Hindley back to his best
You’d be forgiven for thinking Jai Hindley’s 2020 Giro d’Italia campaign was somewhat of a flash in the pan. His 2021 season was aeons away from the form he showed the year prior, and it was difficult to envisage him playing a major role in this year’s edition of the Giro.
A fifth overall at Tirreno-Adriatico earlier this year hinted that his switch from Team DSM to Bora-Hansgrohe over the winter had reinvigorated him, but his return to top shape was confirmed with victory atop Blockhaus on stage nine of the Giro on Sunday.
The Australian had sat, possibly not comfortably, but safely within the GC group on Blockhaus until Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) attacked with Mikel Landa (Bahrain Victorious) and Romain Bardet (Team DSM) inside 5km to go, unable to bridge the gap to them. But Hindley set much of the pacing in the second group that eventually reeled the escapees back in, setting up the sprint finish to the summit.
We know Hindley can sprint at the end of tough stages - he beat Tao Geoghegan Hart in such a scenario on 2020’s queen stage - but you wouldn’t blame him for being a little cautious considering his recent form and the calibre of rider he was up against. There was none of that on show though, launching his sprint from the front and holding it all the way to the line to beat another fast finisher in Carapaz.
The win also propels the 26-year-old 10 place up in the GC standings, and right amongst the favourites at 20 seconds down on the race leader Juan Pedro López (Trek-Segafredo). It also caps off a fruitful first week for Bora-Hansgrohe. The German team took their a stage win on Tuesday on the race’s first summit finish through Lennard Kämna, and they now have three riders in the top 15 on GC after the first week, with Hindley in fifth (at 20 seconds) Emanuel Buchmann in ninth (at 1-09) and Kamna in 15th (at 3-26).
López overcomes misfortune to retain pink
Juan Pedro López would probably have been somewhat resigned to the idea that he may lose the pink jersey, which he took on Mount Etna on stage four, on the slopes of Blockhaus.
The 24-year-old was up against a plethora of experienced Grand Tour talent, and though he occasionally lost the wheels on the final climb, fought to remain in contention in the front group with his busy style until around 8km to go.
Misfortune struck there for the Spaniard, with a slowing in the front of the group causing riders further back to brake sharply. Lopez had to unclip to avoid falling into the verge on the roadside after touching the wheel of Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) in front of him, but was instantly left chasing to get back on.
If he’d felt on his last legs before that incident was a mental dent he definitely didn’t need. From there he quickly drifted back to 19 seconds behind and as the front group accelerated following Carapaz’s attack, López found himself falling towards two minutes down.
As the leaders prepared themselves to a sprint finish and slowed accordingly, that allowed riders including López to close some of the gap. Impressively he was able to get to the line at 1-46 down, just 12 seconds shy of losing the jersey to João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates), his efforts fully on show along the final straight.
With such a narrow gap López will have a much more difficult time holding onto the maglia rosa in the coming stages of week two. He should, though, have a reasonable chance of getting to the end of Saturday with it on his shoulders should his current form hold. Another tough summit finish on Sunday however may spell the end for López’s high-ride at the Giro d’Italia, but for now he’s still in pink.
Yates drops out of contention
Simon Yates’ tumultuous relationship with the Giro continues. After his stage win and third overall last year things looked to be on the up, and an early stage win in the time trial here assured onlookers of his GC favourite status.
A crash on stage four and a subsequent knee injury seems to have ended all hopes of finally taking pink this year though, with the Briton shipping over 11 minutes on Blockhaus. Yates dropped away from the lead group with over 11km to go to the summit, succumbing to the ferocious pace set by Ineos. At first he appeared to be mitigating the losses, keeping the gap down to a manageable 30 seconds for several kilometres before finally losing ground for good. After starting the day in fifth at 1-42, Yates ends the day in 25th place at 11-11, just ahead of his BikeExchange-Jayco team-mate Lucas Hamilton.
Yates said after the race he’d been struggling with the heat of the day in central Italy as well as his knee injury, and his team now say they’ll reassess their objectives having gone all-in on his GC campaign. If his injury persists we could see him withdraw in preparation for the Tour de France (which he’s scheduled to ride) and his remaining team-mates allowed to search for opportunities in the remaining two weeks of the Giro.
Ineos Grenadiers continue show of strength
The Blockhaus finish presented another opportunity for Ineos Grenadiers to show their depth of strength, and they didn’t pass it up. The British team had played their part in controlling the gap to the breakaway throughout the day, but really took command of the race on the last two climbs.
On the final climb, they were out in full force. Jhonatan Narváez pulled back the remaining riders of the breakaway, before debutant Ben Tulett set the pace on the lower slopes. But it was the efforts of Pavel Sivakov and Richie Porte that did the most damage, the two climbers whittling the group right down to set up an attack by Richard Carapaz.
It was an authoritative display - only UAE attempted to disrupt the blue and red train - but they’ll be disappointed their efforts didn’t manage to push Carapaz into a stronger GC position or result in a stage win.
Carapaz still sits right in contention (fourth at 15 seconds), but the top-10 remains tightly packed. His attack today wasn’t enough to shake Mikel Landa or Romain Bardet, the two who look like the current biggest threat to his chances of taking a second Giro crown, but the power of his team so far looks unmatched.
It’s probably we won’t see too much movement from the GC contenders until the end of next week, but week three’s succession of gruelling mountain stages could be the moment Ineos' brute force pays off for Carapaz.
Natnael Tesfatsion finishes despite high-speed crash
"He's off the road!" 😱Natnael Tesfatsion suffers a 𝐇𝐔𝐆𝐄 crash - we are glad he is okay 👍#Giro pic.twitter.com/ev0VQRKKpsMay 15, 2022
It was a heart-in-mouth moment for television viewers everywhere. Natnael Tesfatsion (Drone Hopper - Androni Giocattoli) was leading the race having made into the day’s main breakaway, clipping-off solo on the descent of the Passo Lanciano. The Eritrean was pushing on down the high-speed descent, attempting to keep hold of as much of his 2-50 advantage over the peloton before reaching the foot of the final climb.
With around 36km to go though it all went wrong for the 22-year-old, taking the wrong line into a left hand turn and unable to slow himself down enough to get round it. That saw him fly straight off the road, narrowly past the roadside barrier and over his handlebars into the verge..
Fortunately race officials were immediately on the scene and Tesfatsion was seen clambering out of the bushes, thankfully looking as though he’d avoided serious injury. After getting checked over, he was able to get back on his bike and finish the stage, eventually finishing the stage at 33-15 down in 91st place.
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