28 days after Le Tour de France was decided by a historic time trial to La Planche des Belles Filles, today’s 34.1 km time trial from Conegliano to Valdobbiadene has ignited the Giro d’Italia’s general classification battle ahead of what should be an action packed third week.
Newly crowned world champion Filippo Ganna took the stage honors to collect his 3rd victory of the Giro. Ganna was able to secure the victory with a hugely impressive time of 42:40.47. The 24-year-old Italian produced an average speed of 47.953 kilometers per hour over the course of his winning ride. Ganna’s Ineos teammate Rohan Dennis was the only other rider to go quicker than 47 km/hour on the day.
After the conclusion of the day’s racing, here’s how the top ten of the general classification looks:
The standout performer among the GC contenders was the 22-year-old American Brandon McNulty. The UAE-Team Emirates rider turned in a storming time of 43:49.74 to finish third in the stage. McNulty, who started the day in 11th, jumped all the way up to 4th on the GC. In doing so, he leapfrogged far more established names like Jakob Fuglsang, Rafal Majka and Vincenzo Nibali. The native of Phoenix, Arizona is riding in his first grand tour after impressing earlier this season with strong performances in the Vuelta a San Juan and the Vuelta a Andalucia. A strong result in the Giro would be another big step forward for the American in his breakout season. McNulty will now aim to become the first American man born in the 1990s to finish in the top ten of a grand tour.
João Almeida, the other 22-year-old GC star in the race, did a phenomenal job of defending his overall lead. By finishing 6th on the stage, he gained time on every rider in the top ten besides McNulty. Wilco Kelderman also produced an impressive ride to finish 9th on the day and solidify his hold on 2nd overall. Despite generally struggling with time trials, 37-year-old Domenico Pozzovivo turned in a solid performance as well. Pozzovivo finished one second slower than Fausto Masnada and gained time on Jakob Fuglsang, Patrick Konrad and Jai Hindley. Fuglsang was the big loser of the day, as he slid from 10th down to 12th place in the overall. The Dane is now sitting 4:08 behind the race leader Almeida.
The Third Week
The GC contenders are right back under pressure tomorrow with a big mountain stage to Piancavallo. Of the 7 stages remaining, 4 of them feature serious uphill finishes. Additionally, the presence of a 15.7 km time trial on the final day of racing means that 5 of the final 7 stages have the potential to produce a serious impact on the general classification.
The current race leader Almeida has exceeded all expectations up until this point in the race. However, he did falter ever so slightly on the uphill finishes of stages 3 and 9. Originally, Almeida was slated to ride the Giro in support of Remco Evenepoel. In the aftermath of the young Belgian’s season ending crash at Il Lombardia in August, Almeida has risen to the occasion quite spectacularly. It will be extremely compelling to watch how he fares in the coming days and, consequently, how much longer he will remain in the Maglia Rosa.
Of course, there have been questions in recent days as to whether or not the race will actually reach its conclusion in Milan. After the entire Michelton-Scott and Jumbo-Visma teams were forced to withdraw from the race prior to stage 10 due to positive Covid tests, EF1 boss Jonathan Vaughters wrote a letter to race organizers calling for an early end to the event. Another round of Covid testing on Monday should provide some clarity on the severity of the situation. Until then we can only hope for the best, as it seems that an early stoppage is not something the race organizers are willing to consider at this point in time.
Assuming the Giro does reach Milan, we are going to have quite a final week. Historically speaking, it has been unwise to bet against Vincenzo Nibali in the third week of a Giro. The Shark of Messina already has 2 Giro titles and an additional 4 podiums to his name. Nibali’s past success has been due in part to his ability to finish strong, which makes him a particularly relevant threat this time around.
However, something about this year feels different. That’s largely due to the presence of Wilco Kelderman in 2nd place. Kelderman has hardly put a foot wrong thus far, and is right in the thick of things as a result. The big Dutchman has climbed well enough to take time on stages 3 and 9. He also demonstrated today that he’s time trialing better than most of his GC rivals. Nibali will make a push, but Kelderman is in the perfect position to take his first grand tour victory. It would be a fitting result for Kelderman, coming 6 years after he burst onto the scene at the 2014 Giro.
The unpredictability of cycling is part of why it’s so compelling. In that vein, the third week of this Giro has the potential to go any number of ways. The clashing storylines of the experience of Kelderman and Nibali and the youth of Almeida and McNulty may provide a show that rivals the battle between Tadej Pogačar and Primož Roglič at Le Tour. The combination of numerous strong contenders and a wide open style of racing has been brilliant to watch thus far.
Here’s to hoping Monday’s Covid testing shows that the bubble is still safe for the riders. If that’s the case, I believe we’ll get a finale worthy of the occasion.
– Andrew Fasciano (@afasc573)