A wonderful stage with a profile reminiscent of classic race was won by a Belgian. Fitting. Thomas de Gendt was the strongest of the breakaway and took home his second stage win in the Giro, the first for Lotto Soudal in the 2022 edition of the Italian Grand Tour.
Mathieu Van Der Poel and Biniam Girmay decided to get themselves into the breakaway instead of relying on their teams to manage the race for them. It would have not been easy to control a stage like this with a lot of short climbs, but, in my opinion, it would have provided a much better path to victory for both riders. They would be the favorites inside of the peloton but were simply two more riders inside of a 21-rider breakaway.
Van Der Poel was actually the one who attacked when there were 45km to go, igniting the winning move. Obviously his breakaway companions, aware of the danger, didn’t let him go in front by himself. But soon after his attack (around 40km to go) the winning move happened. That group consisted of Davide Gabburo (Bardiani CSF Faizanè), Jorge Arcas (Movistar), Thomas De Gendt and Harm Vanhoucke (Lotto Soudal), and Simone Ravanelli (Drone Hopper-Androni Giocattoli). The latter was soon dropped from the leading group.
The four riders that would fight for the stage win were set. De Gendt and Vanhoucke worked hard to prevent the chasing group (which included Van Der Poel and Girmay) from catching up. They were successful and at the end De Gendt told Vanhoucke to work in front because he was the fastest in that group. He did and he was. De Gendt wins his second ever stage in the Giro, the first in 10 years. He last won a stage here in 2012, the same year he finished this race on the podium, in third place. That stage finished atop the legendary Stelvio pass. From the Stelvio to the Napolitan shore, De Gendt is successful again in the Giro.
After working a lot for Ewan and enduring a lot of bad luck with the Australian sprinter, Lotto can finally smile. They have their stage win! A much deserved one, too. Additionally, as discussed on another post De Gendt’s win and Vanhoucke’s 4th place give the Belgian team some much needed UCI points. This system doesn’t make much sense to me but the fact is that it’s the one in place. Hopefully, an iconic team like Lotto can remain at the highest level of cycling.
Mathieu Van Der Poel & Biniam Girmay
They gambled on going in front and winning the stage from the breakaway. They weren’t successful. They had no teammates in the breakaway to protect them and were at the mercy of their breakaway companions. The stage profile, while resembling some one-day races, was not hard enough to put all of their breakaway colleagues in difficulties. I think they miscalculated how the stage was going to play out by inserting themselves in such a large break. Girmay, at least, still got 26 points out of this stage for the points’ classification. He is now 27 behind Demare (147 vs 120).
Fixing poor early performances in the mountains with an unexpected breakaway seems to be the Frenchman’s speciality. As I said before the Giro started, I don’t think Martin will be successful in getting to the top-10 of this Giro. The competition is too strong and I doubt the commitment of the French rider to this Giro when the Tour is just 6 weeks away. On the other hand, after today’s gains he just moved up to 4th, in front of every single one of the pre-race favorites to the pink jersey. He is 36 seconds in front of Simon Yates, the first of the favorites.
Bardiani CSF Faizane
Finally, there’s a glimpse of the Italian team. They mentioned they were waiting for the race to come to Italy to make their moves. Maybe their sponsors didn’t get the feed from the Hungarian stages so they weren’t important to them, who knows. After trying and failing yesterday they were successful today. Not only in being part of the breakaway but they were also there when the stage was decided, taking 2nd place. I was hard on them for being anonymous for 90% of this Giro so far, but hopefully this result motivates all the wildcard teams to go out there, make the race fun, show off their sponsors and maybe even get a stage win. I’m certainly rooting for them.
Stage 9 Preview
Tomorrow the battle for the general classification (GC) begins. The Passo Lanciano (10.3km at 7.6%) will destroy the peloton, and the Blockhaus (13.6km at 8.4%) will make sure that only the main GC contenders are left standing. They are both labeled 1st category but the Blockhaus at least would be hors categorie in the Tour de France.
It will be a great occasion for someone that aspires to win the blue jersey at the end of the Giro to go in front. It is quite frankly the last mountain jersey worthy day for like a week. Interestingly, there is no way the peloton is letting Koen Bouwman (the current leader) or Lennard Kamna (2nd) go in front looking for mountains’ points. They’re too well placed in GC for that.
Davide Formolo and Bauke Mollema are 4th and 5th, respectively, and might have individual aspirations to win the mountains’ jersey but I can’t conceive of a world where their team managers don’t have them working or their team leaders. This leaves 3rd placed, Wout Poels. He was in front again today so it might be too tall a task to ask him to go for the mountains’ points tomorrow. But he is the only one that will have the liberty to do so. We’ll have to wait for tomorrow to see how that fight goes.
In terms of GC, I don’t think Ineos or the other teams with GC aspiration will allow a breakaway to be successful. This is the only summit finish until stage 15 and the first since stage 4. The teams shouldn’t be excessively fatigued and their leader will be itching for a chance to make differences. For this, I don’t see the break winning tomorrow. Therefore, the question is: which favorites are in better shape? Ineos does seem to have boundless confidence in Carapaz. Yates won the stage 2 time trial with authority. Did he peak too soon though? Almeida hasn’t made any mistakes so far and is right in the thick of things too. I will back Simon Yates to win tomorrow. The Brit won the time trial in a way I never thought possible. He isn’t worse than Carapaz in anything, if he’s in shape. I find it boring to back Carapaz given all the help he has, so Yates seems like the logical choice.