The pink and golden confetti has landed, been swept aside and gathered back up for another year. Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) won the 2023 Giro d’Italia on Sunday in Rome, resplendent in the maglia rosa and celebrating with his family. It has been an interesting three weeks – general classification action perhaps not living up to the hype and Covid hitting the peloton – but boy, did the penultimate stage deliver all the drama in an hour-long window of pain and suffering.
But to get to the end I’ll start from the beginning: how this was a Giro d’Italia of firsts, thirds, revelations, and redemptions.
A Giro d’Italia of firsts and thirds
Magnus Cort (EF Education-EasyPost) wins Stage 10, completing his Grand Tour stage win set. Stuart Franklin/Getty Images
While the general classification fight took a back seat – and I’m talking all the way to the back row, perhaps even hidden in a corner for good measure – numerology came to the fore. For the first two weeks of the Giro it appeared as if stage wins would only go to those with none already in their palmares.
Bahain Victorious’s Jonathan Milan began with sprint success on Stage 2 into San Salvo as AG2R-Citroën’s Aurélien Paret-Peintre secured his first on Stage 4. Just one day later, Kaden Groves’s (Alpecin-Deceuninck) bike throw on the line ensured his first Giro stage win as Davide Bais’s (EOLO-Kometa) first victory arrived in spectacular fashion atop the snowy Gran Sasso. Once Nico Denz (Bora-Hansgohe) opened his account on Stage 12, he couldn’t stop, taking that momentum to another victory on Stage 14. Brandon McNulty won his first Grand Tour stage in Bergamo, beating breakaway companions Ben Healy (EF Education-EasyPost) and Marco Frigo (Israel-Premier Tech) to the line.
If it wasn’t first wins, it was a triple crown. Riders savoured the chance to complete the ‘Grand Tour Grand Slam’ and win a stage in the Giro d’Italia, having already achieved success in the Tour de France and Vuelta a España. Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) got the ball rolling, completing his set on Stage 6 into Napoli. Fellow Dane Magnus Cort (EF Education-EasyPost) soon followed in Viareggio on Stage 10. Numerology, folks, you can always count on it.
A Giro d’Italia of revelations
Ben Healy (EF Education-EasyPost) wins Stage 8 of the Giro d’Italia after a 50km solo breakaway. Stuart Franklin/Getty Images
I have been waiting, poised, to jump at the opportunity to write about Derek Gee and Ben Healy. The entertainers of the 2023 Giro d’Italia.
Derek Gee, Israel-Premier Tech
Israel-Premier Tech’s Derek Gee came, he saw, and he finished second in stages and classifications aplenty. The eternal bridesmaid and master of dramatics lit up the Giro consistently, beginning with his second place behind Ben Healy on Stage 8. From there, the pair were locked in a battle of breakaways and broken hearts, occasionally joined by Toms Skujiņš (Trek-Segafredo). Gee finished second on Stage 10, second on Stage 14, and second on Stage 19 up Tre Cime di Lavaredo.
You thought we left numerology behind? Gee, for all his efforts at the head of the race, would finish the Giro d’Italia also second in the mountains classification behind Groupama-FDJ’s Thibaut Pinot and second in the points classification behind Jonathan Milan. But he won – yes, WON – the most combative rider award for the entire Giro d’Italia. Not bad for a Grand Tour debutant.
Ben Healy, EF Education-EasyPost
Breakaway beast and Duracell bunny Healy had energy in bucketloads, arriving at the Giro off the back of a phenomenal Classics campaign with second places in Brabantse Pijl and Amstel Gold Race. He rapidly relished the opportunity to jump into breakaways at a moment’s notice and inflict pain on the legs of his competitors (and himself). It was inevitable that the 22-year-old, just a second-year pro yet riding like a seasoned veteran, would win a stage. The only question was when.
Stage 8 from Terni to Fossombrone was a 207km effort forcing riders into two ascents of I Cappuccini. Healy ditched his breakaway companions on the first climb, leaving him in a self-inflicted 50km solo breakaway. But no one could reel him in. Healy could not be contained, both on that stage and throughout the Giro, including his KOM duel with Thibaut Pinot that spiced up Stage 19. A quick handshake post-attacks, a cheeky smile once caught and he was off again, much to the amusement of Rohan Dennis of Jumbo-Visma, who was egging him on.
In solidarity with Gee, Healy finished second on Stage 15. He was the winner of my unofficial and unaffiliated Vibes Classification for his Alaphilippe-esque panache and joy however, which is arguably a bigger achievement.
A Giro d’Italia of redemption
Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) wins Stage 20 and the overall at the Giro d’Italia. Stuart Franklin/Getty Images
Now to the business end of the three weeks. Who would top the general classification, marking their name in the history books and on the Trofeo Senza Fine? On the penultimate stage one final challenge stood in the way of the riders and the Giro d’Italia’s biggest prize. A mountain-shaped behemoth of a block on the road to glory with a designated bike change at the foot and a ski lift to get back down afterwards.
At the beginning of Stage 20, an 18.6km individual time-trial from Tarvisio to Monte Lussari, Geraint Thomas held the maglia rosa. It was on this stretch of narrow, winding mountain road near the Slovenian border that he lost it. Roglič began the day 26 seconds down on Thomas with memories of Roglič’s time-trial loss on La Planche des Belles Filles at the Tour de France in 2020 coming flashing back. A 57-second advantage was overturned by Tadej Pogačar for victory that day.
It wasn’t only a fight for the maglia rosa, it was a battle for redemption. A chance to write a new chapter in his career. It wouldn’t be easy to shake the ghost though.
A mechanical on the climb momentarily hampered his stride, but by the time he began his approach to the finish surrounded by a cacophony of compatriots waving flares and flags, he was a man on fire and was certain to win the stage. It was then a waiting game. Eyes turned to a suffering Thomas who eventually finished 40 seconds down. The Slovenian had ski-jumped over his rival. The Giro d’Italia was his. Redemption was his.
Down but not out, Thomas turned to helping a friend on Stage 21. On the second rest day, Mark Cavendish (Astana) announced he’ll retire at the end of the season. He was yet to win a stage at this year’s edition of the race, that was until former-maglia-rosa-turned-lead-out-man-for-a-different-team Thomas spotted an opportunity. It was a sight to behold: former teammate and still friend Thomas leading out Cavendish on the final day around the streets of Rome. And to wrap three weeks of racing in a beautiful pink bow: Cavendish won the final stage in his final Giro d’Italia.
Giro d’Italia 2023 jersey winners and stage winners
Maglia rosa: Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma)Maglia ciclamino: Jonathan Milan (Bahrain Victorious)Maglia azzurra: Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ)Maglia bianca: João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates)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)Stage 10 winner: Magnus Cort (EF Eduction-EasyPost)Stage 11 winner: Pascal Ackermann (UAE Team Emirates)Stage 12 winner: Nico Denz (Bora-Hansgohe)Stage 13 winner: Einer Rubio (Movistar)Stage 14 winner: Nico Denz (Bora-Hansgohe)Stage 15 winner: Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates)Stage 16 winner: João Almeida (UAE Team Emiates)Stage 17 winner: Alberto Dainese (Team DSM)Stage 18 winner: Filippo Zana (Jayco-AlUla)Stage 19 winner: Santiago Buitrago (Bahrain Victorious)Stage 20 winner: Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma)Stage 21 winner: Mark Cavendish (Astana)