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There was some red-hot racing on the wet roads of the Giro d’Italia on Thursday.
The storm-soaked sixth stage saw the breakaway take the spoils and an unlikely new race-leader pull on the pink jersey. Meanwhile, close behind, there were scuffles among the GC favorites that could set the tone for the two weeks to come.
Egan Bernal and Remco Evenepoel crossed the line together, soon after the stage winner Gino Mäder. The two young stars boast the two strongest teams in the peloton and the fastest legs in the GC pack, and in them, the Giro seems to have found its two grandi.
Close behind Evenepoel and Bernal is a clutch of talent with the potential to tear the race apart, and with a pair of tricky mountain stages to come this weekend, the Giro is far from becoming a two-horse race.
Atilla Valter sits pretty in pink at the top of the GC, but what’s the lay of the land among the top GC favorites?
Here’s Jimbo virtual GC ahead of Friday’ sprint stage:
Jimbo’s virtual GC ahead of stage 7
- Remco Evenepoel: Jimbo’s GC leader
- Egan Bernal: +5
- Aleksandr Vlasov: +13
- Hugh Carthy: +27
- Damiano Caruso: +28
- Giulio Ciccone: +30
- Dan Martin: +36
- Simon Yates: +38
- Daniel Martínez: +55
- Marc Soler: +1:03
- Romain Bardet: S.T
- Emanuel Buchmann: +1:39
- Vincenzo Nibali: +1:32
- Pello Bilbao: +1:50
IN THE GRUPPETTO:
- Jai Hindley: +2:18
- João Almeida: +4:38
- George Bennett: +8:44
- Pavel Sivakov
- Mikel Landa
- Domenico Pozzovivo
The Giro’s two grandi
Remco Evenepoel, Egan Bernal
Many people hoped it would happen, and just as many doubted it was possible. Remco Evenpoel and Egan Bernal have risen as the two grandi of the Giro.
The two youngsters now sit at the top of the virtual GC, separated by just five seconds. The gritty stage into Ascoli Piceno on Thursday has marked the pair as the men to beat, suitably backed by teams with the heft to bludgeon any rivals that attempt to do so.
Even in the absence of Pavel Sivakov – out of the race after a hard fall on stage 5 – Ineos Grenadiers steamrollered the race through the windswept stage Thursday, popping overnight race leader Alessandro De Marchi off the back and piling pressure on the entire peloton.
“There was a moment in the race where there was the opportunity for us to control of the race, we had the idea to take the opportunity where we knew there was going to be wind at a certain point, “Bernal said.
“In the end in the headwind, people in the wheels were able to conserve some energy … Although it didn’t do exactly what we wanted, you have to take those opportunities.”
Bernal’s wrecking crew may not have inflicted as much damage as they may have hoped Thursday, but it sure made for a statement of intent.
Need to catch-up on #Giro stage 6?
— INEOS Grenadiers (@INEOSGrenadiers) May 14, 2021
Deceuninck-Quick-Step flexed back against the Ineos power play, bossing the final climb. Evenepoel was protected by a reinvigorated João Almeida and Fausto Masnada through the final climb as the Belgian squad thrived in its new GC incarnation, and the 21-year-old had the legs to finish it off, punching to the line alongside Bernal.
“I’m happy with how I felt on the final climb,” Evenepoel said. “But I had an amazing team around me, who made things much easier and protected me all the time, for which I am very grateful. Thanks to their effort, I could keep my energy for the final climb, where I got a good result. The good thing is that six days into the race we are up there, which is great for the confidence”
Evenepoel and Bernal may sit just eight seconds ahead of Aleksandr Vlasov and 20-something seconds up on the next set of chasers, but Thursday showed they have the teams to control, and the kick to better the best. Astana-Premier Tech doesn’t have the same heft behind its young Russian hope, and that could make all the difference two weeks from now.
There remains one tantalizing talking point – Bernal and Evenepoel are the strongest now, but will they last through the traumas of week three? The tales of injuries, rehab and time away from racing have been well-told. We may see how their stories end in the next few weeks.
Pushing for the podium
Aleksandr Vlasov, Hugh Carthy, Dan Martin, Simon Yates
A dark cloud seems to follow Simon Yates through every Giro d’Italia. And it seems something has been drizzling water atop the Brit in the rain-sodden opening week of this year’s race.
The Team BikeExchange captain crushed the Tour of the Alps last month, easily punching away from a field of Giro contenders on the race’s key summit finish. Three weeks later, Yates is a split-second off the pace. Yates lost a handful of seconds on stage 4 to Sestola, and ceded a clutch more Thursday, leaving him 38 seconds down on Evenepoel.
“I think I rode ok, nothing really special,” he said Thursday. “I have lost a few seconds to the front guys, but you can see a lot of the other GC guys were struggling with the conditions today.”
Has Yates lost his mojo? His Giro is far from over, but the 28-year-old needs to reverse trajectory before it’s too late.
Yates now sits alongside Aleksandr Vlasov, Hugh Carthy and Dan Martin as the race’s podium-chasers. Although Yates is looking leggy, Vlasov, Carthy and Martin quietly threaten. Martin has been clawing back seconds after his early time trial losses, while Carthy and Vlasov are following all the right moves.
Also read: Carthy and his top-5 Giro challenge
Vlasov, Carthy, Martin and Yates all pack the potential to throw a grenade into the Giro’s GC battle. It could just be a matter of ‘when.’
At a classification crossroads
Damiano Caruso, Giulio Ciccone, Daniel Martínez, Marc Soler, Romain Bardet, Emanuel Buchmann, Vincenzo Nibali, Pello Bilbao
Sitting between 28 seconds and two minutes back is a pack of riders at a crossroads.
Damiano Caruso is just 28 seconds back on Evenepoel, and his Bahrain-Victorious teammate Pello Bilbao is not far behind. After the team lost Mikel Landa in the crash-riddled stage 5, will Caruso and Bilbao hunt for more stage wins to add to that of Gino Mäder? Or do they stubbornly go for GC?
A clutch of stage wins would see the team come out of the Giro smiling. Would one stage win and a top-six classification finish be as satisfying? Who knows.
Trek-Segafredo and Team DSM are in a similar situation.
Giulio Ciccone is within striking distance of Evenepoel and Bernal, 30 seconds down. Does the team back the 26-year-old for a push on the podium, or send him on the offense for stages? Ciccone’s twice tasted success at his home race as well as winning the mountains jersey. Maybe its time for him to finally deliver across the three weeks.
Romain Bardet showed flashes of his former best with his foray into the break Thursday. The Frenchman is now 1:03 behind Evenepoel, and his DSM teammate Jai Hindley has more or less dropped out of contention, over two minutes down. Does DSM keep chasing GC? If it goes down that route, it seems unlikely to see a repeat of last year’s two-three on the podium.
Still a long way until rest day
The first rest day falls one day later than usual, meaning there are three more stages to come before a break next Tuesday.
After a sprint stage Friday, there are two tricky mountainous stages to come over the weekend, with another fast finish Monday closing out the opening phase of the race.
Stage 9 Sunday is being billed “the queen stage of the Appenines” and could prove the most important of the first week.
A barrage of climbs and a steep summit finish on unpaved roads make the stage into Campo Felice a must-watch – and one likely to see mayhem in the GC. Get the popcorn ready.