The Ride of Fear. Today the uphill time trial reveals the name of the rose
After 19 stages, two days of rest and 3176 kilometers travelled, we are still here asking ourselves: who will win the Giro d'Italia today? Ah, yes, because today, with the tough uphill time trial from Tarvisio to Monte Lussari (18.6 km, the last 7 of which with extremely steep slopes) something decisive has to happen. Also because, like it or not, this is the last stage where you can conquer the pink jersey. The next one tomorrow in Rome, in fact, is just a catwalk to gather kisses and hugs from the people crowded along the roadsides. A kermesse for sprinters, the few sprinters who have now survived a ruthless race which, between falls, accidents, bad weather and withdrawals due to covid, has left 51 runners on the road out of 176 starters.
Nothing, not even the Queen Stage, that of the Tre Cime di Lavaredo, 183 km with five Mountain Grands Prix, conquered by the Colombian Santiago Buitrago, finally served to clarify things. Buitrago, despite having already won last year in Lavarone, is not a man of the standings, he is not one of the three big names who have been playing hide-and-seek since the beginning of the Giro to see who will be the first to collapse. And in fact, even this time they were careful not to launch an attack. Or some hint of escape or even "feat", a word that in this Giro d'Italia one prefers to avoid. So the result, after all this mix of ups and downs, is that Primoz Roglic snatched three seconds from the pink jersey, the Welshman Geraint Thomas, who today will face the uphill time trial with a 26" advantage over the Slovenian and 59" over the Portuguese Almeida again in trouble at the end of the race.
A Giro with the handbrake
Of the three candidates for final success, Almeida is apparently the most fragile, also because he carries a minute of ballast with him. The oddity, however, is another: the first to raise the pace, at the beginning of the last climb, was the Portuguese himself. In fact, he then paid the duty. So go figure out how he actually is. He is certainly the least favorite of the three. But it is better to be cautious: first of all because this Giro which is about to end, let's face it, is a strange Giro. A Giro without attacks, without exploits, without one of the favorites winning a stage. A Giro with the handbrake, with the short arm. Where the only significant escape, paradoxically, was that of the pink jersey, Evenepoel, hit by Covid immediately after winning the Cesena time trial.
To increase the uncertainty, however, it is precisely this time trial which, in addition to the seven kilometers of very severe gradient (with peaks of 22%) winds through hairpin bends on a very narrow road.
Three-way challenge (with possible surprises)
In the first part, however, you will pedal at about 50 km per hour on the flat. A path that is not easy to decipher where someone could even make a change of bicycle to better calibrate the effort. Difficult to make a prediction: Roglic is Olympic time trial champion, Thomas grew up on the track where he collected successes and medals. Only 26 seconds separate the two rivals. Very few. A puncture, a mechanical problem is enough to shift a very subtle balance. Roglic has already lost a Tour on the penultimate day in an uphill time trial.