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Nine days in, and we arrive at the first rest day of this year's Giro d'Italia. And what have we learned so far? The first nine stages have been entertaining and unpredictable for the most part, with largely clement weather and a stunning Italian backdrop the scene set for a longitudinal artwork that could perhaps be called 'The Inevitability of Tadej Pogačar'.

While the Slovenian has at best dominated, at worst eclipsed, the rest of the field in this first block of racing, it's testament to the nature of Grand Tours in general that it hasn't been a monochrome experience. The canvas, to continue the artistic metaphor, has been layered with multiple colours and shades, and even the pink of the leader itself has been notably two-tone.

It's a peculiar dichotomy, the sense of a race being all but over, and yet the consensus among the fans being that this year's race has been a bit of a banger so far, for the most part. For while Pogačar and his team may have reverted to stereotype on stage 8, the Slovenian himself has shown us multiplicity, demonstrating not only his capabilities across every type of cycling discipline, but also a marked shift in his approach to racing at times, with all of his trademark gusto and spirit on display, but also with an element of restraint creeping in around the edges, as he looks ahead to a year full of opportunity beyond these beautiful weeks in Italy.

And as for the rest, we have bid farewell to 14 fallers, as 162 of the original 176 riders make it safely through to rest day. All of them have played their part in producing this collective artwork, whether adding just a few brushstrokes around the edges, illustrating areas of interest to draw the eye, or indelibly daubing their names across the canvas as they mark out their own place in the grand art gallery of cycling history. There is still a lot of painting to do before we have a final masterpiece to hang up in Rome on 28th May.

Image credit: La Presse

Recap: stages 7, 8 and 9

The first of two individual time trials on this year’s race, and the longest ITT in nine years of Grand Tours, stage 7 offered 40km against the clock for the riders to digest, with a finely poised balance of 34km flat, and 6km of climbing. It turned out to be perfect test of TT specialist vs GC all rounder, as unstoppable force met immovable object – Filippo Ganna vs Tadej Pogačar. No-one was sure how the day would play out but when Ganna took the hotseat, it seemed he was destined to stay there all day – would he leave as the stage victor, or be unseated by a standout ride from the man in pink? Um, it was the second option.

Pogačar dazzled in his two-tone skinsuit, producing a huge ride on the climb to overturn Ganna’s lead and stretch his GC advantage out to 2:36 over Dani Martinez, who had a good day and jumped ahead of Geraint Thomas in third. INEOS were the best team on the day with great rides from the Italian, Magnus Sheffield and Thymen Arensman, and there were big gains for the Aussies Ben O'Connor and Luke Plapp who moved into 4th and 5th respectively on GC, with Plapp taking control of the white jersey in the process.

Stage 8 was another stunning day as the Giro headed inland to the heart of the country, and the Apennine mountain range hosted the first 5-star stage of this year’s race. It took a long time to sort out the break, and when it settled we were buoyed by the composition of what looked as good a breakaway group as you could hope for, including Romain Bardet and Julian Alaphilippe, who were joined by a few more including Nairo Quintana.

What could have been, we'll never know, as instead of letting the break have some room and neutralising the GC they already had a commanding hold over, UAE Team Emirates elected to breathe down the necks of the breakaway all day, allowing them less than two minutes and breaking their spirits kilometre by disheartening kilometre, as they suffered death by a thousand cuts.

The sole survivor was Decathlon-AG2R's Valentin Paret-Peintre, who put up a valiant effort at the front as the last man standing, left dangling out like bait ahead of the sharks until 4.2km to go. After that, with Pogačar down to his last man, right-hand man Rafal Majka, it was simply a matter of if, not when, the Slovenian would strike. And yet, he did not, leaving it to his GC companions to take the initiative. Antonio Tiberi, Thymen Arensman and Michael Storer all took turns to attack, but left to his own devices by Majka, Pogačar policed every move like an aero pink whack-a-mole mallet, and when Majka resurfaced like a phoenix to usher his leader to the finish line, he was able to ride his wheel before sprinting to his third stage victory of the week. A smart move, perhaps, to not fire off solo with several kilometres remaining as he often would. A move which nonetheless, did not win him many friends in the bunch, though given his team's tireless efforts and his fans' adoration, it doesn't seem like something he'll lose much sleep over.

