Well, we’ve finally hit the mountains at this year’s Giro d’Italia and yesterday’s proper trip towards the sky certainly shuffled the GC pack.
So, what have we learned from week two of the Corsa Rosa?
The pre-race trash talk from Simon Yates hasn’t exactly got his rivals sh*tting themselves just yet…
It’s fair to say that it’s not been the greatest week for Mitchelton Scott’s Brit.
He lost a heap of time to virtual race leader Primoz Roglic in the second time trial to San Marino and then shipped even more to the Slovenian and Vicenzo Nibali yesterday.Embed from Getty Images
Going into today’s short but extremely testing stage – which features 4,000m of elevation over just 130km – Yates sits back in 12th more than eight minutes down on pink jersey wearer Jan Polanc and more than six minutes back on Roglic.
The Colle San Carlo – a 10.4km climb which averages at 9.7% – looks to be the key moment of the race. The crest of the climb comes 25km from the end and anyone who falters on the uphill could lose a lot of time.
Yates’ director sportif Matt White admitted the Bury-born rider had suffered yesterday and if he doesn’t find his legs today then his Giro is all but over.
Job for Roglic not as straight forward as we perhaps thought?
The first big mountain stage yesterday – with three categorised climbs – perhaps exposed the first chink in Roglic’s armour after he was left a little isolated at times.
Having lost Laurens De Plus earlier in the race, it’s been left to young guns Sepp Kuss, Antwan Tolhoek and Koen Bouwman to guide and protect their leader.
We had a look at his mountain domestiques on Allez! Allez! CC yesterday and it’s clear to see that on paper – and we know bike races aren’t won on paper – they lack the experience of some of the other squads.Embed from Getty Images
And yesterday we saw Roglic isolated a couple of times with little in the way of protection as the race hit the long climb up to the finish at Ceresole Reale.
That said he crossed the line at the same time as his main rival (for the time being) Nibali and still holds a decent lead over the Italian and the rest of the GC hopefuls.
If he can get over the next couple of days without too much stress then he’ll get to the second rest day on Monday a happy man.
Nibali in the driving seat?
The flip side to the above view is that if Roglic isn’t able to get himself through today’s tough stage – and the slightly easier one tomorrow – then the rest day might look completely different on Monday.
The great Italian has kept Roglic in his sight and has even started to try and play mind games with the Jumbo Visma rider.
Twice he’s complained post-stage that Roglic is refusing to work and he admitted yesterday that he’d told the pre-race favourite that enough was enough.Embed from Getty Images
We know Nibali has plenty of pedigree in this race – he won it in 2013 and 2016 – but much of the attention has been on the battle between Roglic and Yates.
He sits a minute and 44 seconds behind Roglic but given his ability both up and down the mountains, and the perceived weakness of the Jumbo Visma squad – that time could be eaten up by the Shark of Messina over the next couple of stages if Roglic was to crack or find himself isolated.
Mixed fortunes for the new-look Team Ineos
It’s a bit strange to see Team Ineos – formerly Team Sky of course – not being the main focus of a Grand Tour.
With the loss of Egan Bernal to a broken collarbone just a week or so before the start of this Giro, it was always going to be a transition tour for the newly renamed team.
Tao Geoghegan Hart started superbly with a great run in the opening stage Time Trial in Bologna but a couple of crashes soon after meant he slid down the overall classification and was then forced to abandon the race altogether yesterday after hitting the deck again.Embed from Getty Images
There was better news for the British team yesterday though – Pavel Sivakov took the white jersey for the best young rider after another impressive performance.
The Italian-born, French-raised Russian is in his first Grand Tour but is clearly highly regarded by the bosses at Ineos.
And he showed why yesterday, pulling himself 10 places up the General Classification into ninth overall.
A top ten placing overall would be deemed a big success for Ineos and, having found his legs, you wouldn’t bet against Sivakov from delivering.
Katusha Alpecin fortunes finally change
After having had a difficult start to the season culminating in the departure of Marcel Kittel, the team finally had something to smile about yesterday.
Ilnur Zakarin claimed the team’s first World Tour win of the season and only their third this year overall.Embed from Getty Images
The Russian, winning his first race since the 2016 Tour de France, managed to drop Trek’s Bauke Mollema and then Mitchelton Scott’s Mikel Nieve in the final 5km and rode to the top of Ceresole Reale 35 seconds ahead of the latter.
The result also moved 29-year-old up to third overall, two minutes 56 second behind the pink jersey of Polanc but only 31 seconds behind Roglic.