Welcome back! Did you miss us? Rest day went far too quickly, yet somehow so much happened since the last bulletin, I don't feel as though I can jump into today's action until we've dealt with some of the fall-out. So I give you:
THE SUPER-FAST REST DAY NEWS ROUND-UP
Remco got covid! NO WAY! So did Sven Erik Bystrom but he said he'd carry on racing anyway! That seemed like a bad idea and so it proved when he actually got sick and retired anyway! Get well soon to them both. (And the rest - news to follow).
The weather continued to frustrate too, with news of snow on Friday's epic mountain stage causing a route change, and along with it, a change to this year's cima coppi as the race can no longer pass over the peak of Grand Saint Bernard climb - they're going through a tunnel instead! More news on the updated route on Thursday.
Finally, even the leaderboard didn't make sense as Geraint Thomas became the new maglia rosa and suddenly, the GC race became wide, wide open. I wrote a piece for RoadCode to unpick the new challengers, sign up for a free account there to read about it via multiverse theory, invisible riders and INEOS sandwiches:
Here's your contents, and we're a couple of writers down today after a long busy weekend - they will join us again very soon. Still plenty on the menu!
Today in review
Where do I even start with the shambles that was stage 10 of this year’s Giro? It was like a physical manifestation of the race so far, with horrendous conditions, a slew of new covid cases and sickness, and confusion and chaos prior to the start over when and where the race would actually begin, following a statement from the riders’ union saying they would only race the final 70km. This was immediately ignored as the flag dropped and the racing began as usual, with an early break of five riders opening up a small gap, but with every indication that this wasn’t over.
The climbing began early and more riders chanced their luck and tried to escape, while out front it proved too tricky already for three of the five, leaving just a two-man break – Stage 6's nearly-man Alessandro De Marchi (Team Jayco-Alula) and his former teammate, Israel-Premier Tech's Derek Gee, another rider who's looked lively. They amassed 30 seconds, while plenty more attacks poured in from behind. Meanwhile, things didn't look good for BORA-hansgrohe's Aleksandr Vlasov, who rode out back alongside his team car, apaprently struggling - he would later retire from the race.
Still nothing was set outside of the lead pair. Mads Pedersen amongst others fought to regain contact after being dropped on the climb, and as another small group detached themselves from the peloton the monochrome rain jackets meant it took some time to realise it was third placed Tao Geoghegan Hart attempting to ninja away into the break. He was quickly neutralised, cheeky monkey.
In all the commotion Gee and De Marchi had quietly built a 3-minute lead with Cort and Bais in no-man’s land in between. The pair finally bridged across to double the size of the group and we were set for a while.
The next significant action was the intermediate sprint, a fun cat and mouse game between the three M’s Milan, Matthews and Mads. Pedersen clearly wasn’t feeling it today but Milan absolutely was, pushing out an explosion of watts to take the remaining points and strengthen his claim on ciclamino.
Everyone gritted their teeth and dug in. Conditions were so horrific, the only ray of sunshine was Jens Voigt on the moto enjoying his ‘little adventure’ – genuinely his segments making a difficult watch so much more bearable. More of this please, GCN!
The peloton pushed on, the mood among the Twitter viewership reflecting the gloomy weather as concern was expressed for rider safety and honestly, no-one could really say they were enjoying the spectacle of 160-odd soaking wet men looking extremely sick of their lives and actually having to stop and dismount in order to change their jackets.
Some time later there was disaster for one of the favourites for the day should it come down to a sprint, Fernando Gaviria, and the peloton split up on a long descent, with a surprise attack from Bahrain Victorious, led by a storming Jonathan Milan and followed by GC 8th placed Damiano Caruso – an unexpected bid for an upper hand over the rest and a definite eye-opener for the rest.
With around 80km remaining the break held a 3-minute lead to the chasing group and almost 5 minutes to the peloton, and with Pedersen on a bad day, Gaviria crashing and Milan already out front, it was looking far more likely that we’d see a breakaway winner.
