Roundtable: The defining moment of the 2019 Giro d’Italia

How should Primoz Roglic and Jumbo-Visma view this Giro: as a disaster, or a learning experience?

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Richard Carapaz penned his name into cycling’s history books by winning the 2019 Giro d’Italia, which concluded Sunday in Verona. Across the three weeks of racing, Carapaz and the other Giro riders endured foul weather, leg-cracking long stages, and an enormous amount of climbing. The race saw plenty of twists and turns, as pre-race favorites either crashed out or struggled. Primoz Roglic appeared to have the race in his clutches, until his legs buckled on the ascent of the Mortirolo.

There are plenty of questions left to mull over from this Giro d’Italia. So come, let’s roundtable!

What was the defining moment of the 2019 Giro?

Hugo Gladstone @hugogladstone: Carapaz winning stage 14 and taking pink in Courmayeur is the obvious point where the overall race took it’s eventual course. But it was the stages either side that best encapsulate the subplots of this Giro. Stage 13 to Lago Serrù saw Zakarin win from a long break, Carapaz gain time under the distraction of a longer range Landa attack, Yates gets dropped, Lopez suffer bad luck, and Nibali and Roglic get so wrapped up in each other, they all but ignored Movistar’s advances. But, for a single defining moment, let’s go with the climb of Civiglio on stage 15 to Como. Carapaz in pink could match anything Nibali threw at him uphill or down, while Roglic was left licking his wounds.

Andrew Hood @eurohoody: Stage 13 to Lago Serru — that was the day Nibali lost his nerve over Roglic following his wheel, and during the moment when Nibali invited Roglic to come to his house to see his trophy case, Carapaz attacked behind Landa and no one reacted. Carapaz took back 1:19 to Nibali and Roglic, and by the time they figured out how dangerous he was, Carapaz was gone.

Fred Dreier @freddreier: In my opinion, it’s stage 16 to Ponte Di Legno—yes, the stage that was abridged to remove the Passo Gavia. Sure, I watched Carapaz ride like a star through stages 13 and 14. Still, I kept telling myself that the Giro’s Queen stage would be the point at which Vincenzo Nibali or Primoz Roglic would finally unleash their climbing legs and pummeled poor Carapaz on the Mortirolo. Carapaz rose to the challenge, and it was Roglic who wilted. So, stage 16 was the defining moment based on what didn’t happen.

How should Primoz Roglic and Jumbo-Visma view this Giro?

Hugo: The Slovenian is still on the upslope, so definitely a learning experience. That he still salvaged third place says something about the togetherness with which he rode. Other riders under that weight of expectation might have cracked completely. He can take heart from that. His team now need to have a debrief and address some critical questions. How could they build a stronger team around him? Did he get his conditioning right? Where does he need to be better? And when is it acceptable for a team car to stop for a pee break?

Andy: Certainly as a learning experience, and a very good one. People forget this was only Roglic’s fourth grand tour, and he was in very good position to win it. Sure, they missed a chance to win and it’s clear that Roglic needs to be assertive if he wants to win a grand tour. But he won two stages, held pink for a week and finished on his first grand tour podium. Both the team and Roglic take valuable lessons out of this Giro.

Fred: The opportunity to win a grand tour does not come often in a rider’s career, and Roglic is 29, smack dab in the middle of his prime. Thus, I think Roglic and Jumbo should view this Giro as a major setback. I’m still miffed why Jumbo didn’t send a more veteran squad. Sure, an untimely injury knocked Robert Gesink out of the team’s lineup, and then Laurens De Plus got sick. I think that Jumbo is perhaps feeling the effects of having multiple marquee riders (Roglic, Kruijswijk, and Groenewegen), and not enough veteran worker bees.

How could Vincenzo Nibali have won the Giro?

Hugo: The only place Nibali really went wrong tactically was obsessing over Roglic. Movistar made most of their gains during this cold war. The Italian tried his luck on the road to Como and on the Mortirolo, but couldn’t get any lasting advantage on Carapaz. Damiano Caruso and Domenico Pozzovivo are very handy helpers but Nibali would have benefitted from having a co-leader to play off as Carapaz had with Landa. But Nibali is right to have taken his hat off to the Movistar win. They had the better legs when it mattered and played their tactics brilliantly.

Andy:  This one one is easy: Nibali should have never let Carapaz sneak away in stages 13 and 14. In those two days, Carapaz erased nearly four minutes to Roglic and took even big GC gains on Nibali. By the time the Shark tried to mount a comeback on the Mortirolo, Movistar swarmed him with numbers to neutralize his bite. Nibali did Movistar’s bidding to take out Roglic, and Nibali let this one get away.

Fred: The overarching mistake was to mark Roglic instead of Movistar. But since Movistar had the numbers, I’m not sure there was anything Nibali could have done. Had he marked Carapaz, then Mikel Landa would have gone, and vise versa. So, huge congrats to Movistar for playing the numbers so well that even a cagy veteran like Nibali was caught out.

What’s your overall assessment of this Giro (1-5 glasses of grappa)?

Hugo: Four glasses for me. There was a lot of negativity around the first half of the race, but I really enjoyed seeing the opportunists seek out their chances during this time – several of them with effect that endured for the rest of the race. Into the distinctly more mountainous second half, Carapaz raced convincingly to win overall – a happy twist on all the previews. Then there were all the other little stories. Nan Peters powering up to Anterselva. Esteban Chaves and his emotional comeback. And, after hundreds of kilometers in doomed breaks on sprinters’ stages, Damiano Cima holding the spoilsports off by the skin of his teeth.

Andy:  Out of five “grappe” I give it two. The first half lacked some spark, and then a few big names either were out of running — think Bernal, Dumoulin and Yates — so that meant a rather flat Giro. Movistar rode as a “10” in terms of its tactics. No one was paying much attention, especially when Landa took some early losses. Carapaz was the strongest and the smartest, so it was a well-deserved victory.

Fred: One and a half. The moment Egan Bernal crashed and was out of the lineup, the Giro simply lost its shine.

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