Giro d’Italia: Five things we learned from week one of the Corsa Rosa

With the first week of the 102nd Giro d’Italia all but done and dusted, we take a look back at what we’ve learned about the battle for the Maglia Rosa – and the rest of the jerseys – from the first seven days.

This summer’s Tour de France has suddenly got a whole lot more interesting…

It may seem strange to already be talking about the Tour de France but the departure of Tom Dumoulin just over a kilometre into the fifth stage means we have to.

Dumoulin had originally planned to target this summer’s Tour but decided to take a detour to Italy – a country he’s frequently confessed his love for – after seeing the respective routes.

His crash on stage four, which left him with a nasty looking knee wound, meant that despite his valiant effort to start the day after, he couldn’t continue much beyond the neutralised zone.

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It’s a shame not only for Dumoulin and the Dutch press corps – many of whom are following their poster boy and exiting the Giro early – but also for the race itself.

That said, it may end up being a blessing in disguise for the Dutchman, who can now concentrate his efforts on getting to Paris in yellow in July.

He finished second to Chris Froome in the Giro and second to Geraint Thomas in the Tour last time out and with both seemingly going for the success in France this summer, it’ll be interesting to see how Dumoulin does this time around.

Throw Team Ineos’ Egan Bernal into the mix and you have a very complicated, some would say almost Movistar-like, leadership battle.

Could not flogging himself around the mountains of Italy prove to be an unexpected boost for the Team Sunweb star? Only time will tell…

The battle for the Maglia Rosa is still to ignite

Despite the drama of the crashes, the horrendous weather and the big-name departures, it’s fair to say that the battle for the main prize – the pink leader’s jersey – hasn’t really got going yet.

Yes, pre-race favourite Primoz Roglic has been in Maglia Rosa already but he was more than happy to hand it over on stage six and with it taking away all the pressure that being race leader brings.

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Valerio Conti was the grateful recipient and he’s probably expected to keep it for the next few days before the GC boys decide the battle is on.

Roglic – who’s a former ski jumper you know! – is expected to put some time into his rivals on tomorrow’s time trial into San Marino but the gaps won’t be so big that it’s a foregone conclusion.

The departure of Dumoulin probably means it’s a three-horse race now between Roglic, Simon Yates and Vicenzo Nibali although Miguel Angel Lopez shouldn’t be discounted either.

The likes of Mikel Landa and Rafal Majka are probably already too far back to be contenders but we’ll only really find out once the Giro hits the mountains.

Doping controversies in cycling haven’t REALLY gone away…

The first week has already seen two riders – and one director sportif – sent packing as the Giro once again is beset with doping controversary.

Two years ago on the eve of the Grande Partenza two Bardiani riders, Nicola Ruffoni and Stefano Pirazzi, were eliminated before a pedal had even been turned thanks to out-of-competition positive tests.

This year we’ve seen two separate incidents in the opening seven days.

First, on Tuesday, UAE Team Emirates announced it was withdrawing the Colombian Juan Sebastian Malano from the race after he returned “unusual physiological results” in internal testing.

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Then 24 hours later, the repercussions of the ongoing Operation Aderlass arrived at the Giro’s door.

Slovenian rider Kristijan Koren, now riding for Nibali’s Bahrain Merida team, and his sports director and compatriot Borut Bozic were given the boot after the UCI announced it was provisionally suspending them from cycling.

Retired rider Alessandro Petacchi – working as a pundit on the Giro – was also given a UCI suspension along with another UAE Team Emirates rider Kristijan Durasek, who was until that point riding for the team in the Tour of California.

All the suspensions relate to prohibited activity between 2012 and 2017 according to the authorities.

What started out as an investigation into doping in Nordic skiing soon reached the shores of the cycling world.

Austrian cyclists Georg Preidler and Stefan Denifl were provisionally suspended in March and since then rumours have swirled as to who might be caught next in the net.

The inquiry, led by Austrian authorities, is looking into blood doping, a process where athletes have blood transfusions to increase their stamina and performance, which is prohibited under World Anti-Doping Agency regulations.

The Italians are beginning to find their pace

It may have taken six stages for the Italians to taste victory for the first time in this year’s Giro but it does mean the nation that appears to struggle with it’s identity within the modern peloton does have the albatross off its back.

Not only did Fausto Masnada win the sixth stage into San Giovanni Rotondo, but Conti moved into the pink jersey and will probably hold onto it for the next few days (barring a disaster in tomorrow’s time trial of course).

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The Italians also lead the mountain and young rider classifications with Guilio Cicconne of Trek-Segafredo in blue KOM jersey and Bardiani CSF’s Giovanni Carboni in the white jersey.

We shouldn’t forget Nibabli either; he sits in a ‘virtual’ third of the proper GC contenders behind Roglic and Yates and we’re sure to see him come to the fore again when the battle for pink really gets underway towards the end of next week.

And finally, never bring a dog to a bike race…

Thankfully the trend of seeing dogs dart out onto the parcour during key moments in races tends to be a fading one.

But on stage six, a stray cane (that’s Italian for dog by the way) almost came a cropper at the top of the final climb.

Only some nifty bike-handling from stage winner Masnada and soon-to-be race leader Conti stopped a disaster from occurring.

Marshalls had the dog back under control, thankfully, by the time the chasing pack and the peloton rolled through.

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