GIRO’21 Week# 2 Rant: Snakes & Ladders Set Up Punishing Final Days
From Stage 11 to 16 as seen by Ed Hood
Giro Rest Day Rant: The first sixteen stages of the 2021 Giro d’Italia have been full of surprises, but maybe Egan Bernal in pink isn’t so much of a shock. Ed Hood looks back at the second week of the Italian Grand Tour to give us his perspective so far.
# You can see the ‘First Rest Day Rant’ HERE. #
No sign of back problems for Egan Bernal
What is it Stevie Winwood sang? ‘If you see a Chance, Take it!’ Mauro Schmid must have that on his play list. That’s the thing about cycling, you can go from ‘just another face in the peloton,’ to ‘star’ in just a few short hours, if you have the legs and Lady Luck decides it’s your day. Chapeau! to the 21 year-old from chocolate box lid cute, Bulach in Northern Switzerland on his first professional victory. And if I was Qhubeka team Principal, Doug Ryder I’d have ordered a large brandy last night. . .
Mauro Schmid – Big win for Qhubeka Assos
Bernal? A surprise he tightened his grip on the maglia over the sterrate? Not if you remember he was twice on the podium of the world junior cross country mountain bike championships and more recently, third in the Strade Bianche. To lapse into ‘EuroPro speak’ for a moment; ‘for sure, it’s still a long way to Milano,’ but as each day goes past the Colombian looks more and more like, ‘the man.’ Especially with that ‘Britless’ team of ‘ItaloMonsters’ like Ganna, Moscon and Puccio behind him.
Carthy is up there
But if you’re a Brit, nice to see Hugh Carthy and Simon Yates quietly move up to fourth and fifth on GC with none of the responsibility which the young INEOS man carries.
Remco Evenepoel – Back too soon?
Remco? Firstly, let’s remember he’s not 22 years-old until January; secondly, this is his first Grand Tour – sure, he won San Juan, The Algarve, Burgos and Poland last season but the longest of those was San Juan at seven stages including a short TTT and thirdly – let’s remember that ravine he went over in Lombardia. The Giro is his first race back since that horror on 15th August 2020. He’ll be back, stronger, wiser and perhaps a little more humble?
Gino Mäder – Last man standing
And who anchored the classement on this memorable day? Only fitting it was another Suisse; Gino Mäder 170th @ 26:27. And to close with another song lyric, as ‘Van the Man’ says; ‘You’re only King for a Day. . .’
Another good day for a French team, AG2R this time, on another tough day where the GC men let the ‘Attacante’ have their time in the sun. Tough day, tough winner, Italian Andrea Vendrame – who paid his dues at Androni for three seasons – didn’t win the Tro Bro Leon two years ago ‘cos he’s a cissy and on this day of 212K, four categorised climbs and very little flat road, he was bravest, strongest and ultimately, fastest.
Andrea Vendrame – The bravest, strongest and ultimately, fastest
And on the subject of, ‘tough’ – Chapeau to ‘Purple People Eater’ and former Italian Elite Road Race Champion, Giovanni Visconti, fifth on the stage at 38 years-of-age.
‘Purple People Eater’ – Giovanni Visconti
But it was a day to forget for several riders; early maglia rosa, Alessandro De Marchi and Marc Soler joined Mikel Landa and Pavel Sivakov in the ranks of the, ‘big names crashed out.’ Whilst Gino Mäder, Kobe Goossens, Fausto Masnada and Alex Dowsett (Israel Start-Up Nation) all succumbed to injury and/or illness. A hard day at the office, with Stage 11 winner and ‘King for a day,’ Mauro Schmid 162nd of 164 finishers @ 27:10 today. The Giro giveth – and the Giro taketh away. . .
Dave and I were in Torino in 2016 for the final stage of the Giro when Giacomo Nizzolo ‘won’ his last stage in the race; the Fife contingent of the UCi jury – that’s Dave and I – were happy with how the sprint was conducted but sadly the rest of the panel voted us down and the big chap went from first to 12th albeit didn’t stop him from taking home the ciclamino jersey.
Nizzolo – Another for Qhubeka
We had a chuckle to ourselves about how 2021 race juries would handle Van Linden v. Basso, Kelly v. Vanderaerden or Abdou v. Cipo. Nizzolo has been 11 times second in Giro stages before today – and whilst I was turning up the righteous indignation levels about Caleb Ewan ‘chucking it,’ big Giacomo was quietly thinking to himself; ‘Ahhhhh!’
