Giro d'Italia 2022 - What can we expect from the second week of the Giro with maglia rosa on the line?
Just 20 seconds split the top five riders in the general classification ahead of the second week of the Giro d’Italia. But with only one summit finish and a series of stages that suit the sprinters and breakaway specialist, the next phase of the race may see the GC battle go on hold. Could Juan Pedro Lopez find himself still in pink ahead of the decisive final week?
Stage 9 highlights: Brutal day as Hindley surprises, Yates cracks and Lopez survives
More storylines emerged from Sunday’s summit showdown on Blockhaus than an entire season of Game of Thrones – from Natnael Tesfatsion’s high-speed crash on the descent of the Passo Lanciano to the longest uphill sprint you’ll likely see from Jai Hindley, as the plucky Spaniard Juanpe Lopez battled to save his pink jersey in the Australian’s wake.
Many things were confirmed during the brutal 191km test, most notably Tom Dumoulin still being well short of his GC level and the poor state of Simon Yates’s knee following his crash on the road to Etna last Tuesday. And after Wilco Kelderman lost a heap of time, we also have a better idea of who is emerging as Bora-Hansgrohe’s leader from their initial quartet of GC options: Hindley’s win to deny Romain Bardet and Richard Carapaz drew quite an emphatic line in the sand.
But at the same time, the second major summit finish of the race did not – as many feared beforehand – kill the Giro off as a contest. Quite the contrary. Mirroring the closeness of the Stage 9 finish, we still have five riders within 20 seconds of the maglia rosa and only 1' 27" separating the top 12. What’s more, we also saw a fightback of sorts from the race’s elder statesmen as Vincenzo Nibali, Domenico Pozzovivo and Alejandro Valverde defied their combined age of 118 to finish in the top 10 on arguably the toughest finish of the entire Giro.
Carapaz? Bardet? Hindley? The contenders for ‘wide open’ Giro assessed
What did we learn from the Blockhaus blockbuster?
Juan Pedro Lopez could be the Joao Almeida of this race: Just as the Portuguese climber made such an impact in his debut Giro, Trek-Segafredo’s 24-year-old Spanish climber has risen to the challenge of defending the maglia rosa with passion, panache and, er, punch. But we can forgive Lopez his moment of madness in throwing a bidon at Sam Oomen on Sunday’s final climb because of the way he gamely defended his pink jersey afterwards – especially following the touch of wheels that saw him initially lose touch, clip out and come to a complete standstill.
Lopez may not emulate Almeida by wearing the leading the Giro for an entire two weeks – but he could come close to matching the Portuguese’s ultimate fourth place on GC from 2020. Given the calibre of who lurks over his shoulders, though, even a top 10 at this point will be a huge ask.
Watch shocking moment leader Lopez hurls bottle at Giro rival
Dogged Almeida can dream of a podium: After finishing fourth and sixth for Quick-Step without ever being the team’s outright leader, the tenacious 23-year-old has a real chance of making the podium in Verona. The course suits him, his UAE team are clearly strong – and the way he repeatedly clawed back in contention on Sunday was very promising. Just 12 seconds down on GC, he will be eyeing Lopez’s pink jersey with interest.
Bardet back to his best: And it’s a joy to watch. The Frenchman lost his way at Ag2R before rediscovering his mojo at Team DSM, for whom he extended for another two seasons last week. Having recently won the Tour of the Alps before shining on Etna and Blockhaus, the 31-year-old looks like a genuine contender.
‘A photo finish in the mountains!’ - Watch thrilling finish on Blockhaus as Hindley wins
Four becomes two at Bora-Hansgrohe: If the opening week of the Giro saw both Wilco Kelderman and Lennard Kamna steal much of the limelight for Bora with a flurry of strong performances, then it ended with the Dutchman sinking down the standings after a torrid time on Blockhaus and the German’s fleeting hopes of tasting pink being replaced by a refocus on the blue jersey while supporting his leaders.
Those leaders are now, indisputably, Jai Hindley and Emanuel Buchmann, who both emerged from Sunday’s test with flying colours. The stage win for Hindley was all the sweeter for a rider who has struggled to replicate the form that saw him come within 18km of winning the Giro in 2020, while Buchmann finds himself just 1:09 down and displaying the dogged consistency that saw him to fourth in the 2019 Tour.
At 3:26, Kamna is hardly out of the picture. But on top of the increased domestique duties he can expect to carry out alongside Kelderman (+11:02) the German may forego a push for the top 10 for the KOM classification, in which he trails blue jersey Diego Rosa (Eolo-Kometa) by 40 points.
‘Big crash!’ – Handful of riders wiped out on Stage 9 at Giro d’Italia
Landa and Bilbao right in the mix: Both Bahrain Victorious riders hit the deck on Sunday to varying degrees of damage and yet both emerged with their chances intact. Bilbao took a nasty knock to his hip and elbow early on during the stage and yet limited his losses to just over a minute to retain his place in the top 10.
It later emerged that Landa also went down twice on the stage – and needed to change a faulty shoe. Yet, where crashes have often proved his undoing in the past, Landa was able to shake this off and follow the attacks of Bardet and Carapaz in a trio which many now feel will be the final podium in Verona. Has the Basque climber managed to shed his demons or could they still rear their ugly head in this Giro? Only time will tell.