Stage 9 had sprint day written all over it, if Lidl-Trek's Jonathan Milan was to be believed before the stage. A bit of a fight for the break resulted in an old-fashioned Italian conti team escape, a pair of riders from Polti Kometa – Maestri and Pietrobon – the willing volunteers, as in their wake, it was the team of Kaden Groves, Alpecin-Deceuninck, rather than Milan's team who took the initiative and did the lion's share of the work.

With the purer sprinters put into difficulty on the stages lumps and bumps, the hardier fast men were in pole position to take on the final in Napoli, but Julian Alaphilippe had other ideas. He attacked with 27km to go, enticing a few more across to join him and the early breakaway duo to form a new-look late breakaway group. When the feisty Frenchman attacked again, only Arkea-B&B Hotels' Ewen Costiou could match hi. The rest of the group were taken back in, and the gap dropped to 10 seconds heading onto the final uncategorised climb.

Napoli has produced really exciting stage finishes in recent years, and this was no different, though the dramatic twists and turns in the road descending into the city did make for a few hair-raising moments. A crash for Geraint Thomas, the Welshman recovered - it looked worse for BORA hansgrohe's Max Schachmann.

Two breakaway efforts from Alaphilippe and two misses - he shot too early, and it was stage 1 victor Jhonathan Narvaez who launched a late attack and and found some space. More riders emerged from the bunch as the sprinters teams lost control, but with Lidl-Trek flying in pursuit of Narvaez who should emerge on the final straight but the man of the moment, Tadej Pogačar himself, this time functioning as lead-out for teammate Sebastian Molano. His monster turn was enough to draw the sprint group back to Narvaez in time for the expected bunch finish, and though Milan abused his bike in his usual style and looked as though he would triumph, it was Olav Kooij who stormed through on the line to claim his first Grand Tour stage win, and claw back a little luck for the wounded Visma-Lease A Bike team after a torrid first week.

I Magnifici Sette

by DJ Momo

Stage 4,5 & 6:

A rapidfire run-through of the midweek stages:

4: It got wet and slippery and we were all Living on a Prayer for everyone to get through safely (get well soon to those who didn’t) and then Pippo went PEWPEW on Capo Mele in this day’s Great Escape and almost kept it to the line, before Milan made us all sing Go Johnny Go Go Go (that gentle giant is Goode)!

5: Alpecin did waaaay Too Much, Too Soon and caught the break early, which prompted a Speed Drive from a new peppy quartet who kept the chasing peloton at bay to the line, allowing Benjamin Thomas to get Cofidis’ First of The Year (It’s a GOOD year for the trackies, innit?) and a very heartwarming Back In Business performance from Michael Valgren. 

Stage 6: Time for Gli Sterrati, the white roads of Strade Bianche awaits, and it was a gorgeous day of racing, no? The entire peloton enveloped in Dust through the gorgeous Tuscan countryside. After a massive fight for the breakaway, LouLou, Plappy and Pelayo Sanchez proved that Three is the Magic Number, also in bike racing, as they fought it out for the stage win. To honour the Danish commentators’ slightly off pronunciation of the team Movistar’s name, here’s on old Harpo classic…

Stage 7: ITT day, a day for the fans passionate about Aerodynamic and ridiculous power numbers. Ganna, for a man his size, absolutely smashed The Climb, but in the end Pog was the one to sing Time Is On My Side, both for the stage win and in the GC battle. Chapeau!

Stage 8: Not to be blasé about things, but To Cut a Long Story Short, stage 8 felt a bit like a replay. Once UAE started pacing to catch the breakaway, even most commentators joined the chorus of Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before, and lo and behold, the result of the stage was pretty predictable by the end. I imagine Pog had All I Do Is Win playing on the bus afterwards, it seems fitting, doesn’t it?

Stage 9: Oh Napoli! Last year I went into a nerdy deep dive on the music known as tarantella napoletana, but this year we’ll keep it race related.

