The first big GC battle is behind us and one of the biggest GC favorites is sadly out of the fight for GC. Simon Yates lost 11m15s to Jai Hindley, the stage winner, and his aspirations to the maglia rosa are done. The British rider unfortunately wasn’t able to overcome a knee injury sustained during a crash on stage 4. He also cited the heat as a factor for his performance on the Blockhaus. Regardless, we wish all the best to this fantastic rider, and hopefully a stage victory as well in this Giro. His words yesterday, after the stage, weren’t encouraging regarding his continuation in the Giro but hopefully he’ll feel better after the rest day.
I apologize to Jai Hindley for not starting with his extraordinary stage win but Yates being out of the fight for GC does seem more impactful in terms of what’s left of this Giro. Very well, I’m still weary of saying that HIndley is back but he just won one of the hardest stages of this Giro. In impressive fashion too: reminiscent of Mark Cavendish’s sprint on stage 3. He was in front very early, gave it all he had, and nobody had the strength to go past him. Crazy! I would credit some of this victory to João Almeida, though. While fighting for his GC chances, the Portuguese dragged Hindley for a significant portion of the climb.
This is his first stage win in a Grand Tour since the 2020 Giro. 2021 was a difficult year for Hindley, where he suffered a lot with injury. It’s fantastic to see him back in action with a stage win in one of the most difficult mountain stages in the Giro. I will not back him to fight for the maglia rosa in Verona though. Last year, he opted out of the Vuelta in favor of shorter races, where recovery is easier. While this was during a difficult period for the rider in terms of injuries, it’s very hard to come back from that straight to Grand Tour contention.
I could write almost exactly the same thing for his teammate, Emmanuel Buchmann. Another very unlucky rider since his 4th place in the 2019 Tour, the German’s 2021 was marred by crashes and injuries. He was 7th on yesterday’s stage and now lies 9th in GC, 1m09s from the pink jersey. Let’s see if he can sustain this level until the end of the Giro but it seems premature to put him in the fight for the podium when he hasn’t put together three weeks at a high level in nearly 3 years.
The veterans – Domenico Pozzovivo, Vincenzo Nibali & Alejandro Valverde
Not many people would have bet on all three riders to finish the Blockhaus in the top-10 but they did. Pozzovivo’s performance, especially, was exceptional. He was with the favorites throughout the whole climb and came in a mere 3 seconds down on them at the finish. Crazy for a rider that started the season without a contract.
Interestingly, all of these 3 riders’ last important placement in the GC of Grand Tours came in 2020: Pozzovivo was 11th in the Giro, Nibali 7th, and Valverde 10th in the Vuelta. It wouldn’t be consistent to back these three riders to finish this Giro in the top-10 when I don’t back Hindley or Buchmann to fight for the Giro. These are three great stories but, ultimately, all of these riders should probably be hunting for stages at this point of their careers. I can’t see them recovering well, day after day, during the hellish 3rd week that awaits the riders.
Juan Pedro López
I backed the Spaniard for a top-10 overall at the start of the Giro so I’m not really surprised by what he is doing. The Blockhaus is an incredibly difficult climb and the fact that he was able to retain his maglia rosa is great news for himself and for his team. This probably makes the Giro for Trek Segafredo given that they will probably hold on to the leader’s jersey for at least 2, maybe 5 more days, until we reach the climax of the race.
He would certainly like more time trial kilometers but he’s proving himself to be a great climber as well. 10th on the Blockhaus is incredible for the 22-year old Dutchman. HIs podium place in the Tour of the Alps (won by his teammate Romain Bardet) was certainly not a fluke. Let’s see if he can keep up this level (he has never performed well for 3 weeks straight) and if he will have the opportunity to race for himself or if he’ll be put at the service of Bardet when the third week comes.
He finished the stage behind the maglia rosa, in 16th place, which is not so bad. The problem is that he lost nearly 4 minutes to the favorites. This likely takes the British rider out of the fight for the podium. The top-10 is still in play, though.
After reentering the GC equation with the breakaway on stage 7, they once again took themselves out of it, maybe definitely. Koen Bouwman will now likely fight for the mountains’ jersey. Tom Dumoulin for a stage win. And Sam Oomen for a place inside the top-15. The latter is the team’s best placed rider in 20th, 7m21s behind the race leader. It’s not impossible that the team manages a top-10 if Oomen or Bouwman can insert themselves in a successful breakaway, but it doesn’t seem likely. Bouwman finishing the Giro with the blue jersey, however, seems highly probable.
I wrote that the Colombian is running out of time to establish himself as one of the premier climbers in the peloton. Ineos already gave up on him. He is just 24 years old but plenty of time has already passed since 2018 (his breakout year) without any progress shown on the road. He had a perfect opportunity to lead the team in the GC in this Giro but he didn’t start well yesterday. Valverde was better than him and he’s already 4m30s out of the top-10. He can still make it back but it doesn’t seem likely after yesterday’s performance.
Bad luck (he had to change bikes twice on the descent leading up to the Blockhaus) and a lack of preparation for the Giro cost Kelderman 11m02s on yesterday’s stage. A crash in the Liege Bastogne Liege derailed his preparation for the Italian Grand Tour and mechanical problems on the descent of the Passo Lanciano sealed the Dutchman’s fate. His words were still hopeful after the stage stating that it’s time to work for his teammates that are in better shape than himself.
Stage 10 Preview
This will not end in a bunch sprint. The Monsano climb is located a mere 8km from the finish and, while not really steep, it is long enough and steep enough to distance the pure sprinters. 4.2km at 4.2% is plenty, especially given that after the climb, it is downhill to the finish.
Much like stage 8, my picks are Mathieu Van Der Poel and Biniam Girmay. I will once again back the Eritrean to win because he seems faster than the Dutchman. And I doubt that Van Der Poel will be able to shake him before the finish.
Now, once again, the riders must be smart. This is not a classic race, where you can rest up in advance and make sure you hit it full gas. After 9 stages fatigue begins to get a hold of the riders and pre-race favorite status means less and less the more we get into the Giro.
On the plus side for Alpecin Fenix and Intermarche Wanty Gobert, stage 10 is much easier to control than stage 8 would have been. The first 100km of tomorrow’s route are flat unlike what happened on Saturday. It might be difficult for two teams to control the race by themselves, especially because more and more teams are interested in getting into breakaways. There is no harm in inserting yourself in a breakaway again if you’re Van Der Poel or Girmay but both riders must bring backup if that’s what they choose to do. Otherwise we’ll just have a repeat of stage 8.