A grand tour is always about more than just the final podium – there are battles within battles within battles. And there are always one or two heartwarming stories that restore your faith in whatever you’ve lost faith in … The 2019 Giro d’Italia was no exception. It had it all – including some horrific weather – and while it might not have been the most exciting Giro on record, it certainly had something interesting, confusing or astonishing every day.
A is for Ackermann
It seems Bora-hansgrohe don’t need their most famous rider to make a big noise in a grand tour. With Peter Sagan riding the Tour of California (as usual), it meant that Bora could chop and change their tactics, giving their German road race champion Pascal Ackermann a chance to make quite a splash in the sprints. And he took that chance, beating Elia Viviani (QuickStep) and Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) to take stage 2 (his first grand tour win) and the maglia ciclamino. He then beat Gaviria and Arnaud Demare (FDJ) in a wild sprint through the pouring rain on stage 5. He had a bit of a lull in the middle of the Giro, relinquishing the points jersey to Gaviria and then Demare for a spell, but took it back with his second place in stage 18, in possibly the most exciting stage of the entire Giro (see B for Breakaways). Ackermann then held the jersey all the way to the final podium in Verona, making him the first German rider to win the maglia ciclamino. Not bad for the first grand tour he’s ever ridden.
B is for Breakaways
The breakaway – a gift from the peloton. A handful of guys establish it (ensuring there’s no one with a GC threat in there), get a lot of TV and press coverage for their teams, until the peloton decides to reel them back in. Sometimes the peloton lets the break stay out, but sometimes the breakers look the gift horse in the mouth and come home with a stage win. This year’s Giro saw 9 of the 21 stages won by a rider from the main breakaway.
Stage 6 was won by Fausto Masnada (Androni), beating Valerio Conti (UAE) to the line. Conti didn’t mind, however, as he went into the maglia rosa on the strength of that performance. Stage 7 was won by Astana’s Pello Bilbao.Embed from Getty Images
Stage 12 was an emotional victory for Cesare Benedetti (Bora) and another breaker kept the maglia rosa with UAE – he was Jan Polanc. Stage 13 was almost a redemption win for Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha), while stage 15 saw hard-working domestique Dario Cataldo get his day in the sun, making it Astana’s second stage win.Embed from Getty Images
Stage 16 was a nail-biting (and teeth-chattering) win for Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo), who wasn’t able to pick up his raincape at the crest of the final climb and nearly lost the stage to Jan Hirt (Astana) as he shivered his way to the finish. Stage 17 was a solo stage win by Ag2r’s Nans Peters.Embed from Getty Images
The nerve-shredding excitement of the sprint trains bearing down on a lone breaker, only for him to thwart their vcitory plans by taking it himself, is always a crowd pleaser. On stage 18 Damiano Cima did just that.
Stage 19 was the sentimental favourite, with Mitchelton-Scott’s little kangaroo, Esteban Chaves, lighting up the Giro with his multiple attacks to take the stage.
C is for crimes against the ciclamino
There is absolutely NO excuse for mixing the gorgeous maglia ciclamino with bibs in a clashing shade of purple. Make it stop.
D is DNF/DNS/OTLEmbed from Getty Images
Of the 176 riders who started this year’s Giro, 142 finished. The first person to leave the Giro was Nippo-Vini’s Hiroki Nishimura, who was outside the time limit on stage 1’s time trial; and the last rider to leave was QuickStep’s Florien Senechal, who started but did not finish stage 20.Embed from Getty Images
Some of the big names that went out early were Tom Dumoulin, who abandoned in stage 5 due to injuries in stage 4’s crash, and Fernando Gaviria, who abandoned on stage 7 due to illness. Elia Viviani and Caleb Ewan stayed until they didn’t want to anymore, both leaving the race before stage 11 – Viviani because his Giro had been a disaster so why prolong the pain and Ewan to prepare for his next challenge, which must be the Tour.
E is for EcuadorEmbed from Getty Images
Richard Carapaz went into the Giro to help Movistar’s team leader Mikel Landa win his first grand tour, but ended up on the top step in Verona with the beautiful Giro trophy. Taking two stage wins, riding smart and having the strongest team in the race supporting him, Carapaz now has his place in cycling history as the first Ecuadorian to win a grand tour.
F is for Fausto for FaustoEmbed from Getty Images
Fausto Masnada took the Cima Coppi prize – named after Fausto Coppi, of course – as he crested the highest mountain pass in this year’s Giro on stage 20. The original Cima Coppi was atop the Gavia, but due to the cancellation of that climb because of the risk of avalanches, the Passo Manghen, at 2047m, was the climb with the most mountain points this year.
G is for Gavia
This year’s Queen stage was supposed to go over the Gavia on stage 16, but blocked due to heavy snowfall and the danger of avalanches, the climb was cancelled. That said, the stage itself was still incredibly exciting, with heavy rain, a mist-shrouded Mortirolo and a teeth-chattering win by an emotional Giulio Ciccone.Embed from Getty Images
H is for Hubris
Well … sometimes talking all big and bad before a race backfires. Let’s recap:
Simon. Philip. Yates. came into the Giro boasting of his invincibility and how the other riders should be feeling. Eloquence perhaps isn’t his strength.
But pride comes before a fall, y’all. Yates finished second in the opening stage’s time trial, but didn’t win the Giro, didn’t win a stage nor did it seem that any of his rivals were particularly worried about the Mitchelton-Scott rider as he just didn’t have the legs in the mountains. He finished in 8th, almost 8min behind Carapaz. But what he did do very well was get Vincenzo Nibali‘s back up
However, Nibali didn’t take his own advice … Primoz Roglic got under the Shark’s skin and the Shark saw red.
