It’s easy to fall into clichés of romanticism when the Giro d’Italia rolls around, but how can we not? It’s the most breathtaking race of the year with dramatic showdowns set to a stunning backdrop of cascading waterfalls, winding descents and the glorious Dolomites.
Only one rider can win one of cycling’s most stunning prizes: the twirling and seemingly never-ending Trofeo Senza Fine, inscribed with names of all previous victors of the maglia rosa. After three weeks of racing, one more name will be etched into the trophy, but how does the race look on its first rest day?
As it stands, Geraint Thomas (Ineos-Grenadiers) leads the Giro d’Italia by two seconds from Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) and five seconds from teammate Tao Geoghegan Hart.
Here are the main talking points from the first week.
1. Remco Evenepoel tests positive for Covid
Remco Evenepoel wins the Stage 9 ITT. Stuart Franklin/Getty
Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-QuickStep) wore the first maglia rosa of the race after winning the opening stage individual time-trial ahead of Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers). He relinquished the pink jersey on Stage 4 to Andreas Leknessund (Team DSM) before regaining it after his victory on Stage 9’s individual time-trial. However a positive Covid test that same night forced Evenepoel to abandon the Giro.
Testing is currently conducted on an individual team basis after the UCI lifted protocols in January 2023 but after Soudal-QuickStep’s routine test came up positive, the decision was made to withdraw the Belgian, who led the general classification by 45 seconds ahead of Geraint Thomas.
The World Champion joins an unfortunately growing list of riders who have withdrawn from the race after contracting Covid, including Filippo Ganna, Nicola Conci (Alpecin-Deceuninck), Giovanni Aleotti (Bora-Hansgrohe), Clément Russo (Arkéa-Samsic) and Rigoberto Urán (EF Education-EasyPost). Roglič may regret jokingly telling Thomas that he had Covid now, his Jumbo-Visma team have since denied any positive test. Hopefully the number of cases will be minimal heading into week two.
2. Team DSM’s Andreas Leknessund wears maglia rosa for five days
Thibaut Pinot and Andreas Leknessund Tim de Waele/Getty
It was expected that the pink jersey would change hands before Rome and when Stage 4 came down the two-man breakaway of Aurélien Paret-Peintre (AG2R Citroën) and Andreas Leknessund (Team DSM), the latter became the first Norwegian in over 40 years – since Knut Knudsen – to wear the jersey.
Paret-Peintre, who won the stage, said; ‘I knew I was faster than Leknessund, so we collaborated until the end. He took the maglia rosa, so everyone is happy I think.’
After the stage, Leknessund dropped to the ground in tears upon realising his feat. He wore the jersey until Stage 9 and currently sits fifth on GC.
3. Stray dog and heavy rain cause crashes
Animals have been known to affect cycling races over the years. From Philippe Gilbert being taken down by a loose dog at the 2012 Tour de France to Demi Vollering of SD Worx encountering a horse at Strade Bianche, there’s no end to the havoc they can cause.
On Stage 5 of the Giro d’Italia, a loose dog (presumed to be a stray), suddenly ran out in front of the peloton causing Remco Evenepoel to hit the ground. It was a scary moment as Evenepoel took a while to stand up – let alone remount his bike – but he was eventually checked over and made his way back into the main group. If that wasn’t enough, he hit the ground again later on that day as one of many riders to crash in the final two kilometres of the stage. Speaking of…
4. Mark Cavendish crashes to fourth place into Salerno
Mark Cavendish and Filippo Fiorelli collide Stuart Franklin/Getty
In a remarkable feat of athleticism, Mark Cavendish (Astana Qazaqstan) crashed and slid over the finish line on Stage 5 while maintaining hold of his handlebars. In the build-up to the sprint finish, Alberto Dainese (Team DSM) cut in front of Cavendish, and as a result the Manxman veered into Filippo Fiorelli (Green Project-Bardiani CSF-Faizanè), who managed to stay upright thanks to the barriers. Cavendish crashed hard alongside fans’ shattered smartphones and slid over the finish line, taking down David Dekker (Arkéa-Samsic), Mirco Maestri (Eolo-Kometa) and Andrea Vendrame (AG2R-Citroën).
Dainese was relegated to last place in the group for causing the crash, meaning Cavendish moved up to fourth on the stage, which was won by Kaden Groves (Alpecin-Deceuninck).
5. Ben Healy triumphs
Ben Healy’s solo attack brings victory on Stage 8 Stuart Franklin/Getty Images
After his phenomenal Classics campaign with second places in both Brabantse Pijl and Amstel Gold Race, and fourth in Liège-Bastogne-Liège, it felt predetermined that Ben Healy would win a stage at the Giro d’Italia. The 22-year-old marked out key stages prior to the race, so was locked in to make it into a successful breakaway.
Stage 8 of the Giro d’Italia was 209km from Terni to Fossombrone in central Italy over three classified climbs. Healy launched his attack 50km out from the finish and smoothly dispatched his breakaway companions. The gap to the chasing group swelled though the narrow roads to Monte delle Cesane and by the time he navigated the final climb – a second ascent of I Cappuccini – he was in front by two minutes. No one could catch him, he completed his aim of winning a Grand Tour stage, so only one question remains: when can we expect the second?
Into the second week of the Giro d’Italia
After two flatter stages, the peloton heads to the Alps. The Cima Coppi – the highest post in the race – awaits on Stage 13 in the Colle del Gran San Bernardo (23km, 5.5%), before finishing in Crans Montana, Switzerland. From there, the race heads to Bergamo where the Lombardy region will greet riders for their second rest day.
Oh, you wanted more romance? Go on then. Thibaut Pinot has been climbing like a mountain goat throughout the first week of his final Giro d’Italia. The Frenchman, who has announced his plans to retire at the end of the 2023 season, attacked for mountain points on Stage 2 and worked his way into the maglia azzurra until the end of Stage 7. Pinot sits second in the classification behind Davide Bais (Eolo-Kometa) on the first rest day.
Keep an eye on him in the second week. And the other eye out for any loose dogs. And the other for Covid.
Giro d’Italia 2023 results so far
Stage 1 winner: Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-QuickStep)Stage 2 winner: Jonathan Milan (Bahrain Victorious)Stage 3 winner: Michael Matthews (Jayco-AlUla)Stage 4 winner: Aurélien Paret-Peintre (AG2R Citroën)Stage 5 winner: Kaden Groves (Alpecin-Deceuninck)Stage 6 winner: Mads Pedesen (Trek-Segafredo)Stage 7 winner: Davide Bais (Eolo-Kometa)Stage 8 winner: Ben Healy (EF Education-EasyPost)Stage 9 winner: Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-QuickStep)Maglia rosa: Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers)Maglia ciclamino: Jonathan Milan (Bahrain Victorious)Maglia azzurra: Davide Bais (Eolo-Kometa)Maglia bianca: João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates)
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Tags: CoronavirusGiro d’ItaliaRemco Evenepoel