Geraint Thomas second-places himself into the lead | a recap of Stages 1-9 of the 2023 Giro d’Italia
When you plot the route for a three-week bike race, the ideal scenario on the first rest day is for one rider to be faster in the time trials, another rider to be faster in the mountains, and whichever one’s behind to have more opportunities coming up in the rest of the race. The 2023 Giro d’Italia had Remco Evenepoel and Primoz Roglic exactly where it wanted them. And then the former pulled out with Covid.
Evenepoel left the race suffering the twin ailments of a blocked nose and a heavy heart shortly after winning the Stage 9 time trial by one second. He’d won the Stage 1 time trial by 22 seconds so maybe there was a sign there.
The man who came second on Stage 1, Filippo Ganna, has also abandoned with Covid. The man who finished second on Stage 9, Geraint Thomas, is now in the maglia rosa worn by the race leader.
A few weeks back, writing about Remco Evenepoel’s status as red hot favourite, I suggested that the Giro might mark the point at which this season parted ways with predictability. There was an early sign that this might happen when a dog ran into the road on Stage 5 and tried to remove him from the race.
The Belgian crashed sufficiently hard that he allowed team mates and race staff to physically pick him up off the ground, but remounted his bike and merrily headed off for a second crash in the closing kilometres.
This was very much a theme of a wet and slippery Stage 5. Primoz Roglic crashed too, as did stage winner Kaden Groves with just 7km to go.
And here’s Mark Cavendish in the process of finishing fourth:
If you for some reason didn’t spot that Cav’s leg above his head in that last image, let’s make this as clear as we can – this is how he crossed the line:
What of our other pre-race favourite though – Primoz Roglic? The Slovenian finds himself just two seconds adrift of Thomas having looked the most committed climber in the one significant mountain stage so far.
The last kilometre of Stage 8 was downhill, but as that suggests, there was a good chunk of uphill just before that. Roglic pushed the pace and made a gap and if Evenepoel at first looked to be steadily pacing himself back on, that pacing proved insufficient. The Team Ineos duo of Geraint Thomas and Tao Geoghegan Hart first caught the Belgian, then passed him and rode to the finish with Roglic. (Mostly behind him actually.)
That stage really belonged to Ben Healy though. Riding in his first Grand Tour, the Irish rider got in the break and then just absolutely frigging ditched everybody on a steep climb with 50km still to go. It was quite the stage win. It’ll be interesting to see him up against the top drawer climbers at some point soon.
As I implied above, Thomas and Geoghegan Hart were the only two riders able to stay with Roglic on the final climb of the only serious mountain stage. They also outperformed him in the Stage 9 time trial. If it weren’t for a split in the bunch on a flat stage, they’d be one and two overall.
As it is, they’re two and four because the Giro d’Italia also hasn’t yet updated its website to acknowledge Evenepoel’s exit from the race.
Honestly, Geraint Thomas is in the lead. We haven’t made up Evenepoel’s abandonment.
Stage 13’s summit finish (Friday) is the most obvious appointment, but the Giro is a bit less clear-cut in its divisions between days on and off for the overall contenders. Stage 12 (Thursday) has a nasty climb 20km or so from the finish and Stage 15 (Sunday) is another tough one, but there are dangers most days.
Thanks again to those of you who bought me a coffee/Belgian beer last time around, but also apologies because I’ve only just worked out that you can set the default amount to be £1 rather than the £5 it was set as until just now. If you’d also like to thank me for these articles (or were priced out last time) here’s the link again. (Update: That link’s correct now. Might have helped my cause if I’d put it in correctly the first time around.)
If you’re new to the site, we heartily recommend signing up for the email. That’s what most people do.
I should be back next week with a recap of the middle chunk of the race.