The first day in the mountains of the decisive third week of the 2022 Giro gave us a promising, albeit not very impactful outcome. Jan Hirt, of Intermarche Wanty Gobert won the second stage for the Belgian team in this year’s edition of the Italian Grand Tour (GT), after Biniam Girmay won stage 10. Hirt and Thymen Arensman (DSM) were the sole survivors from a big breakaway that included former stage winner Simon Yates (BikeExchange), Giulio Ciccone (Trek Segafredo), and current blue jersey, Koen Bouwman (Jumbo Visma), just to mention a few.
Hirt and Arensman went clear in the days’ final climb, with the Czech rider reaching the summit 15 seconds in front of the rider from DSM. With only 6, mostly downhill, kilometers to go, the biggest victory of Jan Hirt’s career was sealed. The 31-year-old has enjoyed a superb 2022, so far, winning a stage and the overall general classification (GC) of the Tour of Oman and now winning one of the toughest stages in this edition of the Giro.
Grade A – Thymen Arensman (DSM)
DSM is back in this Giro despite losing their undisputed leader, Romain Bardet. All thanks to the young Dutchman. Despite failing to win the stage, Arensman is now a mere minute and 19 seconds behind Alejandro Valverde, for 10th place. After losing their leader, coming out of this Giro with a top-10 and a brilliant stage win by Alberto Dainese, would be amazing for the Dutch squad.
Grade B – Bahrain Victorious
This is more a grade for the riders than for the team managers. The work the Bahraini team did on the Valico di Santa Cristina was incredible. In the end, Landa did not fully take advantage of this. He did get 14 seconds on Almeida. Too little for the work his team put in, in my opinion. The Spaniard will have to find time somewhere if he wants to get on the podium because he is probably the weakest of the four podium contenders in the time trial.
For the team managers, I question working so hard in front of the race when presumably they knew that Pello Bilbao wouldn’t be able to keep up. There is still plenty of Giro to go and Bilbao being 1m52s down on the pink jersey was probably more valuable to the team than Landa getting 14 seconds on Almeida, while, at the same time, putting Bilbao nearly 4 minutes down. Bahrain just burned one important strategic card for the 3 high mountain stages for 14 seconds.
Grade C – Jai Hindley (Bora Hansgrohe)
The Australian continues to surprise me, for sure. His grip on 2nd place is getting stronger and stronger. The pink jersey, however, is getting further and further away. He did get a bonus 4 seconds on Carapaz. Too little to actually threaten the Ecuatorian’s pink jersey.
Grade D – João Almeida (UAE)
He hangs on and hangs on but always keeps losing time. He’s (by far) the best time trialist of the 4 podium contenders but if he keeps losing 15 seconds on every mountain stage he might not even get enough time back on Jai Hindley, for second place. Him and Carapaz have been the most consistent performers during the past two years, but the Portuguese, little by little, keeps digging a hole he won’t be able to get himself out of.
Grade E – Guillaume Martin (Cofidis)
I never thought he would be able to finish top-10 in this Giro, but the fact is that he was there. He even spent some time in the breakaway yesterday before his freefall in the GC. He finished the stage more than 19 minutes down on Jan Hirt and is now nearly 26 minutes down on the pink jersey (15 on the top-10).
Grade F – UAE Team Emirates
The decision to bring Fernando Gaviria to the Giro was a disaster. The Emirati team looked at their Tour lineup and decided that Majka alone wasn’t enough to support Pogacar. So they went out and heavily bolstered the team’s ability to be with the Slovenian champion on the mountains. Excellent strategic move.
At the same time, they give João Almeida, a legitimate GT contender, Davide Formolo, Diego Ulissi, and Rui Costa. Formolo rode for himself during a large portion of this Giro. Neither him nor Ulissi, or Costa have the ability or the form to be up there with the favorites and help their leader. Everybody knew that before the Giro. So while Carapaz has Sivakov, Castroviejo and Porte, Hindley has Kelderman, Kamna and Buchmann, Landa has Buitrago, Poels, and Bilbao, Almeida has nobody.
Stage 17 Preview
Yesterday’s stage was tough because of its length and the amount of climbing the riders had to go through. Today’s stage is tough because it comes after yesterday’s and how steep the final climb is. It’s 8km at 10%. After 17 days of racing this will make a huge difference.
I would back a breakaway to be successful: the stage is shorter and difficult to control, so no team should really be interested in doing so.
I also expect some surprises in the GC, with some riders that have been benefiting from the plentiful opportunities to recover after the hard mountain stages, probably losing time today.
My pick for today is BikeExchange’s Lucas Hamilton. He is still hanging on in the GC, currently in 13th place (8 minutes away from 10th), but he’ll need a breakaway to get into the top-10. He’s shown he’s in form and I reckon today is the best for him to try and get in the breakaway, win the stage and insert himself in contention for the top-10.