Riders v weather | a recap of Stages 10-15 of the 2023 Giro d’Italia

A rapid descent on soaking roads with equally wet clothing in one degree temperatures anybody? No, I wouldn’t fancy it either.

The case for the Giro to be considered the most gruelling of the three Grand Tours has a little to do with the terrain – which never truly eases – and a lot to do with the weather, which is frequently shitty. Week two got underway with Stage 10, which involved 195km on mountainous back roads in near-freezing torrential rain.

Inside the first 10km, overall contender Alexandr Vlasov was in trouble and off the back. His team said he was complaining about “empty legs” at this point and yet he for some reason rode on alone for another 40km before pulling out. A post-stage test revealed another Covid case.

By the end of the stage, abandonments and rain-related mishaps had seen Irish rider Eddie Dunbar move up to ninth overall. “Been just like riding back home for the first week here,” was his breezy take on things.

Things continued in a similar vein on Stage 11 where one rider slid out on a wet corner and inadvertently took out what was, at that moment, the entire Giro podium. Geraint Thomas and Primoz Roglic got up and rode off again. Tao Geoghegan Hart didn’t get up until other people physically lifted him so that they could deposit him onto a stretcher. He’s since undergone surgery on a fractured hip.

Geoghegan Hart’s withdrawal meant Joao Almeida moved up to third, 22s behind Geraint Thomas. Since then, breakaway beneficiary Bruno Amirail has technically claimed the overall race lead. However, it’s very obviously only leased until the mountain stages, so Thomas remains de facto leader by two seconds from Roglic.

Stage 12 brought more bad weather before Stage 13 upped the ante with weather sufficiently bad that they felt it was wise to lop 130km off the route.

And that was the story of the week really. Can you stay upright on the slippery descents? Is your immune system holding firm? Actual trying-to-go-faster-than-the-other-guy racing wasn’t something the overall contenders were especially concerned with. There’ll be plenty of scope for that in the final week, as I’ll come to in a minute.

Mark Cavendish

Literally as I type, Mark Cavendish is holding a press conference where he is announcing that he’ll retire at the end of the season. That should mean one last trip to the Tour de France to try and snatch the stage win that would put him ahead of Eddy Merckx on 35 victories at road cycling’s biggest race.

Whether he achieves that or not – and a third place on Stage 11 of this Giro (or that fourth place on Stage 5) didn’t really provide strong evidence either way – he is already by far the most successful sprinter. There have been no time trial or mountain wins for Cav. That means that when it comes to fast finishes at the end of long Tour de France stages, he is essentially peerless.

What’s next?

The Giro has been in a kind of meteorologically-induced attritional holding pattern this last week. However, the brutality should come from terrain and fellow racers in the final week.

Wednesday (Stage 17) and Sunday (Stage 21) are two sprint days entirely devoid of climbs. Other than that… jeez.

On Tuesday, Stage 16 finishes with the monster 21.4km climb to Monde Bondone at an average gradient of 6.7% – but that’s only if you’ve first made it over Passo di Santa Barbara (12.7km at 8.3%), Passo Bordala (4.5km at 6.7%), Matassone (11.4km at 5.4%) and Serrada (17.7km at 5.5%).

That’s probably the hardest stage on paper, but paper doesn’t really account for ‘already having ridden Stage 16 of the 2023 Giro d’Italia’ which will very much be a factor for the summit finishes on Stages 18 and 19 (Thursday and Friday) and also for the Stage 20 time trial (Saturday).

That last one’s a cronoscalata – which is a word I’ll use every chance I get, even if I could just say ‘uphill time trial’. The climb itself is 7.3km at 12.3%, but the first 5km average over 15%. It’ll be quite the finish for any overall contenders still in the race and indeed for everyone else too.

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I’ll be back at some point next week with a recap of Stages 16-21.