For the first many many kms of the stage, the gentle beauty of a 2-teammate breakaway was all we had happening, save for a few intermediate sprints. The two brave breakaway boys from Polti-Kometa deserve a song of their own, and why not make it one of my all-time favourites, The Wannadies’ You & Me Song?

Once the short, sharp climbs of the finale started, the mood in the peloton changed significantly, and we were served an exhilarating combo of attack attempts, ending with Narvaez’ monster effort to Push It To The Limit (and the line) before the sprinter teams caught him. He was caught only 25ish metres before the finish, and for that Jhony deserves his own (slightly beefed up) version of the already featured Johnny B. Goode! My pulse was at max throughout his entire effort!

But seeing as his efforts sadly were in vain, I am pretty damn happy that the win went to one of the youngest sprinters in the bunch, when Olav Kooij - after crashes had cost him both skin and his leadout already - could celebrate his first GT stage win. I know they don’t give out as many kisses on the podium anymore, but it still counts as his First Kiss(/Stagewin) when it comes to the final song selection before the restday! 

Throwback Thursday Monday

Mathieu Fraisse takes us back to memorable stage wins by number… let’s go!

Stage 7 | 2010: Carrare - Montalcino (222km)

Strade, muddy Strade

Among riders, experts and organizers, this is widely considered as one of the most demanding stages ever raced in the history of the Giro. A combination of terrible weather, unpaved white roads – the same ones seen at Strade Bianche – slopes over 10% and a fierce GC battle made it one of the most iconic stages of the Italian Grand Tour.

After roughly an hour of racing, the rain started to fall on the roads of Tuscany. You don't have to be an expert to solve a simple equation: rain + unpaved white roads = mud. And as if racing in mud wasn’t fun enough for the riders, let’s add the Poggio Civitella, a 12-kilometre climb with slopes over 10%. You probably already saw these iconic pictures of riders covered in mud and you definitely can’t tell which rider is from which team. Seven riders eventually got through this terrible last ascent: Vinokourov, Arroyo, Pinotti, Gadret, Garzelli, Evans and Cunego.

In this complete mayhem, two men were standing out: Vinokourov and Evans. Clearly the strongest riders from what was left of the favourites, unphased by the weather conditions they were going at each other on the Poggio Civitella. Are they really humans? I was just watching the race on TV and all I wanted was a nice hot cup of tea and a blanket. Them? Full gas in the mud and rain. 

But every race unfortunately only has one winner. And to make this stage even more iconic, who else but a World Champion to win it? With a loooong uphill sprint, Cadel Evans and his muddy rainbow stripes kit eventually took the stage in Montalcino, in front of Cunego and Vinokourov, the latter claiming Maglia Rosa. 

The Australian showcased his elite mountain biking skills in the Poggio Civitella. Mud and rain seemed like nothing to the World Champion. A savvy ride from Evans, his MTB background helped him to save energy in the trickier parts of this stage and he was clearly the strongest on the 700-metre ascent to the finish line. A rainbow through the rain and mud: a rare phenomenon! What do you call this? Oh yeah… iconic!

Youtube: from RetroCycling Channel

Stage 8 | 1928: Roma - Pistoia (323km)

The Italian Bros (but it’s not Mario & Luigi)

We’re going way back in time for this one. Almost a century ago, in 1928, to talk about one of the first road cycling legends: Alfredo Binda.

Binda is 26 years old and has already won two Giri and three Lombardia. But most importantly, he recently became the first professional road racing World Champion. It’s fair to say that Binda is a cycling superstar entering this 1928 Giro. 

Binda truly has no competition when healthy, and would eventually easily go on to win his third Giro, winning half of this edition's 12 stages. And the Piemontese rider, Domenico Piemontesi won 5 stages for himself. If you didn’t skip mathematics classes, you easily guessed that 6+5 = 11. Only one stage was won by another rider. And this is the story of this 8th stage.

