Even as Richard Carapaz claimed his first maglia rosa of this year’s Giro, much of the discussion on Saturday evening centred around his isolation on that day’s stage.
The absence of team-mates from his side, it was argued, hinted at a weakness in the ranks of the supersquad.
That’s one way of looking at it, sure.
Giro d'Italia
‘My heart stopped’ – Colbrelli on ‘second chance’ after collapse scare
08/06/2022 AT 13:26

Ineos will be 'asking questions' after being decimated by Bora

Another is that Ineos Grenadiers took a tactical gamble. Rather than the rest of the team being unable to stay with their leader, it’s perfectly possible that they were, in effect, given the day off. It was confirmed that Richie Porte was relieved of responsibilities, and the rest of the team are hardly slouches. Pavel Sivakov was the last rider in his company, hanging on for dear life to the locomotive led and fuelled by Bora Hansgrohe.
It was a thrilling intervention, of that there can be no doubt. It made covering the race for the likes of yours truly a nightmare but it was probably worth it for the viewers at home. In the scheme of things, though, what did Bora really gain from it?
Hindley is a single second closer to Carapaz in the general classification, thanks to his slightly superior sprint, and two or three rivals lighter.
Carapaz, in contrast, was handed an armchair ride to the maglia rosa. That he leads the race by a handful of seconds, rather than a bushel, is down only to the details of his final act attack.

Richard Carapaz im Rosa Trikot umgeben von seinen Ineos-Grenadiers-Teamkollegen

Image credit: Getty Images

An attack which, it bears pointing out, at that particular point he appeared to be the only rider capable of making. While every other member of that final group was on their limit, Carapaz seemed to be well within himself. The move itself, while impressive, and an authentic effort to take something more from the stage, was not one the 28-year-old was completely committed to. At times he clearly hesitated, held himself back, hovered on the pedals, looked left, right and, most significantly, backwards.
Compare that to both Simon Yates’ all-or-nothing stage-winning stretch; or that of Giulio Ciccone on Sunday afternoon on the road to Cogne. We know what it looks like when a rider gives his all.
We also know what Carapaz’s Ineos Grenadiers team-mates are capable of. This is not their Tour de France eight, no, but every one of those riders could hold their own for three weeks in July. The likes of Jhonatan Narváez and Jonathan Castroviejo, Bens Swift and Tulett, Salvatore Puccio do not collapse under pressure, nor do they abandon their leader at the first sign of chaos.
What seems more likely is that they reckoned on Richard Carpaz being more than capable of handling whatever the stage could throw at him. Chances are they did not predict that Bora’s riders would be responsible for the banana skins, or that the stage would unfold precisely in the way that it did, but that hardly matters. Carapaz, in the relatively understated, gold accented helmet, not only absorbed the slings and arrows but tossed a pretty sizeable one of his own.
On an undulating circuit, even if the worst had befallen him, it’s hard to imagine how a few nearby team-mates would have been able to get him back into the race any better than he could successfully do that himself.

‘It’s a tiring race’ – Carapaz after surviving first day in pink at Giro d’Italia

All they would have done is burn their own matches, tire themselves out unnecessarily, and be in a poorer position to support Carapaz later in the race, when it might have made a massive difference.
And if you want to know why Ineos would let their domestiques save their legs, you only have to look at what happened today. Which is to say, bupkis, naada, nothing whatsoever.
Ineos, the new guardians of the maglia rosa, were where we have grown so used to seeing them in grand tours over the decade or more of their existence: right at the front of the peloton. Through the long Aosta valley they judiciously marshalled every move, preventing the race from going either too fast or too slow, deterring even the deliberation of an attack. That task is one they would have been able to perform as a result of their legs being fresher than those of other teams. The presence of, for most of the stage, six riders in blood red and one in white, prevented rivals from even entertaining the thought of threatening their supremacy. The profile of the stage would have otherwise surely made it tempting to do so. It could have been a GC day, but Ineos Grenadiers said “no.”

‘A demonstration!’ - Ciccone crushes breakaway rivals to cruise home on Stage 15

You also have to look at what the Giro has in store next week. Which is to say…. ARGH
After the rest day, the Giro resumes with what is arguably the hardest stage of the race so far. It is inarguably the Queen stage, containing 5000m of total climbing and the mighty Mortirolo. This is a climb that literally has the word for death in its name. If a rider is going to be undone anywhere, it’s there. If a leader is ever going to need every weapon in his team’s arsenal at his disposal, it is then.
The Giro d’Italia is three of the toughest weeks of racing in the calendar, and the toughness accumulates magnitudinally. Will Bora be able to support Hindley on Tuesday as well as they could have had they not buried themselves for a few measly seconds of advantage? It’s questionable.
Will Ineos Grenadiers be better placed to serve Carapaz on those fearsome slopes, having kept their powder slightly drier a few days ago? It cannot even be a question that they will.

Like them or don't, this is a team that has been in this position plenty of times before. They know exactly what they're doing.
- - -
Stream the Giro d'Italia live and on-demand on discovery+. You can also watch all the action live on eurosport.co.uk.
Giro d'Italia
‘An old-school rider, a loss to the sport’ – The great career of Vincenzo Nibali
08/06/2022 AT 11:03
Giro d'Italia
Power of Sport - Giro d'Italia 2022 created history
02/06/2022 AT 10:30