern.
Andrey Amador (Movistar) is one, having previously finished fourth and eighth overall at the 2015 and 2016 editions respectively, while allowing last year’s ninth place rider Sam Oomen back into overall contention after he’d lost time earlier in the week could prove a mistake, especially now the young Dutchman is likely to be promoted to Sunweb’s team leader following Tom Dumoulin’s exit.
In 2010, a large breakaway was granted a gap of over 12 minutes over the peloton, and one of its members, David Arroyo, took advantage of the gift to later move into the pink jersey, and very nearly won the whole race. Could something similar be on the cards this year?
A first success for a breakaway
After five stages of sprints, a time trial and one uphill finish contested by a reduced peloton, today was the first success for a breakaway.
The parcours always looked as though it would favour an escape, and so there was a competitive battle to get into the day’s break, which was represented by plenty of classy riders - among them the experienced José Joaquín Rojas (Movistar), young star Valentin Madouas (Groupama-FDJ) and renowned domestique Pieter Serry (Deceuninck-Quick-Step).
The presence of Serry made it clear that Deceuninck-Quick-Step had no intentions of chasing the breakaway down for a bunch sprint, and when the other sprinters’ teams also opted not to set the pace, it was clear the breakaway was going to be successful.
Wildcard teams were especially well-represented in the break, with Ruben Plaza (Israel Cycling Academy) and Giovanni Carboni (Bardiani CSF) claiming a more than respectable fourth and fifth place for their respective teams.
But ultimately it was Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec who won the day via Masnada, sealing a first Giro stage win since 2012 following seven years of persistently animating the breaks in vain.
Roglič suffers a minor crash
One of the most striking images of today’s stage was that of Primož Roglič and his ripped shorts, after he was involved in a crash near the start of the day.
It looked sore, but thankfully did not appear to have an adverse effect on the Slovenian, who made it comfortably back into the peloton and was never in danger of losing any time.
Perhaps the only thing damaged was his dignity. He had to ride a fair while with his backside exposed due to the unfortunate location of his torn shorts. But, although a replacement pair were not forthcoming, he did eventually manage to cover up with a plaster.
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