Here for your reading pleasure, the final Giro bulletin before the first rest day. It's mainly an ode to Stefan Küng, but there's plenty more besides, check out what we have in store or READ IT ALL! Go on... you know you want to.
Today in review
It was a grim day in the Emilia-Romagna region of eastern Italy, and with standing water on the roads and the rain falling steadily, the main concern for the riders (and myself, being of a sensitive disposition) would be making it around the course safely.
It was a day to remember people who are in the race who you'd totally forgotten were even there - Alessandro Covi! Bauke Mollema!
Daan Hoole was the third man to set off but he crossed the line first to set the early fastest time. He said the TT was 'nice' - OK pal, if you say so. He enjoyed about 20 minutes in the hotseat before going for an early shower, as Team Corratec-Selle Italia rider Charlie Quarterman set a new fastest time to take over. A great ride from the Brit.
It would not be a lead that lastest long though with Italian powerhouse Edoardo Affini coming in hot. He took over - but again it was a short stay as Michael Hepburn continued Team Jayco-Alula's good run of form in time trials and took over.
There were mechanical issues for Michael Matthews and Salvatore Puccio, but as the rain continued to drive insistently and the crowds at the finish line hid beneath a sea of umbrellas
2.08 - EF bit
No less than 15 national time trial champions lined up ahead of the Giro - sadly we were down to 13 following the withdrawal pre-race of Jan Tratnik and Ganna's retirement with covid, but still, the array of colourful jerseys on display was really something to behold and brightened up an otherwise pretty dull day, aesthetically speaking. Here's a full list:
One of our illustrious champions, Bauke Mollema, set the new fastest time, enjoying his relatively new-found specialism against the clock in the autumn of his career in a year in which he was one of a few riders capable of achieving a Grand Tour trilogy.
He was there for a while, Brandon McNulty pushing him close - missing out by just one second, and then it was all eyes on Groupama-FDJ team mates Bruno Armirail and Stefan Küng, as fans collectively attempted to manifest a positive result for the nearly-man, only to discover that his own team mate, the French champion Armirail, was on an incredible day. If it wasn't for a storming final segment by the Swiss, it would have been over a lot sooner, but he managed to beat Armirail and face a long nervous wait, with a great many strong time trialists still to come.
They came thick and fast, Thymen Arensman pushing close on the third intermediate and Kämna on the first, but Küng survived the scare of Arensman, and meanwhile Hugh Carthy put in a brilliant ride to keep himself in contention.
Down to the big guns, and the two leaders of INEOS were within seconds of each other the whole way round the course. Tao had a wobble on a corner but held it together to set the fastest time by one second at the first intermediate. Then G did the same. But Roglic could only set the 8th fastest time, and Evenepoel had already gained 27 seconds on him at a very early stage, according to the GPS tracker.
All the GC contenders were showing up. Lennard Kämna went 5th, then Caruso and Vlasov put down top 5 times too, proving they were not going to allow the likes of INEOS, Jumbo Visma and QuickStep to have it all their own way.
We sensed it was coming, and come it did: it was Tao that broke Küng's heart first, going 2 seconds faster, but Thomas was hot on his heels, capping an amazing day for Ineos, to go faster still. Roglič improved steadily as he went along and ended up losing just 16 seconds to G and 14 to Tao.
Finally it was down to Remco Evenepoel to show his hand, and on a day when many predicted he would gain upwards of a minute on his rivals, he could only put a single second into G to take the stage win. Not one second, as it turned out in the end, but 0.09 second. A ridiculously, laughably tiny amount of time to split two men after 35km of hard riding. And not a lot of time over the rest.
Leknessund finished last, and, simultaneously, in 19th position, it confirmed several truths (including, apparently, quantum theory):
- He would relinquish the maglia rosa, handing it (figuratively) back to the man from whom he took it in the first place - Remco Evenepoel
- No-one crashed! Or was injured! That I saw! Cycling gods be praised!
