IT WAS a great race with the correct result – cycling guru JOHN TREVORROW looks back on the Italian Giro:
THE 104th Giro d’Italia finished in the centre of Milan on Sunday and it was the most exciting and enthralling edition that I can recall.
Colombian Egan Bernal, who rides for the British team Ineos Grenadiers (formerly Team Sky), was crowned the winner after a steady and cautious final time trial where he conceded 30 seconds to nearest challenger Damiano Caruso (Bahrain-Victorious). But although questions had been raised over the final few days, Bernal’s victory never looked in doubt on the streets of Milan.
Caruso sealed second overall, while Simon Yates (BikeExchange) comfortably held on to third overall to complete the final podium. And when you look back over the full three weeks of what is called the beautiful race in a beautiful place, that is the correct podium
Time trial world champion Fillipo Ganna was the red hot favourite fror the final stage, the race against the clock, although many tipped in-form Frenchman Remi Cavagna to push him all the way. The final time trial is run in reverse order of general classification so Ganna was away pretty early. He was on a very solid ride but then he punctured only two kms from the finish. A very impressive bike change by his Ineos Grenadiers team saw him quickly sprinting away and clocking the fastest time. But would it be enough? Cavagna riding nearly an hour later must have realised this was his big chance and he was close to matching Ganna’s numbers all the way and, approaching the finish, it looked like he might just make it but then on the final corner disaster struck. The Frenchman completely misjudged the tight left hander and careered into the barricade. Although unhurt and quickly back on his bike he had lost it by a mere 12 seconds.
It was a special Giro with a record number of successful breakaway including 12 first time grand tour stage winners. The four stages that stood out to me were:
* The solo stage 3 win of Dutchman Taco van de Hoorn who held of a charging Bora squad leading Peter Sagan.
*The dogged final climb on stage 17 by Irishman Dan Martin who only had a minute at the bottom of the final climb and with a charging GC group, he still held on to win his first Giro stage and complete a hat-trick of grand tour stage wins.
*Simon Yates’ commanding win on stage 19 where he reignited the battle for the maglia rosa and exposed the first signs of weakness in leader Bernal.
* The stage 20 victory of Damiano Caruso. Firstly, for having the guts to attack so far from home and then being able to finish it off. After 11 years of service to others this was his first major professional win
Eight Australians faced the starter in Turin three weeks ago but, unfortunately, we lost three on route to Milan.
Caleb Ewan won stages 5 and 7 and was leading the points classification on stage 8 when a nagging knee pain forced his retirement. The pocket rocket from Bowral copped a bit of negative publicity for his early withdrawal but he was adamant that he had no other option. Ewan had never planned to finish this Giro but had planned to continue to stage 13 giving him two more opportunities for stage victories. He has stated that he wants to win stages in all three grand Tours this year and looking at his current form you can’t argue with that.
The DSM team had three Australians in the line up. Jai Hindley, fellow West Australian Michael Storer and Chris Hamilton from Bendigo. Hindley was the main man and out to improve on his amazing second overall in last year’s Giro. But unfortunately the West Australian was forced to abandon at the start of stage 14 with a severe saddle sore that he had been fighting against virtually from the start. As the team focus changed to supporting a resurgent Frenchman Romain Bardet, Hamilton and Storer both took a huge step up. Not just for the team but for their reputations. They were magnificent. Although Hamilton took a career highlight with a fine second place in stage 12 from the breakaway, it was his work in the mountains in support of Bardet that was most impressive. And here was where Storer really came to the fore. On the biggest mountains on this Giro he was at the pointy end leading Bardet and even dropping back with him and nursing him along of the few occasions he cracked. Their combined efforts on stage 20 to force the stage winning break was brilliant and they leave this Giro with the guarantee of a very bright future.
The four Aussies on Team BikeExchange rode the near perfect race especially in the final week. Special shoutout to Cam Meyer who picked up a bug and came down with a fever in the first week. It is very rare that a rider can fight through that during a grand tour. Michael Hepburn was the powerhouse of the engine room on the long flat sections of the race and Callum Scotson was also a part of that and was strong on the early part of the major climbs. This was where Nick Schultz was crucial and he rode a brilliant race and as well as guiding Yates deep into the major climbs, he was the leading Aussie in 18th spot when a crash on a quick descent on stage 17 saw him hit the bitumen with a few others. Although he struggled to the finish a scan soon revealed a fracture in his hand and forced retirement from the Giro.
Brit Yates’ third-place finish, makes it Team BikeExchange’s (GreenEDGE Cycling) fourth Grand Tour podium placing, following on from Yates’ 2018 Vuelta a España victory and Esteban Chaves’ second and third place finishes in the 2016 Giro d’Italia and Vuelta.
After racing with maturity through the three-week event, Yates launched himself into second place on the standings after an impressive performance on the mighty Monte Zoncolan on stage 14, before showing his real strength in the final week of racing as the race entered the high mountains.
The British climber attacked and gained time on Bernal on stage 17 before claiming a spectacular solo victory on stage 19.
“I am proud of what I accomplished here. I have no regrets. Those guys showed day in, day out that they were better, so I can only be proud of what I did,” he said.
“I had some small problems at the start but then I could really show myself in the third week, but I also paid for my efforts yesterday. Yesterday I was not as good as my stage win, but as I have said before you have to be good for the full three weeks.
“I did my best every day, the days in the cold, the body didn’t respond as well as I wanted it to but that is one of those things, you have to deal with bad days and bad moments and that is how you go on to win the race. Egan did that successfully on numerous days.”
Matt White, Team BikeExchange Sports Director, was very proud of his team’s performance over the three weeks.
“We came to win the Giro d’Italia, we gave 100% from start to finish, the whole organisation and there is a whole lot of work and effort behind this result,” he said.
“There is only one winner, but we gave it all we could. We had a great stage win, we arrived on the podium and the boys and everyone behind Simon gave 100% commitment to this effort, so we can leave the Giro d’Italia very proud of the effort the whole team has made.”