Five unsung heroes of the 2022 Giro d’Italia

From Edoardo Affini to Mattia Bais, the riders who livened up the Giro d'Italia and helped their leaders to success.

Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images

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After three weeks of racing, the heroes of the Giro d’Italia were honored for their efforts within the dramatic backdrop of Verona’s Roman arena.

Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe) was gifted his Trofeo Senza Fine for winning the overall title, Vincenzo Nibali (Astana-Qazaqstan) received a trophy for his contributions to the race, and Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) was bestowed with an award for being one of the most combative riders in the race.

Cycling is one of those funny sports where only one winner is given but it takes a big team effort to get leaders into a position to win.

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One memorable scene during the race, which was not shown on camera, was the Groupama-FDJ team gathered together just beyond the finish line at the top of the Passo Fedaia after stage 20.

For Arnaud Démare to secure his victory in the points classification, the Frenchman needed to get through the mountains, and it required his team to rally around him to make sure he didn’t miss the time cut.

It was Démare that got the plaudits in Verona, but it was a victory for his whole team. Of course, Démare was far from the only rider to need such support and there were many unsung heroes up and down the bunch that buried themselves for another’s victory.

Here are five of those unsung heroes from the 2022 Giro d’Italia.

Miles Scotson (Groupama-FDJ)

It takes a village to celebrate the points the jersey. (Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images)

To be fair, any of the Groupama-FDJ riders could have been put on this list but Miles Scotson has been selected for the huge effort he put in on stage 13 into Cuneo to kill the breakaway and help set Démare up for his third victory of the race.

This year’s Giro has been a fantastic one for breakaways and it would take a massive pull from all the sprinters’ teams to shut this down. It would go down to the wire with the catch coming inside the final kilometer as the road raised upward.

Scotson is usually part of Démare’s leadout train, but he had to be put on the front far earlier than he usually would to keep the pace high enough to reel the break in. It was just enough and the victory that came for Démare would help push him to an almost unassailable lead in the points classification.

Edoardo Affini (Jumbo-Visma)

Edoardo Affini didn’t go to the bus right away after rolling in almost 25 minutes down on stage 19, instead he waited to cheer on Koen Bouwman when he stepped onto the podium in Santuario di Castelmonte. Bouwman had just won the stage, his second of the race, and all but secured the mountains classification.

The victory was partly Affini’s, too. He had sacrificed himself in the breakaway, along with others from other teams, to make sure that the peloton didn’t bring them back. His effort, along with Davide Ballerini (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) and Clement Davy (Groupama-FDJ) ensured that the move made it, and each would have a chance to go for the win.

It wasn’t the first time that Affini’s work contributed to a breakaway making it all the way to the line. Just a day earlier, he and his three breakaway companions agreed to work as a unit to disappoint the sprinters’ teams in their final chance for victory.

Affini came close to converting the work into a win but was pipped on the line by Dries De Bondt.

Lennard Kӓmna (Bora-Hansgrohe)

Lennard Kämna sets the pace on the Fedaia. (Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

The 25-year-old Kӓmna did possibly one of the most crucial pieces of teamwork during the entire Giro, pacing his team leader Jai Hindley following a stinging attack in the final kilometers on the Passo Fedaia on the last mountain stage of the race.

Kӓmna wasn’t meant to be up the road in a breakaway but he found himself in a move at the start of the day and the team decided to leave him there. It proved to be a very wise decision that would reap a big reward at the most important time.

As Hindley made a break for it on the upper slopes of the Fedaia, Kӓmna was told to hold back and wait for the Australian, who had Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) in his wheel. Kӓmna did just that and then set a pace so hard that it put the Ecuadorian well into the red.

When Hindley made his second strike, Carapaz was spent and couldn’t follow the move. It was a piece of work that would last only a few minutes, but it helped to define the overall race.

Ben Swift (Ineos Grenadiers)

After missing out on a grand tour place through all of 2021, Ben Swift was delighted to get back to three-week racing at the Giro d’Italia. Swift had once been a sprinter for the team but since he returned to the team in 2019, he has adapted himself into a strong domestique.

Throughout this year’s Giro, Swift in his British national champion’s kit was one of the most present features on the front of the peloton. He guided the bunch through the opening forays of the majority of mountain stages and sometimes lasted into the big mountains.

In addition to his work on the front, Swift was the architect of Carapaz’s grab for bonus seconds in the second week and made sure his rivals didn’t take too many in the first. For a long time, those bonus seconds were what kept Carapaz in pink and could have played an important role in deciding the overall classification if the Passo Fedaia had turned out differently.

Mattia Bais (Drone Hopper-Androni Giocattoli)

Mattia Bais, shown here with teammate Filippo Tagliani, was often on the attack. (Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

Aside from Alpecin-Fenix, the ProTeams struggled to get a break when it came to stage hunting as the WorldTour teams dominated all sides of the competition. Despite this, Mattia Bais mounted his own little fightback for the smaller teams, staking his claim on the “fuga” or breakaway competition.

Day after day, the 25-year-old got into breakaways and racked up the kilometers off the front. He had to be careful about the days as breakaways with too many riders wouldn’t count for the breakaway competition.

It meant that Bais had the almost thankless task of getting into breakaways that would likely struggle to survive due to their small numbers. Nevertheless, he kept going and going and 617 kilometers in breakaways across the three weeks, with his teammate Filippo Tagliani the next best rider on 581.

His victory may not have been in one of the bigger classification battles, but Bais deserves hero status at this year’s Giro for relentlessly getting into so many breakaways.

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