Ciccone bounces back with long-awaited comeback win
Ever the entertainer, the Italian animated the race throughout the stage with several stinging attacks from the day’s breakaway.
He was making so many attacks that you feared he might burn himself out, and possibly miss out on the stage to one of the steadier climbers despite looking like the clear strongest. But the Italian is comfortable with the stop-start rhythm of aggressive racing, and brute power was enough to win him the stage.
The result has been long overdue for Ciccone, who has endured a difficult few years. Last season he tried to rebrand as a GC rider at Grand Tours, but was struck by bad luck at both the Giro and the Vuelta, abandoning out of both. Any hope of him finishing high on GC at this Giro were ended when he was dropped on Blockhaus.
That liberated him to return to his attacking instincts of old, and he did not hold back today, looking like the Ciconne of old as he soloed virtually the entire final climb to take victory.
After also gaining several points in the King of the Mountains classification, he’s also now up to fourth in that classification. If he decides to target the blue jersey, then we can expect to see him in many more breaks to come during the mountainous final week.
Carthy shows signs of return to form
Hugh Carthy (EF Education-EasyPost) might have been thwarted in his ambition of winning the stage, but a fourth-place finish will still come as a welcome, much-needed result.
The Brit’s results since registering an unexpected and remarkable podium finish at the 2020 Vuelta a España had been getting steadily worse. He could never quite find his best climbing legs at the Giro the following year, where he finished eight overall, then abandoned out of his next Grand Tour later that year at the Vuelta.
This season he’s struggled even more for form and fitness, with his highest finish on a single stage before today being 15th on the final day of the Tour of the Alps. And despite making a decent start at this Giro, his hopes for a high GC finish came undone as he lost minutes on the Blockhaus summit finish, and then a whole quarter of an hour in yesterday’s carnage in Torino.
However, on today’s three mountains he looked something like his best again. He paced himself expertly up the penultimate climb, bridging up to the leading trio of Ciccone, Santiago Bruitrego (Bahrain-Victorious) and Antonio Pedrero (Movistar) just before the summit having been dropped by them much earlier, and managed to respond to Ciccone’s initial attacks on the final climb.
Although he did fade towards the top of the climb, and was passed by Buitrago and Pedrero to finish fourth, Carthy still saw the result as an encouraging sign, describing it as “the start of a change” after having been “upset” and “disappointed” from falling out of GC contention.
A day off in the GC race
After all the unexpected action of yesterday’s stage, it’s perhaps understandable that the top favourites in the Giro 2022 standings chose to take this one easily.
In truth, the parcours did not help. Although the prospect of two big category one climbs during the final half of the race sounded promising, the third and final climb was always likely to neutralise proceedings. Very long but not at all steep, it was the hardest kind of mountain to launch attacks on, with lone attackers and small groups at a much more significant disadvantage to bigger chasing groups than would be the case on steeper gradients.
So it turned out, as the GC riders all held their powder dry. Ineos Grenadiers controlled the peloton, but a fast pace was not required as no rivals showed any interest in attacking, the Bora-Hansgrohe riders who caused such carnage yesterday content to sit within the bunch on this occasion.
The GC race remains wide open therefore, but we’ll have to wait until after yesterday’s rest day for hostilities to resume.
Guillaume Martin rides for GC like no other rider
It’s unclear how intentional it is, but Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) rides like no other GC rider does.
Most of the riders who finish towards the lower realms of the top ten at a Grand Tour do so by riding steadily throughout the three weeks, so that we often don’t notice them much while they ride cautiously to avoid going into the red and losing time.
Not Martin. One day he’s being dumped dramatically out of the peloton, the next he’s up the road in a breakaway regaining all the time he’s just lost.
He’s yoyod up and down the GC in this manner multiple times already at this year’ Giro, jumping up to fourth by getting into the break on stage eight’s circuit in Napoli, having lost four minutes on Mount Etna, only to fall back down to twelfth after being dropped yesterday.
Apparently recovered from his bad day yesterday, he was the only rider from the peloton to make an attack during today’s sleepy stage when he went clear on the penultimate climb, and was rewarded for his long effort with a time gain of over a minute and a half — enough to take him back up to tenth overall.
This approach has seen him finish eighth at last year's Tour de France and ninth at the Vuelta. Now up to tenth on GC here, can he make it the full set of consecutive Grand Tour top ten finishes?
Carapaz appears fine after crash
There was a fright for Richard Carapaz at the start of the day when he went down in a crash within the first few kilometres.
He was one of several high-profile fallers along with Simon Yates (BikeExchange-Jayco), Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) and Guillame Martin that occurred in the middle of the bunch, while the day’s break was still being formed.
He certainly appeared unhurt as he quickly remounted and joined the peloton after a short chase, but whether or not he was affected by it all will remain unknown, as no rivals decided to test him with any attacks or increase in pace over the day’s three mountains
It appears the incident will be insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but does come as a reminder that anything can happen at any moment at a Grand Tour.
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