Nizzolo took the win with a very long sprint
The other big news of the day is that PEZ soothsayer and mentor, Viktor has a new hero. Generally his heroes are to a template – big, strong, non-climbers and Belgian. However, the mould is broken and Vik has his first Italian hero since ‘Super Mario’ called ‘time.’ Edoardo Affini is the man.
Edoardo Affini – Vik’s new hero
A product of the excellent SEG Racing Academy he went World Tour with Mitchelton-Scott but has really began to flourish since he joined Jumbo Visma. It took all of Nizzolo’s speed and skill to beat Affini to the line after the man from Mantua in Lombardy, ‘did an Ekimov’ and attacked inside the red kite from way out. Nizzolo himself said that when he saw the gap he believed he was sprinting for second place. Chapeau! Giacomo and Edoardo. And ANOTHER brandy for Mr. Ryder.
Where to begin – on a stage that even confirmed, ‘non-climbing fan’ Vik admitted made compelling viewing? Let’s start with the man we closed on yesterday, Edoardo Affini; one of an 11 strong early breakaway group from which the eventual winner would emerge, Affini worked himself into the tarmac to ensure that the move would succeed, setting things up for team mate and co-escapee, George Bennett.
No luck for Bennett
However, Bennett along with fellow breakaway strongmen, Mollema and Tratnik were out-foxed by the man we’re going to talk about in a moment, Lorenzo Fortunato. Bennett finished an eventual seventh then rode back down the hill to chaperone Affini to the line – a beautiful gesture and one which reminds you why this sport is so special. It was also ‘illegal’ as riders aren’t supposed to cover the same part of the parcours twice – but even the hardest line UCi guy would surely turn a blind eye on this occasion. And again, the Giro transforms a man’s life in a single afternoon. Fortunato was a promising junior with 11th and 8th placed finishes in the World Junior Road Race Championships. As an u23 rider he got two stagiaire placements, in 2016 with Tinkoff and in 2017 with Bardiani before signing a contract with Neri Sottoli – Sella Italia – KTM in 2019; the following season the team became Vini Zabu KTM and this year he signed with Alberto Contador and Ivan Basso’s EOLO Kometa team.
Stunning ride from Lorenzo Fortunato
It’s perhaps easy to say that there’s nothing in his palmarès to suggest that he’s an ace climber; however, top 10 placings on the daunting Genting Highlands stage of last year’s Tour of Langkawi and earlier this year in the tough Alto del Naranco stage of the Vuelta Asturias say much about his climbing prowess. EOLO have more than, ‘honoured the Pink Race’ – they’ve been in many of the ‘moves of the day’ and the man who most thought would be the danger man on the Zoncolan, Fortunato’s team mate and co-escapee Vincenzo Albanese – but who succumbed to the gradient – wore the climbers’ jersey on stages two and three, Chapeau! EOLO-Kometa.
By far the strongest team
On the subject of teams, Bernal’s squadra is by head shoulders the strongest team in the race – every one of them strong and totally focused on the job. Their Man, the meek and softly spoken Bernal undergoes a transformation in the closing kilometres of mountain stages, becoming a snarling assassin, punishing his Pinarello in search of every second.
Yates didn’t have Bernal ‘on the ropes’
For a spell in the final on the Zoncolan it looked like Simon Yates may have the Colombian on the ropes – that was until Bernal again demonstrated why he’s, ‘The Daddy’ on this Giro – impressive. But a good day for Yates who moves onto the ‘virtual’ podium in second spot but not do good for Vlasov, who slid to fourth. Remco slipped one place but is still within sight of the podium, he’s at 3:52 whilst current third placed Caruso is 1:51 behind Bernal.
The Zoncolan was the hero
Any lingering dreams of a Nibali renaissance disappeared on this day as he haemorrhaged 12 minutes; and whilst Bardet moved up one place into the top 10, he’s doing a pretty good impersonation of the Invisible Man. Zoncolan, too hard, a circus? Maybe – but terrific entertainment nonetheless.
That’ll be an XO brandy for Mr. Ryder please – three stages in five days – CHAPEAU!
Stage win No.3 for Qhubeka
Let’s talk about Victor; ‘back in the day’ holders of the world hour record were usually smooth stylists – Coppi, Riviere, Anquetil, Bracke, Ritter, Moser [much as I love him, it’s difficult to say Merckx was a ‘stylist’]. But Victor isn’t in that mould, he brings to mind an escaped bull, causing havoc on the High Street. His win in the 2018 European Time Trial Championships was memorable for his desperate battle with his machine to snatch the title by one second from the man who’s now a key Bernal henchman at INEOS, Jonathan Castroviejo of Spain. Victor was twice Euro TT champion and twice Belgian TT champion, standing on the Worlds podium in 2018.
