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A helping hand from Vincenzo Nibali and Astana-Qazaqstan on the Mortirolo had softened the legs before the Valico di Santa Cristina, where Wout Poels dropped back from the break. This was something that had been planned from the start of the day. The scheme had now been telegraphed to their rivals as Bahrain-Victorious used their numbers to launch Mikel Landa, with Bora-Hansgrohe’s Jai Hindley and the pink jersey of Carapaz the only two able to follow.
The cast for this final week’s GC battle was confirmed.
Bora-Hansgrohe had set themselves up slightly differently. They flung Lennard Kämna and Wilco Kelderman up the road, eventually allowing Kämna to fight for the stage win while Hindley and Emanuel Buchmann rode conservatively back in the peloton. Then, once the trio of Hindley, Landa, and Carapaz had been established, the Australian hit out.
“I was actually feeling quite good so tried some attacking on the climb but couldn’t really shake Carapaz and Landa,” Hindley explained at the finish. “In the end I think it was a good day, to get the bonus seconds on the finish there and also gain time on some other GC guys. The sensations are good.”
Hindley outsprinted Carapaz to third on the stage, taking four bonus seconds in the process and reducing his deficit to the Ecuadorian to only three seconds. Could he be taking a leaf out of Primož Roglič’s playbook and trying to steal his way into the pink jersey through so-called Rogličification points?
“Jai once again showed a great solidity in the final, and four seconds in the sprint…that’s the third time he’s beaten Carapaz in the sprint this Giro,” Bora-Hansgrohe sports director Enrico Gasparotto pointed out. “I think slowly we are getting closer to the pink jersey.”
Carapaz will likely perform better in the final time trial, and for the time being seems undroppable, meaning Hindley must take time whenever he can. Whether he’ll be able to take enough bonus seconds to make the difference remains to be seen.
More likely, Bora-Hansgrohe will have to push Carapaz and Ineos to the limit over the coming mountain days and try and crack the Ecuadorian. Richie Porte had a mechanical on the Mortirolo but managed to chase back on. Ineos’ challengers will have to hope these small disruptions will start to add up.
“Bahrain were pretty active in the final,” Gasparotto continued. “I think we can understand they are willing to do something in the next days so we should pay attention to that and use this opportunity.”
If Bora are to emerge victorious this Giro d’Italia, maybe a Bahrain-Hansgrohe rebel alliance will be needed to bring down the Ineos empire. That’s if lone ranger João Almeida, still only 44 seconds off the lead, doesn’t also have something to say.