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The horizons of the Giro d’Italia GC shrank on Wednesday’s stage 17.
Another climbing showdown between Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe), Mikel Landa (Bahrain-Victorious) and pink jersey Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) shook the GC and confirmed the southern hemisphere representatives are the two key riders to watch for the rest of the week.
The Giro’s two capi sprinted for the line together after a dogged battle over the final climb of the day. Carapaz outkicked Hindley for fifth behind the breakaway riders but didn’t gain the bonus points that proved so vital to the Aussie’s GC bid 24 hours earlier.
The two remain locked within three seconds of each other in a taught battle for top honors.
Landa moved up the GC to third on the back of a stage that saw Bahrain-Victorious light up the action with Santiago Buitrago’s breakaway win and the Wout Poel’s stellar support role at the side of his Basque boss.
— Giro d’Italia (@giroditalia) May 25, 2022
But the Bahrain power-play wasn’t perfect.
Landa hit the GC podium but lost the wheels in the sprint for fifth, ceding six seconds on the leaders in a GC battle where every margin could make a difference.
João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) was the major casualty of the second crushing mountain stage served up this week.
The gutsy Portuguese hung tough when dropped a number of times earlier in the race and lost the wheel again Wednesday when pressured by Bahrain-Victorious on the gnarled slopes of the Monterovere.
However, unlike so many times before, Almeida never made it back, and crossed the line more than one minute down on Carapaz to drop to fourth, nearly two minutes off the pace.
That was another tough mountain day at #Giro.
🤍 @JooAlmeida98 battled his way up the climb and finished 14th place on stage 17.
— @UAE-TeamEmirates (@TeamEmiratesUAE) May 25, 2022
Top-10 after stage 17
- Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers): 73:19:40
- Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe): +0:03
- Mikel Landa (Bahrain-Victorious): +1:05
- João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates): +1:54
- Vincenzo Nibali (Astana Qazaqstan): +5:48
- Pello Bilbao (Bahrain-Victorious): +6.19
- Jan Hirt (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert): +7:12
- Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe): +7:13
- Juan Pedro López (Trek-Segafredo): +12:27
- Domenico Pozzovivo (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert): +12:30
Last chance saloon for the old-timers
Wednesday’s stage proved that modern cycling is a young guy’s game.
The peloton’s illustrious elder statesmen all lost time on the vicious final climb.
Vincenzo Nibali ceded more than two minutes but hung on to fifth in a GC where the gaps went from minuscule to massive in two stages.
Alejandro Valverde and Domenico Pozzovivo both hemorrhaged more than eight minutes and slid far from the two millennial masters at the top of the fight for pink.
Revolving doors at the Intermarché
Meanwhile, Jan Hirt went the other way from his veteran captain Pozzovivo.
The Czech rider kicked into the break for the second day in a row, and his ride to third gained him a few dozen seconds t0 vault him from ninth to seventh and keep Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert in the top end of the classification.
What to expect in the decisive final stages
A sprint or breakaway stage into Treviso on Thursday gives the GC guys the chance to shake out their legs before two more huge mountain tests and summit finishes Friday and Saturday.
The domestiques at Bora-Hansgrohe and Ineos Grenadiers will need every second’s rest they can get. Hindley and Carapaz’s support crews have dominated the race whenever the road goes uphill. Given the two GC leaders look inseparable when going head-to-head, it may take a full-team assault to de-tangle the twosome.
Landa sits pretty in third with a 50-second buffer either direction. His Bahrain-Victorious team battered the race Wednesday and the Basque baroudeur will likely want to pad his lead over Almeida ahead of a TT that could prove his ultimate downfall if he doesn’t have enough breathing-room before rolling down the ramp.
With co-captain Pello Bilbao sitting sixth overall, Landa has a wingman to work with and a tactical card to whip from his sleeve at will in the mountains to come.
Almeida can be guaranteed anywhere between 30-60 seconds over Carapaz, Hindley and Landa in the final time trial around Verona.
But now straggling nearly two minutes back, the UAE Emirates captain needs to start clawing something back in the mountains too if he’s going to see his dream of a top-3 come reality.