And this stage was won by Binda. “BUT YOU SAID THE STAGE WAS WON BY ANOTHER RIDER?!”. Yes, yes it was! The 8th stage of the 1928 Giro was won by Albino Binda, Alfredo's younger brother. But the stage wouldn’t be iconic enough if Alfredo wouldn’t have finished 2nd, making this a unique family podium in Pistoia.

To top it off, the Binda Bros both finished in the Top 10 with Albino taking 8th spot in Milan. And this Giro had 298 starters (!) and 126 finishers. So 7 stages win, the overall win and two spots in the top 10 between the two brothers, the Binda family is REALLY good at this cycling thing! Binda Bros > Mario Bros 😏

Stage 9 | Giro 2017 : Montenero di Bisaccia – Blockhaus (149km)

Nairo, Dumo, Vincenzo or TiboPino?

The first mountain finish happened 5 days earlier at the Etna, on stage 4 where Jan Polanc won, but there was no GC battle, all favourites neutralizing themselves on the last ascent and all finishing in the same group. on the morning of stage 9, the Maglia Rosa is worn by Bob Jungels with all favourites 10 seconds behind him.

On this second mountain summit finish of 2017 Giro, one of the favourites could really make a statement by winning on top of the Blockhaus (13,6km at almost 9%). A battle for pink is expected after stage 4 anti-climax.

12 riders in the breakaway of the day, among them Tratnik, Pedersen, Rolland or LL Sanchez, but GC teams never left them with more than a 3’ gap. Movistar led the bunch for most of the stage, Quintana must have high ambitions today, this GC battle is happening!

The Blockhaus ascent quickly turned into a nightmare for Team Sky as Thomas and Landa were involved in a huge crash caused by a motorbike. The team lost all hopes to win the Giro here. Yates from GreenEdge is also down.

With 8km to go, Jungels lost contact with the front group. There will be a new Maglia Rosa tonight! With 6km to go, Quintana launched the first attack among the favourites. Nibali and Pinot were able to follow this one. The gradients were reaching double-digits as the Colombian attacked for the 4th time, he was on fire! This time Pinot and The Shark couldn’t follow, while Dumoulin and Mollema were clawing their way back.

A great savvy ride from Dumoulin who wasn’t able to follow Quintana’s first attack but found his rhythm during this Blockhaus ascent. On the contrary, Nibali is paying for his efforts and starts losing the wheel of Pinot and Dumoulin.

Quintana is now well clear of the Dutch and the French. Another kick off the saddle from the Movistar climber, who went on to win this iconic stage 9 of 2017 Giro. Pinot took 2nd place and Dumoulin 3rd, 24 seconds back. Mollema 4th with a 40” gap and Nibali 5th, 59” after Quintana. 

Real statements from the Movistar team and Nairo Quintana, they showed their ambitions during the whole stage and delivered. Quintana is the new Maglia Rosa. The Colombian would eventually lose it to Tom Dumoulin after the rest day.

An epic battle between these two until the very last stage of the 2017 Giro, with TiboPino and the Shark of Messina joining the fun to spice things up a bit more. Quintana had reclaimed the Maglia Rosa after the 19th stage, even gaining more time during stage 20. Before the last stage, Quintana had a 53” gap over Dumoulin. The Dutch rider eventually won the Giro after the final Time Trial in Milan, finishing 2nd with and winning the Giro by 31” over Quintana. Heartbreak for all Nairo’s fans but pure joy for the Butterfly of Maastricht aficionados! 

Youtube: from Biathlon Live channel

The Things we Saw Along the Way

Stage 10

Today’s stage starts near what is possibly one of the most unique archaeological sites in existence, Pompeii. In 79 AD whilst the inhabitants of Pompeii went about their lives Mount Vesuvius erupted, smothering the city below in clouds of burning ash. The disaster devastated the town and left in its wake the hauntingly unique preserved casts of the people. Giving us an insight into the people who lived there all those years ago.

Interestingly the people of Pompeii would have had been living in complete ignorance to the danger of the mountain whose shadow they lived in. The word volcano was not coined until 1610.

