Finally!!! Biniam Girmay is a Grand Tour (GT) stage winner. Not that he’s late by any means – this is his first GT after all. But, at least for me, the inevitability that he would eventually win a stage made it seem like he had gone ages without winning a stage in a GT.
Intermarche Wanty Gobert and Alpecin Fenix went back to the drawing board after stage 8 and thankfully (for them) got it right on stage 10. To be fair this stage was much easier to control. Way less hilly during the first half. The fact that the break of the day was composed of only 3 riders also helped both of those teams.
A special word is reserved to Domenico Pozzovivo, Girmay’s teammate: when it looked like nobody would take control of the peloton during the second half of the Monsano and attacks were inbound, Pozzovivo, even though he is well placed in the general classification (GC), assumed the head of the group and kept it together so Girmay had the chance to sprint for the stage win. Had this not happened I believe someone would have gotten enough of an advantage to deny the rest of the peloton the chance to fight for victory.
Iconic victory by a fantastic rider. The sky’s the limit for him but, at the same time, he still has a lot to develop to truly enter the upper echelon of all-terrain riders. Ironically, he beat Mathieu Van Der Poel for the stage win who is clearly one of those riders. Girmay certainly benefited from the fact that Van Der Poel (as usual) overextended himself over the past 10km trying to catch up to several attacks. And also from the fact that he had three teammates to Van Der Poel’s zero. And that the last climb was just hard enough to distance all sprinters faster than himself but not hard enough to distance himself.
A pretty special combination of scenarios that, in my opinion, do not take any shine off of Girmay’s fantastic victory. He is without a doubt one of the best (barely) 22-year-olds cycling has ever seen.
For as much as Pozzovivo’s job was amazing I can’t comprehend how Intermache didn’t immediately take over control of the peloton after the climb. Had it not been for Van Der Poel overextending himself it is likely one of the many attacks would have succeeded. Let’s be honest, for as much as Pozzovivo and Hirt put forth fantastic performances on the Blockhaus, it is very unlikely they will finish the Giro in the top-10. Their GC hopes mean nothing compared to the likely (as he showed) stage win Biniam Girmay would achieve if they brought everybody together to the line.
Mathieu Van Der Poel
Once again he overextended himself out of fear of losing the stage. I don’t understand how he didn’t just sit in the peloton and force Intermarche to work. They outnumbered him 4 to 1 after all. But then again, I don’t have 1% of his skill. Sadly (for him), he couldn’t overcome his constant attacks on the way to the line. It would have already been difficult for him to beat Girmay in a sprint. After all the work he did on the leadup to the finish – impossible.
Lennard Kamna & Ivan Sosa
Anybody that thought that Kamna was here to fight for the top-10 was proven wrong today. He lost more than 5 minutes today, falling from 15th to 19th on GC – from roughly 3 minutes down on the pink jersey to over 8.
For all his talent, I think everybody can give up on Ivan Sosa as well. He lost over a minute to the stage winner today. Frankly unacceptable for anybody with any kind of GC ambitions.
Stage 11 Preview
The first of the final three flat stages (the other being 13th and 18th) should come down to a sprint finish. The final straight is only 350 meters long, so positioning at the last left bend will be important.
I would pick one of the usual suspects to win it. Cavendish and Ewan have performed similarly, quite frankly. Obviously Cav has a stage win which dramatically changes how we’ll perceive each of their Giro performances at the end of the race. But for the purposes of picking tomorrow’s winner it matters very little. Ewan loss was by millimeters, anyway.
I’m a big believer in picking somebody until they prove me wrong. I picked Ewan in the beginning because I believe he is the best sprinter in the peloton. If not the best, certainly the most reliable. Not, however, after constantly being the first sprinter to be distanced I can’t stay with him anymore. Cav is missing Morkov, his main leadout man. After what we’ve already been through in the Giro I don’t know if he’ll be able to overcome that.
Girmay is too slow versus the pure sprinters. Van Der Poel will probably not even attempt the sprint. Gaviria needs to show that his form is back which he hasn’t done in years.
Arnaud Demare is my pick for tomorrow. The Frenchman has already won two stages. He is constantly fighting to stay in the peloton when the road gets steeper, usually valiantly. Even though he was distanced today, he arrived inside of the second group, which isn’t bad for a sprinter like him. He’s in form, has a team that’s built for him and will win tomorrow’s stage!