- The middle time trial proved to be far less decisive than many had feared
- Stefan Kung is the unluckiest man alive
- Ineos Grenadiers are on fire
- The majority of the serious GC contenders really stepped up their game TT-wise
- Geraint Thomas really does think Remco Evenepoel is a, er, little bastard
Speedy stage preview
The peloton will transfer from East to West on rest day, to begin the first stage of week 2 in the Reggio Emilia region, and finish on the coast of Tuscany. The day is classified as flat but the sprinters will have a challenge on their hands if there’s a motivated breakaway, as they face two categorised climbs in the centre of the route which will split the bunch. In fact, the first 87.5km of the day is pretty much all uphill, and after a day of rest with some fresher legs among the bunch, and plenty of teams still seeking a stage win, if the rain holds off it’s likely to be all out chaos.
From the climb, the riders pitch immediately into 30km of relatively steep descent, so it will be a challenge to see who can hold their nerve as the race splits even further. From there, another short climb, before 75km of mostly flat roads will see another break vs bunch chase to the line.
WHAT TO EXPECT: a chaotic fight for the break. Sprinters dropped early. A bunch scattered along the road. A desperate chase for the sprinters' teams. A quiet day for the GC riders. A breakaway winner. Or Mads. Maybe Mads.
HOT TIP: This one's really hard to call. A determined breakaway rider who can handle himself on a climb and is also a good descender, along with a likeminded crew of breakaway helpers, could go all the way. Pick your breakaway guy - could be a day for Magnus Cort, but I'm going to out on a limb with this one and go with STEFANO OLDANI. He won a similar kind of stage last year, and with two home wins so far this year, Italians gonna Italian.
Lena's Giro Antipasti
Emilia-Romagna breathes wealth and luxury. In a stark difference to the silence and breadth of Gran Sasso d’Italia.
It’s not only home to several famous cities like Ravenna, Paramus, Modena and Bologna but also the heart of the Italian automotive Industry. The names Ferrari, Lamborghini and Maserati don’t need much explaining.
Do you still remember the road world championships of 2020? They took place in this area as well and prominently featured the Autodromo of Imola.
The race parcours was opened in 1953 and shortly after the first Grand Prix the cycling world visited it as well. 15 years after its inauguration the first World Championships took place in Imola and saw Vittorio Adorni and Keetie van Oosten-Hage crowned with the rainbow stripes.
It took 67 years and a worldwide pandemic until the next World Championships visited Imola - quite unplanned.
The Giro also visited twice in its younger history but after the fast friendship in the 50s and 60s the road cycling world took 30-40 years to remember the race course.
Although it has to be said the parcours was busy becoming a legend in worldwide motorsport which maybe carried a prestige more fitting for the region Emilia-Romagna.
There’s an interesting historical dichotomy in this region. Emilia-Romagna is a wealthy region that has also been historically speaking a stronghold of the communist party. Part of the Italian red belt (very different to its US-counterpart).
The glam and glitter just opposite the dust and grind.
Italian to go
And by amici - friends - I mean specifically the friends of King Küng today. For a few glorious minutes, we got to have hope. What an incredibly strong performance by Tao, G and Remco, they certainly deserved this stage's podium. Still, my heart mourns what could have been, and I know for a fact that I am not the only one who was manifesting a deserved King Küng stage win. The man himself said after the race that this is the story of his life: always closely missing out. Today, he was running out of time. He ha le ore contate - he had his hours counted.
Avere le ore contate, to have the hours counted, is commonly used to convey the idea that someone's time is limited or numbered, implying that they are running out of time. It's meaning applies to situations where there is a sense of impending danger, an approaching deadline or, as was the case today, it can describe a situation where someone is aware that they have a limited amount of time to complete a task. Stefan sadly took too much time today. I still believe in his Giro stage win, though - there will be more days for the breakaway to come, and he is in excellent form as we saw today.
I still exclaimed 'Porco cane!' when I saw today's winners take one, three and four seconds on him. Porco cane translates to 'pig dog!' (there it is again, the 'pig' as an amplifier), and is used in the same sense as 'For God’s sake!' or 'For f-'s sake!' in English. It is used when someone is upset about a situation, expressing disappointment, or venting frustration. I am not ashamed to admit that that was me today. I don't know about you, but I will enjoy the restday off to recover from this first week's action and replay everything that has happened so far in my mind.
