The second of the year’s highlights is Stage 14 from the Giro d’Italia, a circuit race on the edge of Turin that featured the climb of the Superga.
The Superga-Maddalena circuit promised plenty, the question was whether the GC contenders could be persuaded to race it hard? Bora-hansgrohe supplied the answer. After a flurry of attacks sparked by Mathieu van der Poel, the day’s breakaway had taken a two minute lead. But as soon as the race reached the first of the three laps of the Superga circuit, the German team hit the front of the peloton and shredded the field. The likes of Alejandro Valverde and Guillaume Martin missed the split and were forced into a long and fruitless chase.
In no time the front group was down to twelve, four of them from Bora-hansgrohe thanks to Ben Zwiehoff dropping back from the break and Wilco Kelderman digging deep on the front. Bahrain had two in Landa and Bilbao, Intermarché in Pozzovivo and Hirt. Carapaz was there, but without a team mate. Lopez was there with his maglia rosa, Nibali rolling back the years as well. Almeida was just with them too at times, but that’s his yo-yo style.
Carapaz took off solo with 28km to go on the Superga climb and quickly got 20 seconds but he struggled to get to 30 as Buchmann and Bilbao chased on behalf of their leaders. Onto the final climb of the Maddalena, a narrow back road, and Nibali attacked and only Hindley could follow, the move shattered the group behind, or was it just the slope and the heat? The pair closed down Carapaz and over the false flat across the top Yates got across. Yates attacked on the last rise to go clear, a powerful move but being well down on GC, the others could concede the stage win as long as they kept their GC rivals. Carapaz took the maglia rosa, Hindley took time and Nibali took plenty of applause.
Why the highlight?Another day of non-stop action but with more to it. We had Van der Poel provoke an early move, then the GC teams took over with Bora-hansgrohe shredding the field and this medium mountain stage became a major GC day. While the major contenders were trading blows there was a frantic chase behind to get back on, this was a day when the action was happening in front of Motos 1,2,3 and 4.
With hindsight?As good as the Giro got, there were some good breakaway battles but it took time for the “fight for pink” to start with Juan-Pedro Lopez enjoying a creditable spell in the maglia rosa but he always felt like a clothes horse while the GC contenders bided their time. Alas this stage’s action wasn’t repeated with the same intensity in the Alps, the remaining stages not offering the GC contest we’d hope for, each passing day upheld the status quo when ideally things would be turned upside down daily. Of course we can want to be confounded but it doesn’t mean we get it, and it took the last climb of the last mountain stage for Jai Hindley to get his breakthrough win. Tellingly here in Torino Richard Carapaz attacked and got clear and usually once he’s away he’s gone for good, but he was brought back because other teams had strength when Ineos did not and this helped keep the race so tight. Then when Vincenzo Nibali attacked only Jai Hindley could follow, a big clue to his form and also Bora-hansgrohe had been all over this stage while Ineos were on the back foot, it was hard to extrapolate too much from all this at the time but now perhaps we can read more into it.
There’s also a structural consideration here as the grand tours tend to feature point-to-point stages but the Giro and other races are featuring more and more circuit races and done right, by including climbs for launchpads and twisting roads to thwart a peloton chase, they can be entertaining.