As the first week of the Giro reaches its conclusion, some riders have already seen their general classification hopes dashed.
Some have shipped time, while others have been ruled out of the race entirely through crashes. And yet some more have seen their aspirations for pink enhanced or harmed by the dropping out of rivals within their own teams.
Ahead of a first proper weekend in the mountains, with Stage eight serving as an aperitivo for the main mountainous meal on Sunday, the race is beautifully poised.
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If there were any doubts about Egan Bernal’s condition, they are long gone now. The Colombian has not put one foot wrong – and showed why he was among the top pre-race favourites despite not racing for over a month before Il Giro on stage five, where he led home the GC men behind stage winner Gino Mäder.
Ineos has lost its other leader, Pavel Sivakov, to a crash involving a tree on the roadside – and this leaves Bernal without a powerful ally, but it also removes any hint of conflict about who is the out-and-out leader in the team. Ineos, one rider down, can nevertheless focus all their efforts around Bernal, now. Expect to see him attack the other favourites, possibly not tomorrow, but certainly on Sunday. He has plenty to gain by making the race as hard as possible, and a fearsome team to leverage against his rivals.
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Another rider who came in as a co-leader and has emerged as the top dog is debutant, Remco Evenepoel. João Almeida who wore the maglia rosa for two weeks last year has tumbled out of contention on stage four, and will now ride wholly in support of Evenepoel. The Belgian, meanwhile, has shown no sign of weakness, at least not since his slight underperformance in the opening time trial. He has admitted himself that he is untested over three weeks, but the first signs are good. If a Grand Tour winner is the one who makes fewest mistakes across a whole month of racing, then Evenepoel is showing he has a knack for the medium. Evenepoel should conserve what he can this weekend as he edges closer to the unknown of a second week of stage racing – but the biggest challenge he may face is overcoming his temptation to attack.
Atilla Valter is a surprising, but not undeserving leader of the race. Not a contender for the overall that anyone expected, but he is climbing beautifully and seems serious about defending they jersey deep into the month of May. He should probably follow the moves over the next couple of days and – if he can – will find himself still in pink on the first rest day, Tuesday.
Moving onto riders with a cause for disappointment, and its hard to look beyond the team of Jumbo-Visma. They have, in a single climb, lost both their leader and their best backup plan for the GC, George Bennett and Tobias Foss respectively. While Bennett suffered in the rain on stages four and six, Foss was sent back to wait for and help the Kiwi on the first of those days. Had Foss not done so, he would be leading the race right now – he sits 1’53” down tonight, but lost more than three minutes helping Bennett limp home. Foss is not totally out of this yet, of course. The Norwegian super-talent is the best TTer of the general classification men, beaten only by the awesome Ganna and his teammate Affini on the opening day. If he can claw his way back up the GC, he could well be a factor in the deciding ITT on 30 May – don’t be surprised if he gets involved in the attacks on Sunday.
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Bahrain-Victorious’ hopes of winning the race are up in smoke with the withdrawal through injury of Mikel Landa. That is a great shame, because the rest of that team appears to be firing on all cylinders – Mäder’s stage win stands as perfect testament to that. Pello Bilbao is still notionally ‘in’ the GC fight, but expect him to slip away in the coming days. There are plenty of stage wins out there for Bahrain, and they have the personnel here at the Giro to deliver the franchise’s most successful Grand Tour ever.
Hugh Carthy and Simon Yates, Britain’s two hopes for a great result in Italy this year, both seem to be keeping their powder dry. They haven’t been at the very forefront of proceedings, both losing 17 seconds to Bernal, Evenepoel and Dan Martin on stage six. It’s probably too early for either of them to make their big moves – Yates has been burnt before by coming into a Giro too hot, while Carthy’s phenomenal third week in La Vuelta last year (which secured him a podium place) is something he will be hoping to replicate when the race hits the Italian Alps. It would be surprising to see them go on the all-out- attack in the next couple of days, but they will be lurking around waiting to capitalise on any missteps from the likes of Bernal and Evenepoel.
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