Rain and cold emerging as early Giro protagonists
TERRACINA, Italy (VN) — Rain and cold made for a miserable day at the Giro d’Italia on Wednesday. Everyone was happy when the stage was over, and riders quickly piled into their respective team buses searching out hot drinks and dry clothes.
“I cannot wait to take my next hot shower,” said stage winner Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe). “Today was one of those days when cyclists ask ‘why are we cyclists?’”
Weather has emerged as a main protagonist so far in the opening days of the 102nd edition of the corsa rosa. The opening day time trial in Bologna was held in ideal spring-like conditions, but since then, a cold front has plowed into Italy’s boot.
Riders woke up Wednesday to find steady rain pelting down on the start, and many were thankful that the Giro’s second-shortest road stage was on tap. After three consecutive road stages of more than 200km, the peloton was ready for a respite.
But it was no walk in the park despite the relative short distance and easy profile. Riders struggled to stay warm and dry as temperatures hovered around 50F, and riders continually filed back to the team cars to put on fresh jackets.
“When it’s raining, it triples the amount of important places you need to be in the race,” said Sunweb’s Chad Haga. “That increases the stress. And it’s hard to see the road. Drinking more is tough and it’s difficult to eat, because you’ve got to fish under your clothes and take your hands off the bars. It’s either rain or pollen here at the Giro, so pick your poison.”
With rain continuing to pour throughout the stage, race officials neutralized a technical final loop on narrow streets around Terracina. The official time was taken at the first passage of the line, and the remainder of the stage was left to the sprinters.
“I think they made the right decision,” said pink jersey Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma), who kept pink for the fifth day. “Like we saw yesterday [with GC favorite Tom Dumoulin crashing], things can change in a moment. Everyone was cold today.”
The weather took its toll Wednesday. Pre-race favorite Elia Viviani (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) said he was so cold and numb he could not seriously challenge for the sprint finish, and forfeited a chance at his first victory at this Giro.
It looks like the foul weather is going to continue. Forecasters are calling for a mix of rain and cool temperatures going into next weekend.
After a few recent editions of the Giro being raced under warm, sunny spring-like weather, this edition is reminding everyone that Italy in May can mean some very challenging race conditions.
There is a chance that some of the roads in the final week of racing in the Dolomites and Alps of northern Italy might not be ready.
There is growing concern that the famous Passo di Gavia, topping out at 8,600 feet, might not be clear of snow for stage 16 on May 28. There are tentative plans to loop in a second passage over the fearsome Passo del Mortirolo if the Gavia is snow-bound.
Though forecasters are not calling for snow, there is always the danger that some of the climbs could be removed or rerouted if rain turns to snow at the highest elevations. That’s bad news for riders hoping to make up for lost ground in the first week with attacks in the third week in the mountains.
That fear of road closures and weather impacts is why teams never want to give up on a chance to attack and take time on key rivals at any moment of the race.
When the course was announced over the winter, everyone thought this opening half of this Giro was supposed to be a relatively easy affair. With the Giro’s first major climbs not coming until the end of the second week, many expected a relatively routine week of racing to open the Giro.
But as Tuesday’s big crash — with pre-race favorite Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) pulling out early Wednesday — reminded everyone, the Giro is never without its surprises.
Adding the element of bad weather on top of long stages means it could be a very weary peloton turning into the Alps at the end of next week.
“It depends on what’s above [the weather],” said Mitchelton-Scott sport director Matt White. “It’s not nice racing 200km when it’s 12C and raining. That really takes a toll on the body. The weather is going to have a big impact on these first two weeks.”