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Racing is back! The 8th of May saw the return of the legendary Grand Tours of cycling as the Giro d’ Italia (the first tour of the year) got underway in Turin.
Today, after the first rest day of the tour, we look back at some of the highlights so far.
The 2021 Giro d’ Italia opened with the first Grande Partenza in Turin since 2011. In 2011 the event was celebrating the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy (which took place after the new Italian parliament met in Turin for the first time). In 2021, for the 160th Anniversary, the route of the 8.6 km individual time trial took place entirely within the historic city.
Although a pan flat course, the twists and turns through the city, were sure to create some drama. Local, and pre stage favourite, Filippo Ganna of team Inneos Grenadiers was victorious on the day, posting a stunning time of 8:47 (almost 60km/h average speed) to claim the first Maglia Rosa of the tour. It was also a good day for Deceuninck-QuickStep, with GC contender João Almeida finishing the day in fourth in a time of 9:04.
The almost flat stage from Stupinigi – Novara was the perfect opportunity for the big hitters from the sprinting world to lay down their intentions for the tour. The stage was also a first chance to see the form of Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma), following his 9- month ban for causing Jakobsen’s horror crash at the 2020 Tour de Pologne.
The average speed for the first four hours of riding was just 39.8km/h. Eventually the pace sped up, as Tagliani beat Marengo in the breakaway for the first intermediate sprint. Fernando Gaviria, Elia Viviani, Peter Sagan and Andrea Pasqualon, chasing behind, mistakenly sprinted towards the 40km to go banner (rather than the intermediate sprint). Gaviria quickly realised his mistake however, and accelerated quickly, claiming 3rd place and 6 points at the correct banner.
At the second intermediate sprint, with 25km to go, the breakaway was swept up and both team Deceuninck-QuickStep and tour leader Ganna, grasped at the opportunity to take some precious bonus seconds. Ganna surged to victory and a 3 second bonus. Remco Evenepoel took two seconds, while his teammate, Iljo Keisse, claimed third and the final available second.
No one team could take control, as the stage came towards a close. Riders from Movistar, Deceuninck-QuickStep, Ineos and Bora- Hansgrohe were all gunning for position as the final kilometre became a mano-a-mano fight between the big-name sprinters.
In the end it was Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix) who claimed the stage victory, after a fairly slow stage.
He said of his victory,
Stage 3 was all lined up to be a good battle between the sprinters and the punchier riders who would push over the few short climbs towards the finish in Canale. However, with the climbs finishing just 5 km before the stage finish, this stage also presented itself as a great opportunity for a breakaway win, or at the very least an exciting chase right to the end.
In a huge surprise (not least for the victor himself) it was Dutch rider Taco van der Hoorn who claimed the stage win, it what was undeniably the biggest victory of his career so far.
Right from the start of the stage, a seven-man group including van der Hoorn (Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert Materiaux), broke away. They managed to extend their lead to over 6 minutes, until the weather brightened up, and the peloton picked up its pace in a bid to get their sprinters into prime positions.
Bora-Hansgrohe continued to push the pace at the front of the peloton as several of the top sprinters, Tim Merlier, Dylan Groenewegen, David Dekker (both Jumbo-Visma) and Caleb Ewan were all steadily dropped, and the peloton bridged the gap of the breakaway group to just 1:30.
By 9 km to go only Van der Horn and Pellaud remained of the original breakaway group. Then, van der Hoorn attacked. Although it seemed early, he managed to extend his lead over the peloton to around a minute, and while the rest of the peloton jostled for position and grappled with the twisting and turning roads, it became clear that he had managed to claim the most unlikely of victories.
Stage 4 brought another stage of 2 halves. The first part being flat as a pancake, before, at 77km the route begins to rise, and then continues to roll towards the finish in Sestola.
The stage was characterised by terrible conditions and steep climbs. The final 100km of the stage included 1800m of climbing, including 3 categorized climbs, and some equally testing descents. The stage started under dark clouds on the Emilia Romagna plains.
After a fast 40km opening, a large group of 25 riders broke away. With 25km to go the breakaway were 5 minutes ahead, with the terrible conditions continuing to have an impact on the race. By 15km to go the peloton had been driven down to about 30 riders, about 1:30 behind. With 10km to go, Taaramae lead through the time bonus sprint at the bottom of the Colle Passerino, and it seemed as though the breakaway were on the way to victory, but then everything changed on the final steep climb.
On the final, 16 percent, climb of the day Dombrowski made a break, passing De Marchi and further distancing himself from Oliveira and Mosca. He pushed on to the summit and then plummeted down the 2.5 km descent, eventually crossing the finish line in Sestola alone. De Marchi finished 13 seconds behind, but far enough ahead to take the Maglia Rosa.
This straight, flat stage was sure to be one that the sprinters had their eye on. On the day however, this was a stage marred by a string of crashes in the closing kilometres. Both Pavel Sivakov (Ineos Grenadiers) and Mikel Landa (Bahrain Victorious) took tumbles in separate incidents, with the latter being taken to hospital from the roadside and ruled out of the race altogether.