The sting was taken out of Bahrain’s chase somewhat as Milan suffered a crash but was quickly back up and running again – later, Will Barta and Jay Vine came a cropper on a bend, with Barta’s bike bent completely in half – hope they are OK too.
A spate of crashes followed, too many to recount, and a nightmarish incident in which Alberto Bettiol was knocked off his bike by a team mechanic following a different crash (warning - not for the faint of heart!)
Warren Barguil looked badly hurt. There was evidence of further impacts not seen on camera, and more DNFs, Team DSM’s Martin Tusveld dropping out of the race. We're now down to 150 hardy riders.
35km to go, and the peloton could finally enjoy some drier conditions, the rain jackets discarded as the break put in their final dig and the main group of GC contenders and sprint teams began to reel them in.
1.30 stood between them with just 26km remaining, and it looked like the sprinters would prevail. Meanwhile a chasing group fell further and further adrift of the main group, including half of UAE Team Emirates, as they tried to bring Jay Vine back.
With the peloton of determined riders trying to warm up after a horrible day in the rain, both the breakaway and the chasing group were looking doomed.
Until they weren’t. With 12km to go, it became clear that the gap hadn’t reduced for quite some time, hanging at around 47 or 48 seconds, and once again, we dared to dream. 10km, 8km… the breakaway still had 40 seconds.
With Astana tiring and Trek down to the bare bones - just Amanuel Ghebregazhier left in support of Mads Pedersen - the chase ran out of steam, and as the power shifted to the breakaway, the games began. Derek Gee was the first to launch around 2km out, and it looked as though De Marchi’s day might be done as he lost the wheel, but he fought back and under la flamme rouge the three were back together once again.
From there, with Cort sitting on Gee's wheel, the final was only going one way. De Marchi tried, but it was not enough for the wily Dane who completed his Grand Tour trilogy with an epic win after a day you literally couldn't have made up, becoming the second Dane to do so, so far this Giro.
Speedy stage preview
Stage 11 – Wednesday 17th May – Camaiore – Tortona 219km (Flat)
Beginning in the Tuscan town of Camaiore, stage 11 will be another day of virtual holiday hunting for the yearning television viewer as the beauty of Italy will be front and centre, particularly for the first half of the race as the peloton travels north along the coast.
With 2100m of climbing, it’s yet another day the Giro organisers have classified as ‘flat’, that the sprinters will be rolling their eyes over. That being said, while the climbs are challenging, they are once again spaced relatively evenly along the course, with two category 3 ascents at around 70km and around 133km, and the final climb of the day a category 4 at 170km, leaving 43km to the finish for whoever is chasing by that point.
So, flat it is most certainly not. The day concludes in the Piedmont region, just on the border of the Ligurian Apennines. The mountains beckon.
WHAT TO EXPECT: Stunning scenery, sweeping heli shots, a pesky bike race interrupting our view. Another big fight for the break, the sprinters teams to police things, everything to come back together for a bunch sprint.
HOT TIP: As so often happens in Grand Tours, a pattern has begun to form on the flat stages with a handful of guys involved each time. Michael Matthews, Kaden Groves, Mads Pedersen, Fernando Gaviria, Jonathan Milan. Throw the names into the air and see which one lands in your breakfast. Alternatively you can join me in believing it will be a second win for an ebullient MADS PEDERSEN.
Canzone dell'Amore Infinito
34: Rest-day Remco Ruminations: Sum 41 - The Hell Song
The stage 9 Bulletin came out and then… Covid struck. Again. And hard. Sigh.
So yeah. My inner skatepunk took the wheel (ehm, decks), but I can honestly not imagine a more fitting song for an untimely favourite departure than this.
So; set to the anything-but-dulcet tones of Sum 41's 'The Hell Song' this is me wishing Remco Evenepoel a speedy and full recovery.
The same goes for every other rider having to abandon their carefully prepared dreams due to illness, whatever the kind.
And with that we all take a deep breath, mask up and go on. We still have two weeks more to go!
If G ends up staying in pink for a while, I promise we’ll have a Welsh theme, but not today!