Ineos strength makes Carapaz the overwhelming favourite: Such was the fierce tempo being set by team-mates Richie Porte and Pavel Sivakov that the 2019 champion did not even need to put in any attacks of his own to see his rivals distanced. Once Porte pulled off inside the final five kilometres and Carapaz finally launched an attack, the Olympic champion soon found himself off the front with Landa and Bardet and in a relatively fresh condition.
Given the Ecuadorian had not raced for six weeks before the Giro, Ineos Grenadiers will be very confident of securing a fourth Giro win in five years. Carapaz will get stronger as the race progresses while the team demonstrated on Sunday that they are by far the slickest collective unit. And in a race where the favourites are split by such small margins, Carapaz wilfully let two seconds slip at the bonus sprint before Blockhaus – a sign, perhaps, that he has much more up his sleeve.
Yates to weigh up his options: After shipping 11 minutes on Blockhaus, Simon Yates will take the rest day to decide how best to proceed. The Briton’s knee injury from the crash on the stage to Etna was clearly a contributing factor but he also cited the heat; it’s not the first time Yates’s GC hopes have wilted when the mercury soars.
Besides winning the thing, the 29-year-old has nothing to prove on the Giro so he would probably be better off focusing on getting back to full fitness ahead of the Tour. But that would leave BikeExchange-Jayco in a bit of a pickle given the team was built around the sole purpose of delivering Yates to pink.
‘Oh my word!’ – Yates' GC hopes at Giro unravel on Blockhaus
Carthy can take a leaf out of Martin’s book: Hugh Carthy’s day was nowhere near as traumatic as his compatriot Yates, but the EF Education-EasyPost climber now finds himself 4:22 behind Lopez on GC despite rising a place to 17th. All is not lost, however. The cushion will now give him the buffer that may allow him to get in a breakaway – and just look at the example of Guillaume Martin: the Frenchman from Cofidis bounded up the standings by being in the break on the Naples circuit on Saturday, and after a solid ride on Blockhaus finds himself in sixth just 28 seconds down.
What can we expect from the second week of the Giro?
In terms of the general classification, not much. At least, that’s how it looks on paper with just the one summit finish on the horizon in week two, next Sunday’s gentle grind up to Cogne in Stage 15. Before that there are some days where the focus will be more on the maglia ciclamino and the sprinters rather than the push for pink.
There are some potential banana skin stages – Saturday’s relentlessly undulating Stage 14 to Torino, for instance – but if he plays his cards right, Juanpe Lopez, in spite of that slender 12-second lead, could well still be top of the pink pile on the third rest day ahead of the final week. All the more so now given Trek team-mate Giulio Ciccone’s implosion on his local roads on Sunday, the 27-year-old Italian conceding a whopping nine minutes on one of his favourite training climbs.
‘His best performance’ – Lopez hailed after surviving Blockhaus in pink
First up, Tuesday’s Stage 10 from Pescara to Jesi is a tale of two halves: an entirely flat opening 100km along the Adriatic coast leading up to the intermediate sprint followed by rolling roads as the race passes through Filottrano, the hometown of the late Michele Scarponi. The series of climbs are enough to ensure a breakaway goes the distance but should not have any impact on the GC.
After coming up short in Naples, it would be a surprise if Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) and Biniam Girmay (Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert) did not try to get into any move on a stage that plays to their strengths. The Eritrean has been knocking on the door for a maiden win, and although he’s a fast sprinter, his absence of a leadout means the bunch affairs may always be beyond his reach.
The battle for the maglia ciclamino reignites on Wednesday with an entirely pizza-flat 203 Stage 11 from Santarcangelo di Romagna to Reggio Emilia. It is being dubbed the race’s food stage owing to its proximity to Parmigiano Reggiano cheese country, and it should be a feast for the remaining sprinters – reason enough for the likes of Mark Cavendish, Caleb Ewan and Arnaud Demare to have battled to beat the time limit on Blockhaus.
Thursday’s 202km Stage 12 to Genoa features three Cat.3 ascents and has breakaway and Bauke Mollema written all over it – that is, provided Thomas De Gendt’s not feeling hungry again. A day later, Stage 13 from Sanremo is almost La Primavera in reverse – and while there’s no Poggio, the tough early ascent of the Colle di Nava adds a little uncertainty to a route that would well otherwise suits the sprinters. Given what’s in store, Friday may also be the day many of the fastmen call it a day and quit the Giro – so expect Lotto Soudal’s Ewan to be extra motivated…
Then we have the potential ambush stage to Torino which packs five categorised climbs and very few flat stretches of road into a 147km profile that looks like a jagged saw. The second half features two laps of a circuit that includes the Superga and Maddalena climbs on a day that features 3,750m of vertical gain – but a downhill finish.
If Juanpe Lopez has managed to hold on to pink all week then the Spaniard will face his biggest test on Sunday where fans will get a little taster of the prolonged GC battle in store in week three. A gradual grind that zigzags up the Aosta valley is followed by three climbs, the easiest of which coming at the end of the 177km Stage 15 when the legs will be at their most tired.
The Cat.2 ascent to Cogne would be a big-ring climb were it not for a testing opening segment where the gradient ramps up to double figures. In fact, both preceding climbs – the Cat.1 duo of Pila-les-Fleurs and Verrogne – play out over a succession of sumptuous hairpins with maximum tilts of 15% and 14% respectively, and both are followed by highly technical descents. The winner of Stage 15 will have to be an all-round talent who can do it all – and it could well be the man who ends up with the pink jersey on his back in Verona.
It's for that reason that the slow-building second week of the 105th edition of the Giro may ultimately prove to be so crucial.
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