Stage 20 – the last day in the mountains for this year’s Giro d’Italia and with time to gain and podium places to maintain, we were hoping for some real fireworks. Well, we got them, although not in the form that we had anticipated. Incidents with overzealous tifosi saw both Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) and Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) lose time (although not in the same way) and on the day that Mikel Landa (Movistar) was #free, Pello Bilbao (Astana) decided to take the inside corner to take his second stage win of the Grand Tour. Richard Carapaz (Movistar) kept his cool and the maglia rosa, with a hefty lead on the eve before the final, decisive time trial.
If yesterday was all smiles and cheers for a rider who is finally coming out of a few seasons’ worth of bad luck, today was a day of aggression, gritted teeth and clenched fists. Did all that shake up the GC as we’d hoped? Were there stinging attacks, wild descents, unlikely alliances in the hope of gaining time on rivals? Well, yes and no.
We all say it any number of times during races – ‘get those jackasses off the road!’ Being able to stand by the side of the road and see our favourites riding within arm’s reach is one of the joys of being a cycling fan. But some fans take it too far and some even have props – like flares or flags or their bits bobbing around. And lots of them run alongside the riders. Today, we had two incidents of tifosi interference in the race that made two riders vying for podium positions lose time.
The first involved Primoz Roglic. Two enthusiasts wanted to help him during the stage and gave him a push that lasted way too long. This is a no-no and the fact that Roglic didn’t do anything to discourage this (like pushing them away as we often see riders do) meant that he received a 10sec penalty. The debate rages on Twitter as to the fairness of this rule, but if Roglic loses a podium place by 10secs, it certainly means that an interaction between fans and a rider changed the final outcome of a Grand Tour.
The other interaction between fan and rider was much more serious. Miguel Angel Lopez crashed into a fan who had been running along the group of riders on a very tight road. The fan was barged by another fan and crashed into Lopez, causing him to go down at a crucial time in the final climb – a time when the Carapaz, Landa, Nibali trio were bombing up the road. Lopez saw red and slapped the fan a couple of times. An action that could very well have seen him DQed. (At the time of writing, he is still in the race, and still in the maglia blanca.) The whole incident caused him to lose about 2min when it looked like he was on a good day and possibly could have caught that lead group and vied for the stage win. All conjecture now, but this is another incident that has changed the race. What to do about incidents like this, however, and how to make the fans understand how to be respectful to the riders while still enjoying the race is surely an argument that will rage on and on.
The curious case of Mikel Landa
Mikel Landa is an interesting case study for thwarted potential. Once again, he’s found himself riding in a Grand Tour with his own ambitions for victory, for a team whose ambitions for the top step are being fulfilled by … a teammate. Ever the maverick, Landa seems to vacillate between riding for himself (the #FreeLanda hashtag lives on season after season) or knuckling down and playing the team super-domestique. It happened at Astana with Fabio Aru in the 2015 Giro, it happened at Sky, well, all the time, and it’s happening now at Movistar with Richard Carapaz.
But for all the Landa going rogue and #FreeLanda sentiment, when Landa is freed and changes teams to the promise of a GT leadership role, his performances are almost always marred by bad luck (the motorbike incident in the 2017 Giro), sickness (the 2016 Giro) or a teammate that is simply stronger than him (many of the others) or he loses a handful of time at the start of the GT and has to fight to make it up (more often than not). However, when the same thing happens again and again, even when you’ve changed the circumstances, one day you have to think that, “well, maybe it’s me?” … Can Mikel Landa become a serious contender for a Grand Tour in the next few seasons? His climbing prowess and his ability to suffer riding tempo for great stretches of time would make us think, yes, he can. The fact that he’s just not been able to ignite his performance in the 12 Grand Tours he’s ridden so far makes me think otherwise.
Rider of the Race
I’ve been toying with who should be my Rider of the Race today, as I had a few who were all in the same vicinity in my head. But I went with my first reaction and so my Rider of the Race is Richard Carapaz. It was a sleek ride by the Ecuadorian today – he was calm, cool, collected; responsive to the attacks by Lopez on the Passo Manghen and Vincenzo Nibali on the final climb; and riding hard on the front in the last part of the stage to put as much time into Roglic for his super domestique, Mikel Landa, to knock him off the third step of the podium (which he accomplished – so far), and to try to set up Landa for a stage win (which he did not accomplish). To ride so selflessly for Landa, to reciprocate the selfless riding that his teammate had done for him in the last week or so, is the mark of a classy rider. And we like those kinds of riders here at VeloVoices Towers.
Barring circumstances that would mean they wouldn’t be able to finish the race, the maglia azzurra and the maglia ciclamino are decided. Giulio Ciccone has really been a highlight of this year’s Giro, and almost certainly an incredibly popular guy to the management of Trek-Segafredo. He started the Giro in the maglia azzurra from Stage 1 (there was a wicked climb in the ITT if you remember) and kept it except for a few odd days here and there. He animated the breaks, he fought hard for the points one mountain after another, and he even won a stage. Even today, when there was no danger to his keeping the jersey, he was up with the big boys on that final climb and came in third, for a final total of 267 points – 152 more than his closest rival! Not to mention, he looks amazing in that beautiful jersey.
Bora-hansgrohe have had a very successful Giro, with three stage wins and the maglia ciclamino going home with Pascal Ackermann. Ackermann burst into the Giro by taking two stages – beating the likes of Elia Viviani, Caleb Ewan and Fernando Gaviria, in performances that were strong and assured, even when it was his first Grand Tour stage win. His teammate, Peter Sagan, might seem to have a mortal lock on the green jersey in the Tour de France, but if Ackermann carries on in this vein, I suspect he’ll be donning the maillot vert in the next few seasons.
While it’s almost certain that Richard Carapaz will take the maglia rosa home with him tomorrow and Miguel Angel Lopez will keep the maglia blanca, as both of those are time-based jerseys (as opposed to the points above), I’m not going to jinx anything by including them in this. But, you know, wink wink …
Stage Results – Top 5
1 Pello Bilbao (Astana) 5:46:02
2 Mikel Landa (Movistar) same/time
3 Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) +0:02
4 Richard Carapaz (Movistar) +0:04
5 Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) same time
General Classification – Top 10
1 Richard Carapaz (Movistar Team) at 89:38:28
2 Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) at 01:54
3 Mikel Landa (Movistar Team) at 02:53
4 Primoz Roglic (Team Jumbo-Visma) at 03:16
5 Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) at 05:51
6 Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana Pro Team) at 07:18
7 Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe) at 07:28
8 Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) at 08:01
9 Pavel Sivakov (Team Ineos) at 09:11
10 Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha) at 12:50
All the jerseys
Maglia rosa – Richard Carapaz (Movistar)
Maglia blanca – Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana)
Maglia azzurra – Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo)
Maglia ciclamino – Pascal Ackermann (Bora-hansgrohe)
For full stage review and race results, go to cyclingnews.