Stage 11

A 207km stage that starts inland before joining the beautiful Adriatic coast. As the peloton navigates the road that hugs the coastline, you may spot some wooden structures jutting out into the sea. These local landmarks many of which are protected heritage sites, were originally constructed with long wooden arms, which supported the nets to aid fishing. Many now have been repurposed into restaurants. So, you can enjoy the finest food the region has to offer whilst enjoying the incredible views offered by these unique structures.

Stage 12

At 147.8km there is an intermediate sprint point in a place called Ripe. If you were to visit this picturesque small town you would find Il Museo Nori de’ Nobili, a museum of art dedicated to the work of Nori de’ Nobili.

Born in Ripe in 1902, the first daughter of an army officer, she found her love of the arts at an early age. She studied painting in both Rome and Florence, and despite the societal sexism she faced, her work was well received. Unfortunately, her life was not an untroubled one, and her mental health suffered. Following the loss of her beloved brother Alberto, she had a breakdown at the age of 33 and continued her life in the care of an asylum dedicating her life to the arts, until her death at the age of 66.

The museum is a modern and thoughtful tribute to the life’s work of this amazing artist.

Il Museo Nori de’ Nobili (image credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Giro #107

Our celebration of the 107th edition of the Giro, and all things 107...

Rider #107

Stage 7

Today was ITT day and it was marked by an outstanding performance. No, not Pogačar, but Fabio Van den Bossche who was 107th of the general classification after yesterday’s stage and who finished… 107th!

Fabio Van den Bossche was born on the 21st of September 2000 in Ghent. Fabio is not the first of his family to become a professional cyclist. Indeed, his grandfather, Willy De Geest, won two stages on the Tour de Suisse in the 1970’s and was even teammates with Roger De Vlaeminck. Following in the footsteps of his grandfather, Fabio signed his first professional contract in 2020, with the Belgian team Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise after some good results in his Junior years. He spent two years there, showing his consistency on all types of profiles but without any outstanding results. He took the breakaway on his two participations in the Ronde van Vlaanderen, staying 180 kilometres at the front of the race in 2021.

Despite not having a win yet, Fabio Van den Bossche had caught the eye of another Belgian team, Alpecin-Fenix, which he joined in 2022. Under his new colours, he became a domestique for his leaders in all sorts of races, his excellent adaptability making him a very important rider for his teammates. The best result of his career happened this year, on the last stage of the Tour of Antalya, where he finished second after spending more than 60km in the breakaway, only beaten on the line by Hartthijs De Vries. At this Giro, Fabio Van den Bossche’s role will be to help his sprinter Kaden Groves to stage win.

Stage 8

A new day on the Italian roads and a new rider finishing 107th, there is undeniably more suspense here than at the front of the race… Alexander Kamp is our winner today!

Alexander Kamp was born in Copenhagen, the capital city of Denmark, on the 14th December 1993. He spent the first years of his career as a cyclist between Danish clubs and Continental teams, gathering some wins in local races such as the GP Horsens and Skive-Lobet. In 2016 however, he joined a German team, Stölting Service Group, allowing him to evolve for the first time at the Pro Continental level and to meet another Danish rider, a man named Mads Pedersen. 2016 marked also the first major win of the career of Alexander – The Danish National Championships. Despite having a beautiful jersey to wear, today’s winner went back to Continental level the year after, signing with Virtu Cycling for 2 years.

After some good results with Virtu and with Riwal Readynez, which he joined for the season 2019, Kamp finally had the chance to shine at the highest level: the World Tour. He signed for Trek-Segafredo in 2020. The first year with his new team was quite difficult for Alexander but he started to post some top 10 finishes in World Tour stage races the following season (Catalunya, Suisse), showing his talent to the world. 2022 was surely his best season with another Danish Championship victory, but also a podium at the Bretagne Classic and a top 5 at the Amstel Gold Race, among the very best riders in the world.

Last year, Alexander signed with Tudor Pro Cycling and continued his great performances, winning the general classification of the Région Pays de la Loire Tour in April. He also posted another top 10 at Amstel Gold Race but also at the GP Québec. In 2024, Alexander is taking part in his first Giro, where his goal will be to protect his sprinters Dainese and Mayrhofer and his leader Michael Storer. We should be able to see him at the front at least once during the three weeks, trying to take his first ever World Tour win.