Our bike finally gets its telaio today: its frame, its backbone. The frame provides structural integrity, supports the weight of the rider and other components, and determines the bike's overall characteristics and performance. As you can see in our frame, what we are building can certainly be identified as a roadbike.
Thank you for reading and enjoy the rest day off everyone, buona serata.
Canzone dell'Amore Infinito
28: Stage 9: The Sounds - Crossing the Rubicon
Setting the stage
Well, I kinda had to, didn’t I? Turns out that most songs with references to this particular location related to today’s stage are a mixed bag of oddities. As I didn’t feel like neither 10 minutes of sitar or 7+ minutes of Bob Dylan I ended up being seriously close to putting an (underwhelming imo) Enter Shikari track on this, but in the end I put my faith in an almost as odd intermission-track by a Swedish band where I’ve had a crush on 60% of the members since I was 18. No relation to the stage but hey, topical titled.
29: Stage 9: Liza Minnelli - Maybe This Time (from the musical Cabaret)
I really really really wanted the Küng of close-but-no-cigar to take this one. And well, until I find King Küng Freunde’s 'KÜNG KÜNG KÜNG STEFAN KÜNG KÜNG' chant on Spotify, this is my heartfelt musical plea for 'it’s gonna happen, happen sometimes, maybe this time he’ll win...'
30: Stage 9: The Sounds - Running Out of Turbo
31: Stage 9: Måneskin - Close to the Top
32: Stage 9: Stormzy (feat H.E.R) - One Second
Reality Check in the Results Section (3 song stage recap)
3 GC favourites within 2 seconds… Who had thought this would happen after the opening stage ITT results?
- While the pre-stage favourite won, Remco definitely lost momentum during the stage, and especially in the light of the predicted decisive win, so this day’s second track by the Swedish electro-pop-punks The Sounds feels relevant. But still; congratulations on the closest stage win this year and pink!
- The Måneskin track (from their pre-Eurovision days even) is for Geraint coming 2nd on his 4th Giro ITT - and though this one might smart a bit (less than a measly second over 35 km is almost cruel) I think he’ll be determined to finish off his brilliant start to this race.
- And Tao; my favourite redhead (sorry Andreas L!) rider, just continuing his banger of a season where he shows how strong and versatile he is - all while staying committed to wearing a beanie higher on his head than I thought possible. For this effort he obviously gets a dose of London Grime via Stormzy, celebrating/commemorating how close he was to his teammate’s time throughout the entire day.
33: Stage 9: Go West - King of Wishful Thinking
Dreams cruelly crushed by 3 GC guys… 'I'll get over you, I know I will, I'll pretend my ship's not sinking. And I'll tell myself I'm over you, 'Cause I'm the king of wishful thinking…'
Can someone please hug Stefan and tell him we love him? And then maybe break whatever horrible curse keeps him stuck in this absolutely heart-breaking close-but-no-cigar loop by mere seconds? It’s not fun anymore and I want it to stop! That’s all. Please!
The Watch Zone
Our pals, and their progress.
Young rider watch: Matthew Riccitello safely completed the time trial course 5.51 behind the winning time. Good lad.
EF watch: it was a good day out for Hugh Carthy, who keeps his GC hopes alive with a thoroughly creditable performance. Here are the full results from the boys in pink (and yellow. And green. Etc).
STOP PRESS: Bad news for EF, as Rigoberto Uran withdraws from the race with covid. All the best to him, and let's hope it doesn't run riot around the rest of the team, or the peloton.
The Fallen: Just one rider missed the start of stage 9: we bid a fond farewell to Davide Cimolai of Cofidis who did not recover sufficiently from a crash. Total riders remaining: 163
It's been a long old 9 days, so I'm keeping this one short and sweet.
Tao Geoghegan Hart - the guy with two really easy names to type and one big obstacle in the middle - seriously though, he's the absolute best human. Check out this wholesome as heck footage of him going out of his way to congratulate Andreas Leknessund on his time in the maglia rosa. Classy. (Bit bleepy too, fair warning).
And that's it for now. Enjoy the rest day, I know I will, and in the meantime thanks for reading - it means the world to all of us and we hope we've been able to entertain and inform you along the way. Plenty more where that came from. Arrividerci, and we'll see you on the other side.