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Giro d'Italia

When will this Giro d’Italia finally catch fire? GC stalemate enters final week

The Giro d'Italia is stuck in second gear, and the GC brakes might hold until this weekend. Someone is bound to break through, but who will it be?

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Headwind. That’s the latest culprit of why this Giro d’Italia is stuck in second gear.

Every time the road’s tilted up so far, if the threats of avalanches, course changes, COVID abandons, crashes, and rain and cold hadn’t smothered the action, a strong headwind has kicked up to snuff the embers out of the GC race.

Will the tailwinds of GC change finally sweep across this stuck-in-second-gear Giro? It better.

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Make no mistake. Plenty has happened, and riders are leaving the race at a near-record pace, but the action hasn’t been at the front of the race for GC.

Instead, it’s been a race of attrition, with the survivors trundling into the final week full of hope and keen to finally press their case and wait for what could be a race-winning moment.

A few big names are no longer around, but this Giro is still up for grabs.

The detente ruling this Giro seems fated to finally break. When it does, a race-changing attack could change everything in a flash.

Who will move when it counts?

Still buttoned up at the top

Thomas is still leaving the ‘virtual’ GC, but for how long? (Photo: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

No offense to Bruno Armirail (Groupama-FDJ), who’s never finished inside the top-25 in the three grand tours he’s finished, but no one expects the Frenchman to last the week in pink.

He already shedded 33 seconds Sunday in the late-stage flares, so his temporary run in pink looks to be fated to sputter out, perhaps as soon as Tuesday.

The stalemate at the top of the GC inevitably will crack, but right now, the overall classification was largely unchanged across the entire second week.

After the second TT set the current hierarchy — marked by Remco Evenepoel’s COVID exit and Tao Geoghegan Hart’s crash-induced departure in stage 11 — the GC’s been running up against headwinds, hesitation, and a fairly unimaginative course.

Granted, poor weather and course alteration took the teeth out of Friday’s potentially decisive climbing stage into the Alps.

This past weekend saw little terrain for anyone to really make a move.

In the face of the intimidating final week, the GC remains largely knotted up as everyone takes stock in Monday’s final rest day.

Virtual GC after 15 stages
1. Geraint Thomas
2. Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) at 2 seconds
3. João Almeida (UAE Emirates) at 22 seconds
4. Andreas Leknessund (Team DSM) at 42 seconds
5. Damiano Caruso (Bahrain-Victorious) at 1:28

Who will make the first move?

Still on neutral in the GC group. (Photo: Getty Images)

Ineos Grenadiers is looking over its shoulder as Roglič hovers too close for comfort.

Thomas might be able to fend off the likes of Almeida and the others who lag even further adrift, but Roglič is the most dangerous threat to what would be the team’s fourth pink jersey in six years.

Jumbo-Visma, too, is playing the waiting game. Even if appeared that Roglič might have had the chance to scamper ahead to distance Thomas for a few seconds, the team opted to keep its matches dry and remain in second place.

That tactic will almost surely change when a truly breaking point arrives.

“We were still trying to assess the level of the competition,” said Jumbo-Visma sports director Marc Reef.

“We haven’t had to waste a lot of energy. But it has been a challenge to stay healthy in the bad weather conditions,” Reef said. “Thankfully, we can anticipate the last week with eight riders. We are content with how things are right now, but we must now wait for the ideal opportunity to attack.”

Along with Bahrain-Victorious, Jumbo-Visma is only one of two teams to still have all eight starters still in the race, including American climbing ace Sepp Kuss.

On paper, Roglič seems best-positioned to win this Giro, with the ever-steady presences of Thomas and Almeida lining up for a likely podium.

Yet as everyone knows, strange things can happen at any time. Plenty of surprises have already altered this Giro, and with what lies ahead, there will be a few more.

On hold until the weekend?

Tre Cime is back, and could well decide who wins this Giro of attrition. (Photo: Tim De Waele/Getty Images)

The waiting game continues, but it could crack at any moment.

Tuesday’s 16th stage ending atop the first-category Monte Bondone will certainly push a wedge between anyone who doesn’t have full firepower.

Everyone is looking to Friday’s epic stage to Tre Cime, but Thursday’s rollercoaster 161km 18th stage from Oderzo to Val di Zoldo could see splinters for an opportunist looking to revive their GC fortunes.

The HC summit Friday and Saturday’s climbing time trial will decide everything, so the cease-fire could well continue until then.

Will the GC remain largely unchanged until the weekend’s double-whammy? If the script follows the previous chapters so far in this Giro, perhaps, but by week three, legs are sapped, and ambitions are on the rise.

Any one riding into the final week within the top-10 with superb legs could still win this Giro.

It’s not just about the ‘maglia rosa’

Can Almeida swap out white for pink? (Photo: Sara Cavallini/Getty Images)

Bruno Armirail (Groupama-FDJ) will don the pink jersey when racing resumes Tuesday, who saw his lead shrink to 1:08. Tuesday’s 203km 16th stage from Sabbio Chiese to Monte Bondone could see his short run in pink draw to a close.

Jonathan Milan (Bahrain-Victorious) carries the maglia ciclamino into the third week. The Italian won it in stage 2, and hasn’t let go. Derek Gee (Israel Premier Tech) has climbed into second place thanks to his string of second places, but he trails by more than 50 points. If Milan makes it to Rome, he’ll win the points jersey.

Davide Bais (EOLO-Kometa) clawed back into the maglia azzurra after riding into the breakaway Sunday, and taking back points on Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ), who slipped to third behind Einer Rubio (Movistar), now in second. The climber’s jersey is far from decided but Pinot keeps saying he’s not interested.

João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates), third overall on GC, leads the best young rider’s category. Almeida leads former pink jersey holder Leknessund by 20 seconds for the maglia Bianca. It’s pink what the Portuguese rider really wants.

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