But seems they made up
I is for ‘Impresa epica’
Everyone was looking to Elia Viviani to bring glory to Italy in his (misjudged and universally unloved) vertical-striped Italian champion’s jersey. Perhaps the cycling gods hated the jersey as much as we did, but Elia wasn’t the one who would be splashing the Prosecco around. There were a lot of Italian wins this year.Embed from Getty Images
Valerio Conti (UAE) had a stint in the maglia rosa (see B is for Breakaway) from stage 6 to stage 11, handing it off to his Slovenian teammate Jan Polanc for stage 12.Embed from Getty Images
Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) was one of the great stories of this Giro, taking the maglia azzurra on the first stage (fastest up that wall in the final part of the time trial) and only relinquished it to his teammate and compatriot, Gianluca Brambilla, after stage 12, but got it right back at the end of stage 13. Ciccone also won a cold and wet stage 16 (see B is for Breakaway).Embed from Getty Images
Damiano Caruso was a key teammate in Vincenzo Nibali’s campaign for a third Giro title. That His Nibs fell short was no fault of Caruso’s as every day in the mountains, he hitched up the Pain Train™ and rode at a tempo that almost guaranteed Primoz Roglic‘s Jumbo Bees would drop like flies. He got into breaks in order to be in front when Nibbles took a bite out of the maglia rosa group and ended up third in the mountains classification.Embed from Getty Images
In the hard-working domestique stakes, Astana’s Dario Cataldo is always near the top. Working for Miguel Angel Lopez, Cataldo finally got to take glory for himself on stage 15. “It’s amazing, it’s something I’ve dreamed of all my life,” he said after the stage. Cesare Benedetti, a domestique for Bora, also found glory, with his stage 12 win – his first individual stage win in a grand tour.Embed from Getty Images
Fausto Masnada pretty much lived in the break, bringing his Androni team plenty of publicity and TV coverage day after day. He won his first grand tour stage on stage 6, took the Cima Coppi prize on stage 20 (see F is for Fausto …) and in the final tallies, came second in the mountain classification and fourth in the points classification.Embed from Getty Images
Another wild card rider, Damiano Cima was in the break almost every day for his Nippo-Vini team, so he obviously knows Masnada pretty well after this Giro! He took arguably the most dramatic win of the Giro, on stage 18, when he defied the sprint trains to hold his slender lead from the break. “I can’t believe what just happened. I’ve spent so many kilometres in breakaways during this Giro. I thought I’d never make it, but I’ve won today. It’s insane. It’s the dream of a lifetime,” he said. He finished third in the points classification.
J is for Jerseys (all of them)
In order of wearing …
Maglia rosa: Primoz Roglic, Valerio Conti, Jan Polanc, Richard Carapaz
Maglia azzurra: Giulio Ciccone; Gianluca Brambilla; Giulio Ciccone
Maglia ciclamino: Primoz Roglic; Pascal Ackermann; Fernando Gaviria; Arnaud Demare; Pascal Ackermann
Maglia blanca: Miguel Angel Lopez; Giovanni Carboni; Nans Peters; Hugh Carthy; Pavel Sivakov, Miguel Angel Lopez
K is for Knocked off
We scream it at the TV every single time a start starts going uphill – ‘get off the road, you jackasses!’ Last year’s Tour, Vincenzo Nibali crashed due to a spectator and was out for months due to injury; this year’s Giro we see Miguel Angel Lopez knocked off his bike by a fan who was running too close to the little pocket of riders and fell into Lopez. Although Lopez, thankfully, wasn’t injured, the fan did change the course of the race, as the Astana rider was on fire during stage 20 and could have come up with a stage win. Lopez had a violent reaction to this then got on his bike to continue his ride. Lopez later apologised for his conduct.
At the time of writing, he has received no punishment although the UCI rule states he should have been disqualified. Why the Giro commissaires didn’t do that is now a matter for investigation. And this brings up a very odd double-standard from the judges, as they penalised Roglic 10seconds due to fans pushing him for too long and him seemingly not trying to stop them. This will no doubt rumble on for some time.
L is for LandaEmbed from Getty Images
Poor Mikel Landa. Seems like every time he gets a good chance at making a tilt for a grand tour title, something happens and one of his teammates win. This Giro was no exception. Although once the route started going upwards, Landa got stronger and stronger, by that time, Richard Carapaz had taken the maglia rosa and the Ecuadorian was riding a blinder of a race. Once again, Landa was put on super domestique duties, as the Movistar team got winnowed down in the sharp end of the mountain stages. And all praise to Landa in that he took his chances for a stage win but never at the cost of Carapaz – and in fact, Carapaz rode hard on the front to try to get Landa a stage win on the penultimate day of the Giro, but Pello Bilbao spoiled the party. That he jumped over Roglic to start the final time trial in third place was a flash in the pan, as the Slovenian time trialled his way back onto the podium, with just 8 seconds separating him and Landa in fourth. With Nairo Quintana rumoured to be going to Astana or Arkea-Samsic or even Trek (although with Nibali making the jump, that’s doubtful), Robert Carapaz linked with INEOS (although nothing official) and Alejandro Valverde can’t go on forever (or can he?), it seems daft for Landa to move yet again (the rumours are that he’ll go to Bahrain-Merida). But he probably will …
M is for MovistarEmbed from Getty Images
Once again, Movistar won the team category at the end of a grand tour, something that they take pride in every time. However, it always seemed a bit of ‘well, we didn’t win the big prize like we wanted, so we’ll make it seem like we were aiming for the team classification all along‘. This year, however, the best team took the biggest prize and they didn’t turn a pedal wrong. It’ll be exciting to see what they have in store for the Tour de France.
For Part Two, N-L, go here