Worlds’18 TT podium – Tom Dumoulin, Rohan Dennis and Victor Campenaerts
But his last win against the watch was two years ago in Tirreno as a new generation of ‘chronomen’ has arrived, headed by the monster that is Filippo Ganna; then there’s Wout Van Aert, Stefan Kung, Remco and a rejuvenated Rohan Denis. Rather than let the grass grown under his feet Victor has reinvented himself as a ‘baroudeur.’ In this role he’s not actually racked up the wins but has certainly, ‘shown the flag’ for his sponsors and entertained the fans; even if his style – or lack thereof – makes purists cringe. But today his aggression finally paid off with an aggressive, entertaining and well deserved win. CHAPEAU Victor!
Maybe not a ‘stylist’
Tomorrow it gets REALLY serious; 212K, 5742 vertical metres including the Passos Pordoi and Giau but there is a long descent to the line which might save a few skins. . .
If there were any doubts about Egan Bernal’s class – his talent speaks for itself – they were dispelled when the Colombian removed his rain jacket as he entered the Cortina finish and stuffed it up the rear of that beautiful pink jersey which he displayed and honoured to the full. CHAPEAU Senor!
Stage win and overall time
You could argue that the organisers shouldn’t have chopped the percorso from 212 to 153 K but it was no bad thing given the weather conditions; riders ‘back in the day’ when ‘men were men’ were simply not as skinny as they are now and with just one monster passo the damage was bad enough, never mind another two horrors with their associated rain frozen descents.
Not the best conditions
Going back to ‘doubts,’ if there were any about who was the strongest man in this race, Bernal dispelled those too with a masterful display on the heart breaking slopes of the Passo Giau. In the snakes and ladders game of Grand Tour racing, Roman Bardet found a ladder, cast off the cloak of invisibility and took second place on this hardest of days, climbing up to seventh on GC.
A good day for Bardet and Caruso
A good day too for Damiano Caruso, moving up to second on GC – and Hugh Carthy now on the virtual podium in third spot, albeit the Brit obviously expected more from this day.
It was an anaconda for Simon Yates, dropping off the podium from second to fifth. No classement snake slide for Vlasov, staying fourth on GC but slipping down on time to a distant 4:18.
Not the Giro Yates had planned on
Caruso will be happy to defend second spot but Carthy and his hugely experienced DS, Charly Wegelius will still have designs on pink. The 11.5 kilometres to the Sega di Ala finish on Wednesday could give them the opportunity? But realistically it’s difficult to see anyone but the slight Colombian in pink come Milano.
The happy Bernal family
Giro d’Italia Overall After Stage 16:
1. Egan Bernal Gomez (Col) INEOS Grenadiers in 66:36:04
2. Damiano Caruso (Ita) Bahrain Victorious at 2:24
3. Hugh Carthy (GB) EF Education-Nippo at 3:40
4. Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Astana-Premier Tech at 4:18
5. Simon Yates (GB) BikeExchange at 4:20
6. Giulio Ciccone (Ita) Trek-Segafredo at 4:31
7. Romain Bardet (Fra) DSM at 5:02
8. Daniel Martinez Poveda (Col) INEOS Grenadiers at 7:17
9. Tobias Foss (Nor) Jumbo-Visma at 8:20
10. João Almeida (Por) Deceuninck – Quick-Step at 10:01
11. Davide Formolo (Ita) UAE Team Emirates at 12:45
12. Daniel Martin (Irl) Israel Start-up Nation at 15:10
13. Attila Valter (Hun) Groupama-FDJ at 16:23
14. George Bennett (NZ) Jumbo-Visma at 18:10
15. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Trek-Segafredo at 21:50
16. Koen Bouwman (Ned) Jumbo-Visma at 23:50
17. Pello Bilbao Lopez De Armentia (Spa) Bahrain Victorious at 27:10
18. Nicholas Schultz (Aus) BikeExchange at 27:12
19. Remco Evenepoel (Bel) Deceuninck – Quick-Step at 28:07
20. Louis Vervaeke (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix at 36:47
21. Lorenzo Fortunato (Ita) Eolo-Kometa at 37:07
22. Antonio Pedrero (Spa) Movistar at 38:22
23. Tanel Kangert (Est) BikeExchange at 38:52
24. Mikel Nieve Iturralde (Spa) BikeExchange at 39:38
25. Gorka Izagirre Insausti (Spa) Astana-Premier Tech at 42:27.