WIN COMES AS SMALL CONSOLATION FOR YATES
It’s hard to remember the last time a rider looked as dispirited at having just won a stage as Simon Yates did in the post-race interview today, after his stage 14 victory.
Normally victories like these, coming after a dramatic ejection out of GC contention, are celebrated as redemptive, but Yates found it hard to take joy from the result. “Not really,” was his response when asked whether the win made up for his capitulation on stage nine, explaining that he had come here to “win the race”, and not stage wins.
A stage win at the Giro d'Italia would be enough to make the career of many riders in the pro peloton, but Yates’ ambitions were far greater coming into the race. The way he mentioned having already won five stages here in the past was more of a man for whom winning has become commonplace rather than someone reflecting on how great an achievement that is in and of itself.
For him, the win today and the way he managed to fly away from his three breakaway companions inside the final 5km was more a tantalising reminder of the great form he’s in, and of what might have been had he not hurt his knee and lost so much time on Blockhaus.
CARAPAZ TAKES CONTROL ON GIRO’S MOST EXCITING STAGE SO FAR
This was the day the 2022 Giro d’Italia burst thrillingly into life, where the closely fought, evenly-matched contenders all started attacking each other.
Out of all the carnage, Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) has emerged as the man to beat, now heading the 2022 Giro d'Italia standings and inheriting Juan Pedro López’s pink jersey by a slender lead of seven seconds over Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe).
Having been one of the twelve riders to go clear at the front following an explosive pace set from Bora-Hansgrohe early in the stage, Carapaz felt the time was right to put in a huge move on the second ascent of Superga, despite their being almost 30km left to ride.
His mannerisms after going clear, which involved a lot of twitching and splaying water over himself in the hot weather, suggested he may have felt he’d made a mistake attacking so early. But although he was caught by Hindley, Vincenzo Nibali (Astana-Qazaqstan) and Simon Yates (BikeExchange-Jayco), the gains he made over everyone else on GC was worth the effort — even if his inability to hold of their chase suggests he’s not in as superior compared to them as he might have hoped.
With the pink jersey now under their control, Ineos Grenadiers won’t want the upcoming stages to be anything like as chaotic as this one. But their lack of strength today, which led to Carapaz being isolated very early on, indicates they may not be able to control the race in the way they’d like, which, from a neutral point of view hoping for an entertaining final phase of the Giro, is a very good sign.
BORA-HANSGROHE DETONATE THE GC RACE FOR HINDLEY
There is one team to thank (or, from the riders’ point of view, blame) for the thrilling excitement of today’s stage — Bora-Hansgrohe.
The stage may well have just settled into a familiar rhythm of subdued racing among the GC riders and a stage win contested for by a breakaway had they not detonated a bomb during the stage.
It’d been clear from the form of Hindley, Emmanuel Buchmann, Wilco Kelderman and Lennard Kämna that they were the strongest team at the Giro in terms of climbing, and they put their strength in numbers to devastating use by blowing the race to pieces even before the riders reached the finishing circuit, where all the hardest climbs awaited.
Kelderman in particular was outstanding, setting a searing pace during a monster turn on the first lap of that circuit, happily playing the domestique role for Hindley, the same rider he teamed up with to such effect at the 2020 Giro (where they both finished on the podium behind Tao Geoghegan Hart).
The way Hindley bridged up to Carapaz on the final climb following the latter’s attack indicates that he’s the man most likely to threaten the pink jersey, especially as he is now second on GC at just 7 seconds.
And while Buchmann remains right up there on GC in seventh at 1-58, the team still has another card to play. Heartened by how this stage played out, Bora are sure to have more in store.
LOPEZ’S SPELL IN PINK FINALLY ENDS
There was a moment during this stage where it not only looked as though Juan Pedro López (Trek-Segafredo) would keep the pink jersey for another day, but that he might even be capable of defending it all the way to Verona.
After Kelderman finally finished his monster turn at the front during the second and last ascent of the Superga, four riders burst clear — Carapaz, Hindley, Nibali and, most surprisingly of all, López himself.
This came as a stark contrast to the Blockhaus climb, where he was distanced by all those riders and many more early on, and had to dig deep to keep the jersey by a matter of seconds. Suddenly he appeared capable of following the best climbers on the steepest of slopes.
However, it soon transpired that the Spaniard had overextended himself. After a handful of other GC riders bridged up to the quarter, and the attacks started again, this time López was the first to be ejected from the group, and suffered all the way to the finish from there.
He eventually arrived home over four minutes after Yates, meaning he slips all the way down from first to ninth on GC.
Still, it’s been a fine ten-day defence of the jersey, in which time the 24-year-old has endeared us all to him with his passion and commitment. With a top ten finish on GC still to fight for, his Giro isn’t done yet.
GC RACE STILL WIDE-OPEN
Carapaz and Hindley are now the frontrunners for the pink jersey, but despite all the drama that unfolded today, it’s still very tight at the top of GC, with multiple riders still harbouring dreams of winning.
Remarkably, considering how he was yet again constantly out the back of the group of favourites and appearing to be hanging on for dear life, João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) yet again limited his losses to a mere matter of seconds, and remains third on GC just 30 seconds behind Carapaz.
The Portuguese rider is starting to resemble the villain of a horror film who, however often he appears to have been vanquished, nightmarishly keeps coming back to life. With his favoured discipline of the time trial still to come, the others need to kill him off once and for all.
Although it wasn’t a great day for Bahrain-Victorious, with Mikel Landa and Pello Bilbao both not making the selection formed on the final climb, they still managed to consolidate their losses and keep themselves in contention. Landa is now fourth at 59 seconds and Bilbao sixth at 1-52, and Landa especially can take heart that he should be better suited to the longer, less punchy mountains to come — starting with tomorrow’s first excursion into the Alps.
And what of the Italian old guard of Nibali and Domenico Pozzovivo (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux), who continue to carry the top of a nation whose younger generation haven’t managed to replace them? Both wound back the clock today, with Nibali especially impressing by following the biggest moves and launching his own attacks on the climb, while Pozzovivio rode steadily behind to finish the stage in fifth.
While Pozzovivo remains right in the mix in fifth at 1-01, Nibali still has a lot of ground to make up having lost so much time way back on Mount Etna, but is creeping up the standings, and now lies eighth at 2-58 — which, it should be remembered, is less than the deficit he so dramatically overturned in the final three days of the 2016 Giro d’Italia to win the pink jersey. Don’t discount The Shark from doing something truly special in his final Giro d’Italia.
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Stephen Puddicombe is a freelance journalist for Cycling Weekly, who regularly contributes to our World Tour racing coverage with race reports, news stories, interviews and features. Outside of cycling, he also enjoys writing about film and TV - but you won't find much of that content embedded into his CW articles.
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