Santiago Buitrago, a young Colombian rider that interestingly wasn’t brought to Europe by Gianni Savio and Androni. His career as a pro rider has been done solely under Bahrain and yesterday he rewarded the Bahraini team with his first ever Grand Tour win, and Bahrain’s own first stage win in the 2022 Giro.
The fashion in which he did it was impressive too. After crashing earlier in the stage and fighting hard to get in the breakaway, he saw Mathieu Van Der Poel (Alpecin Fenix) and Gijs Leemreize (Jumbo Visma) escape the front group on the descent of the penultimate climb. He stayed calm even as the Dutch duo in front extended their lead to a minute and a half. Already on the hell-ish final climb (8km at 10%) he attacked at the perfect time to go by Leemreize with roughly 500 meters to go on that climb. From then on he just had to manage his victory during the 8kmbetween the final summit and the finish line. It was an incredible combination of climbing ability and racing intelligence that won the race for Buitrago.
Among the pros, Santiago Buitrago’s only win before yesterday had been a stage in the Saudi Tour, earlier this year. He finished that race in 2nd place behind Lotto Soudal’s Maxim Van Gils. The 22 year old Colombian also had accumulated some good results last year such as the 8th place in the general classification (GC) of the Vuelta a Burgos or the 10th in the Tour of Hungary. 2022, though, seems to be the year of his confirmation as a top rider after the aforementioned 2nd place in Saudi Arabia along with the 8th in the Tour of Alps. Coupling that with his performances in this Giro (where he was already 2nd to Giulio Ciccone on stage 15) and it seems clear that we’ll hear of this rider for many years to come.
Grade A – Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers)
Make no mistake: all three podium-placed riders are happy with the way things are right now. That’s why Landa kept pace instead of attacking Carapaz yesterday. That’s why Hindley hasn’t moved from Carapaz’s wheel at all this Giro. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I do not recall a GT where the leader has had a more peaceful time than Carapaz right here. Even Vingegaard attacked Poagacar in last year’s Tour.
I shouldn’t even say that he seems like the strongest rider in the bunch because he really hasn’t been tested. Still, it does seem to me that the Ecuadorian is the strongest and will deserve his eventual victory.
Grade B – Juan Pedro Lopez (Trek Segafredo)
After losing his pink jersey it’d be easy to quit and lose minutes upon minutes. I think the Spaniard understands the value of a top-10 and how great it would be for Trek to pair it with a stage win and 10 days in pink.
Grade C – Mikel Landa (Bahrain Victorious)
I think a second podium in a GT would cement Landa’s career. He knows that he probably can’t touch HIndley and Carapaz and that his team seems like the strongest in the Giro. They’ll carry him to the podium like they did Jack Haig in last year’s Vuelta.
Grade D – Domenico Pozzovivo (Intermarche Wanty Gobert) & Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)
In the end the constant mountain stages would inevitably take a toll on the veterans of this Giro. Nibali is proving me wrong every step of the way so far, even if he also had a less than stellar performance yesterday. Let’s see if he can hang on to a top-10 place on Friday and Saturday.
Grade E – Thymen Arensman (DSM)
Yesterday I put him at the top because I thought he would make a push to get into the top-10 but yesterday I heard that he would rather fight for a stage win than secure a top-10 place. Let me get this straight, a 22 year old rider would rather sacrifice a relatively likely top-10 place in a Grand Tour for the small chance he might win one of the three remaining realistic stages for him to win? You’d think we’re talking about a supremely decorated rider like Simon Yates or Alejandro Valverde, for whom a 10th place in GC of a GT doesn’t mean much in the context of their careers.
But for Arensman? Who has done nothing in pro cycling? Hunting for a stage win instead of looking for a defining result in his young career is… I don’t have words.
Grade F – João Almeida (UAE)
Outside of a miracle on stages 19 or 20, he’s out of the fight for pink. He did seem like the weakest of the four contenders on the mountains. I was constantly hoping for him to show the same 3rd week form as he did last year but that seemingly will not happen. Of course it’s difficult to fight three riders with so much better teams than yours but still – I thought he was 1B to Carapaz’s 1A and he hasn’t shown it.
Stage 18 Preview
Flat stage. I think everything will come down to a sprint finish. There’s a reason why sprinters like Mark Cavendish, Alberto Dainese, Phil Bauhaus, and Simone Consonni are still here despite the enormous mountain difficulties they have faced. It’s certainly not for the Passo Pordoi on Saturday. Arnaud Demare and Groupama FDJ will win today. The French sprinter seems the fastest since his first victory on stage 5 and his team is still complete, with 8 riders. They are simply concerned with bringing their sprinter to Verona on Sunday so they’ll win the maglia ciclamino. And winning the stage today. I think they’ll do both.