The Giro d’Italia may not have quite lived up to expectations but in Richard Carapaz we did get our first non-British Grand Tour winner since the 2017 edition.
But what did we actually learn about the riders – and in some cases teams – who went to Italy with high hopes and came away empty-handed or with little to show for three weeks of pain?
Before long attention will turn to the Tour de France but before it does, here’s five things we learned from the last three weeks of racing.
Richard Carapaz won at a canter
We don’t want to take anything away from the 26-year-old Ecuadorian but, having got himself into the Maglia Rosa on stage 14, he never really looked like letting it go.
Vicenzo Nibali tried valiantly but couldn’t seem to find the right time to put in any sort of attack that would unseat the Movistar rider from the top of the pile while pre-race favourite Primoz Roglic lacked the team and Simon Yates lacked, well, something at crucial times.
There’s no doubting Carapaz’s talent – he was fourth 12 months ago on his Giro debut – but we can’t help thinking that at the business end of the race, the route, the weather and everything in between worked completely in his favourite.
It’s Movistar’s first Giro win for five years and you have to say that despite all we’ve said above, they did ride the perfect race. Except perhaps Mikel Landa being able to keep on to his podium spot of course.
Jumbo Visma have some big decisions to make
The Dutch team have made great strides over the last couple of years to get Roglic into a position where he was favourite to win a Grand Tour.
But their lack of strength in depth was clear for all to see within a few days of the Giro rolling out of Bologna.
Deprived of Robert Gesink before the Giro started – and Laurens De Plus during the first week – meant the Slovenian was left very isolated as soon as the race hit the mountains.Embed from Getty Images
There’s no doubting that his trio of domestiques – Sepp Kuss, Antwan Tolhoek and Koen Bouwman – are talented riders but the lack of big match experience really showed, especially given the fact that Roglic himself has only been riding for the last five years.
Whilst it’s fair to say that the loss of Gesink and De Plus were both out of Jumbo Visma’s hands, the lack of alternatives in that situation is something that they need to address if Roglic is going to win them a Grand Tour.
They’ll be a few riders looking for a fresh challenge come August 1 and the team need to strike fast to secure the talent needed to match the hard work they’ve already put in.
The route turned out to be a bit of a damp squib
Back loading all the tough mountains into the second half of the race was probably always going to create a bit of dull opening with riders keen to save energy ahead of the hills.
But the terrible weather we saw heightened the stress levels for much of the first part which meant many of the riders were frazzled by the time they came to big mountain stages.Embed from Getty Images
The loss of the Gavia due to snow meant that we were probably also deprived of a stage where someone could have perhaps made a crucial move to shake up the GC.
Race director Mauro Vegni won’t admit it publicly but this Giro, in terms of excitement, doesn’t rank very high when we look at the last 15-20 years.
That said, it did provide us with some surprise stage winners and, on some days, the perfect excuse to get stuff done in the background knowing we weren’t going to miss much until the final 20 to 30 kilometres.
Next year the race starts in Hungary so it’ll be interesting to see what Vegni has planned.
Some teams barely registered a mention so… is it time for a rethink on which teams ride?
Whilst the three Italian wildcard teams – Bardinani, Androni and Nippo Vini Fantini – all enjoyed relatively successful Giros, with a couple of stage wins shared amongst them, for a few of the World Tour teams it was a three-week training ride.
Team Dimension Data were barely visible at all – we actually forgot they were riding at one point – while CCC only really popped up in the odd break towards the end of the race.
Likewise, Team Sunweb’s Chad Haga won the final stage time trial but the Dutch team were nearly non-existent until then after the loss of leader Tom Dumoulin just one kilometre into stage four.Embed from Getty Images
With the changes to the UCI rules over who gets an invite to Grand Tours meaning the three Italian squads may find their chances limited in the future, is it time for a complete overhaul of the system which would also put World Tour teams’ spots a risk?
There’s been so much controversy over wild card selections at the Grand Tours for years and the reforms are hoping to make the process more transparent but as long as World Tour teams are guaranteed a spot, you’ll have teams turning up and contributing nothing or very little to the spectacle.
I’m sure none of the World Tour teams would back any move which deprives them of an automatic place but there needs to be some ‘incentive’ to animate the race. Maybe the carrot and stick approach would work best…
Simon Yates will now probably focus on retaining his Vuelta a España title
Yates came into the Giro in a bullish mood, wanting to right the wrongs of last year’s late capitulation.
His pre-race trash talk game was hot but, after a promising, start his Giro once again unravelled, first on the second time trial and then on the first proper mountain stage.
He finished eighth in the end and while most people would consider a top ten finish something to be pleased about, the Bury rider described it as ‘heart-breaking’ but has been unable to pinpoint exactly why things went so badly when they did.Embed from Getty Images
His brother Adam looks like he’ll be heading to the Tour de France so that leaves the Vuelta later in the year as Simon’s shot at redemption once again.
If he can shake off the disappointment of this Giro then there’s no reason why he can’t target the final Grand Tour and be confident of repeating last year’s feat.
He’s already said he’ll return to the Giro to try and crack what is fast becoming his nemesis and doing so with another Grand Tour win under his belt will surely increase the confidence levels.
Main image courtesy of BettiniPhoto/Team Movistar