35: Stage 10: The Clash - Should I Stay or Should I go
Following several 'should this or that rider ride on/stop riding due to covid' discussions, the weather, the race and the riders decided to mirror this theme too, and we all spent the warm-up to today’s stage pondering alongside Joe Strummer&Co about what would happen.
But in the end the arrow landed on GO, so off we went.
36: Stage 10: The Weather Girls - It’s Raining Men
This feels morbid. I admit it.
Look; I’m born, raised and still living in Denmark, and yet somehow the Giro always manages to freak me out on the meteorological front. It looked horrid today, and the crash rate was far too much for my liking, but somehow this stage also delivered a bunch of more positive bonkers-yet-entertaining moments… a recollection from memory alone: Tao sneaking into a break due to… being annoyed? Followed by an insistent Michel Heßmann with a half-on gilet-cape look…
The whole break composition that felt emblematic for this Giro until now; DeMarchi, one of his ex-teammates from IPT (Gee), a Bais-brother (Davide) and a break-favourite EF-rider (Cort today). The ciclamino battle-royale for the intermediate sprint. Adam Blythe calling Jonathan Milan a stallion. Bahrain-Victorious showing that they all took descending lessons from Mohoric and Bilbao… A rightfully feisty Bettiol moment!
No big crash on the soapy-slick final straight and THE BREAK MAKING it…!
Yeah. It looked miserable out there today, but HALLELUJAH for all the men who had to ride it in!
37: Stage 10: Rammstein - Du Hast
Celebration - Cort-style!
Well… this doesn’t need much explanation if you followed today’s winner through last year’s tour. Apparently he has a ritual, and who am I to question his winning musical choices?
The Watch Zone
How did our focus riders fare today?
Young rider watch: a mixed day for our race young'un Matthew Riccitello. Losing two teammates to illness but with another having a storming day in the break, they will have plenty to talk about on the bus later.
Given the number of calamities that befell the riders today, I can't verify that Riccitello finished safely, or without incident, but finish he did, and in 130th position in (one of) the gruppettos, 23.02 down on the winner.
Don't forget if you're late to this particular party, you can find out more about the youngest rider in this year's race in my interview with him.
EF watch: another day of celebration for our team of the race with a second stage win, this time courtesy of breakaway king Magnus Cort. There were some scary moments too, with Alberto Bettiol's crash, and his passionate Italian rage continued to boil over even as his team celebrated around him - see this clip.
The Fallen: sadly, far too many riders have left since we last spoke. Here's run-down:
DNS: Remco Evenepoel, Rigoberto Uran, Callum Scotson, Domenico Pozzovivo, Sven Erik Bystrom (covid); Mads Wurtz Schmidt, Rein Taaramäe, Oscar Riesebeek (illness), Stefan Küng (personal choice)
DNF: Aleksandr Vlasov, Martin Tusveld, Erik Fetter, Simone Petilli
Thanks for your service fellas, rest up and see you at another race soon.
Total riders remaining: 150
It was basically a 'cycling out of context' highlight reel today with plenty of off-bike action, commentary hilarity and the constant joy and humour from Jens Voigt on the moto, including this brilliant exchange with UAE's Pascal Ackerman where Jens makes it very clear quite how cold it is...
Speaking of cycling out of context, there's been plenty of helicopter-based discourse so far this Giro, but there's also a reason why EF boss Jonathan Vaughters posted this immediately after today's stage, which our resident DJ Momo has already alluded to in her final song selection.
This all links back to Cort's explanation of his own er, unique, celebrations following his stage win at last year's Tour de France. I give you the man himself to explain... (bear with me, I promise it will be worth it).
Anyway, if you remember all the way back to early in week 1, Cort posted his review of his first hotel room on Instagram and we all speculated about how roommate Ben Healy would be enjoying sharing a space (and a blanket apparently) with the Dane.
So it's only natural to put two and two together and wonder idly, if tonight may have been particularly interesting for Healy... or perhaps following his own stage win the other day, if the helicopter pilot himself may have offered a few tips as to how best to celebrate a big win. Um... yes, well. Thoughts and prayers with Ben, then.
And on that decidedly out of context note, I'll bid you ciao, until tomorrow. Thanks for reading!