Stage 9

The last day before the first rest day of this Giro so last 107th winner of the week and it is for the second time a Lidl-Trek rider who takes the honour: Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier!

Amanuel was born on the 17th August 1994 in the Ethiopian capital city Addis Ababa but he chose to ride under the Eritrean flag. After some good results with his national team during his Junior years, including an Eritrean National title at the age of 20, he was recruited by the Development team of Dimension Data in 2016. During the two years that he spent there, he amassed some interesting results such as some top 10s at the Tours of Rwanda, Hungary and Norway.

In 2018, Amanuel finally signed his first World Tour contract with the main team of Dimension Data. In his first year at this level, he became the African champion and participated in his first Grand Tour, La Vuelta a Espana. Amanuel spent 3 years with the African team with whom he discovered all the biggest races, before joining Trek-Segafredo for the 2021season. At the time, he was already known to be a good climber, so his role was to help his different leaders on the long climbs.

Last year, still with Trek-Segafredo, Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier became ITT Champion of Eritrea for the second time and posted his two best results at a Grand Tour stage. Indeed, he finished 6th in Lago Laceno at the Giro and 4th in Collado de la Cruz at the Vuelta, both times from a breakaway. In 2024, Amanuel is entering the final year of his contract with Lidl-Trek so his future is not known yet. He will try to shine on the roads of his fifth Giro to prove his to team that he is worthy of a contract extension.

Rider 107 – Nick Schultz!

How’s our Schultzie getting on? Well, he finished a creditable 56th on the stage 7 ITT, 66th on stage 8 and rolled in with the bunch in 41st on stage 9. Strangely, enough he also sits 41st overall as we head into the rest day, which isn’t too shabby at all really, and though we still haven’t seen him stick his nose in the wind, I’m quietly confident that the best is yet to come from our Aussie mascot.

What happened at km107?

Stage 7 had the audacity not to even HAVE a km107. Given that it was an individual time trial, I'm guessing the riders were quite relieved about this. We were back in business on stage 8 however, as km107 revealed the story of the day in one snapshot - a hapless breakaway fighting pointlessly up a climb. Heartbreak ensued.

I knew there would be something significant somewhere along this ridiculous and arbitrary journey. And it came on stage 9. The final stage before the first rest day, the Napoli day – always something of note happens. The stage was 214km in length. And you know what that means? Of course you do. Km107 was the EXACT HALFWAY MARK in the stage. I know, right?!

Preview 107 – Stage 10, 11 & 12

It’s a short sharp shock of a stage that follows the rest day – will the legs be recovered in time for this mountainous assault? The heart says surely the GC guys sit back and leave it to the break. The head says... Pogi.

Stage 11 resembles 9 – downhill, lumpy and unpredictable. The sprinters will hope – the breakaway will roll the dice, but with a flatter finale, it’s likely to be one for the fast men.

Stage 12 has ‘hardy sprinters’ written all over it, but given what we know of this Giro so far, expect the unexpected. The late unclassified bump could once again be decisive.

Giro Duos

or, what would happen if the GC relied on two riders per team instead of one?

As Alexey Lutsenko exits, Astana Qazaqstan drops to 10th place in the Giro Duos format, while INEOS Grenadiers rise to claim the lead.

Graphic design: Sam Mould

Social Media Antipasti

Just one for you this issue as it's been a mad week and I haven't been across the socials - feel free to flag anything I've missed including any animals, which have been sorely lacking from the last block of racing from what I've seen. More animals please!

So an Italian, ordering pizza, in Napoli. What could be more 'Giro d'Italia'? (Don't answer that).

Thank you so much for reading - a tonne of effort and enthusiasm goes into producing these pieces and I really do hope they are enhancing your enjoyment of the race. Feedback is always appreciated as is love and sharing - please send to all your cycling friends. See you Thursday.

Il Giro Sette is brought to you by DOLAN Bikes.

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