It was Australian sprint ace Caleb Ewan however, who finally found form after a tricky opening to the tour, and timed his sprint to perfection, to cross the line first in Cattolica.
Stage 6 was to be the toughest test for the riders of the 2021 Giro so far, as the race headed into the mountains. This stage featured some 3,400 metres of altitude gain and also featured the first summit finish of the tour, on top of the San Giacomo pass.
179 riders set out from the start line, with several having dropped out after the various the previous day. A rapid start, lead to a long battle for the break away, before, at 25 km Mohorič, working on behalf of Gino Mader, drove a six-man group clear. His group of 6 were then joined by Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) and Geoffrey Bouchard (AG2R Citroën), to make it 8 men out front by 30 km.
In the end it was another big win for the breakaway. Despite a string of tough climbs, Mäder, Mollema, and Cataldo were still up front, with a gap of 1:30, as they passed under the 5km-to-go banner. Then, with just over 3 km to go, Mader launched a big attack, leading over Mollema and Cataldo by just under a minute with 2km to go.
Despite increasing pressure from the peloton, in the form of former TDF winner Egan Bernal Gomez, Mader was able to hold a 12 second lead coming over the line, taking, in the process, the biggest win of his career so far.
Although another stage that many a sprinter would have their eyes on, the undulating roads, along the coast, on stage 7, meant that this was a stage that might also favour a strong breakaway group.
In the end it was Caleb Ewan of Lotto Soudal who continued his good form from a few days previously, to take his second win of the tour. He attacked with 150m to go, passing Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates), who had attacked some time earlier.
The top 3 was completed by Davide Cimolai (Israel Start-Up Nation) and Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix), pushing to the super technical and slightly uphill finish. Gaviria faded towards the line, finishing in 6th ahead of Dylan Groenewegen.
Attila Valter retained the maglia rosa at the end of the stage.
The second week of the tour kicked off with another couple of days in the mountains. Stage 8 featured another 3,400m of vertical gain and a steep climb up to the finale at Guardia Sanframondi.
In this ever-unpredictable tour, stage 8 brought yet another victory from the breakaway.
Victor Lafay of Cofidis was the strongest of the 9-man breakaway in the final climb of the day.
The victory was the biggest of Lafay’s career so far, and the first win for Cofidis at the Giro, since 2010.
Despite being shorter in length, this stage packed a punch, with four categorized climbs and again well over 3000m of climbing. The end of the stage, a steep 1.8 km climb, on a gravel road, was sure to throw up an extra challenge and perhaps create some significant gaps towards the end of the stage.
The victory on the day went to Egan Bernal Gomez. The Ineos- Grenadiers rider was dlighted to take the first grand tour stage win of his career after a long fight back to good form, and fighting for some time with persistent back problems.
The Colombian was set up for the day wonderfully by his team, who attacked at a pace fast enough to catch the last remaining stragglers from the break, with just 500m of the stage remaining. The victory put Bernal into the pink jersey position, after Attila Valter was dropped earlier on in the climb.
The final stage before the first rest day on the 2021 Giro was a mostly flat stage of just 139 km. But, with some ramps in the early part of the stage providing a nice springboard for a potential breakaway.
It was Peter Sagan, who repeated his feats (albeit from the breakaway last year) from stage 10 of last year’s Giro d’ Italia, to take his first win of the tour so far.
Although the shortest road stage on this year’s tour, this route, from L’Aquila to Foligno, proved more challenging than the previous sprint days. The peloton had to weave their way through a hilly course, in the foothills of the Appennines, before facing the challenge of the Valico della Somma, just 38 kilometres from the finish.
A five-man breakaway, including stage 3 winner Taco van der Hoorn, was quickly established, however the peloton was taking no chances today and their lead over the pack never exceeded 2 minutes.
At the midpoint of the stage, Bora-Hansgrohe started to make their move, coming up to the front of the peloton. Over the unclassified Cantionera climb, the team pushed hard, dropping Groenewegen, while Merlier and Nizzolo were dropped on the Valico della Somma, paving the way for Sagan’s eventual victory.
Bora-Hansgrohe and UAE Team were still very much in charge of the stage leading into the final kilometre. However, Gaviria was not able to get onto the wheel of teammate Molano, and instead Sagan was able to get onto his wheel and sprinted out of his slipstream to take the win on the line.
Egan Bernal is still holding the pink jersey, 14 seconds ahead of Remco Evenepoel of Deceuninck-QuickStep. Following Caleb Ewan’s withdrawal at the weekend, the points classification has been somewhat transformed, with Peter Sagan now very much in the lead, some 17 points ahead of nearest rival Gaviria. But, in this exciting and unpredictable tour anything could happen as we head into the second week of racing.
To celebrate the Giro d’Italia heading for a fantastic finish. Our official nutrition partner Enervit, have provided us with four brilliant Trek-Segafredo jerseys to give away.
Enervit provide nutrition supplements and bars to some of the world’s best riders and teams.
So it’s fair to say if it’s good enough for the pros, it’s good enough for us.
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