Exhausted riders sit elbow-to-elbow in this Italian ski lodge, silently shoveling food into their mouths. Near the corner of the dining room, a group of men cheer and laugh as they raise their glasses in yet another celebratory toast.
It’s the Mitchelton-Scott team of Simon Yates. Just a few hours ago, the squad watched in horror as Yates’s lead in this Giro d’Italia was crushed on the slopes of the Colle delle Finestre under the pedals of Chris Froome and Team Sky. Rather than sulk, the team has instead changed its focus entirely: celebrate the achievement, rather than lick the wounds.
“We needed a drink after all that we went through,” says Mitchelton-Scott manager Matt White, recalling the scene. “Up to that point, we had had a great Giro, leading for two weeks and winning stages. It was just the sharp end of the Giro that bit us in the end.”
Yates lost 39 minutes, and Froome erased a 3:22 deficit to vault from fourth place into the lead. That kind of dramatic general classification upheaval doesn’t happen in most grand tours. Yet this is the Giro d’Italia, the grand tour that consistently delivers palpitating contender turmoil not seen anywhere else on the calendar. And, for 2019, there is ample opportunity for more chaos.
Every year the Giro serves up a new curveball to both fans and pro riders. Froome’s raid on the Finestre came one year after Tom Dumoulin nearly lost the Giro d’Italia when he abruptly dismounted his bicycle to defecate in a meadow at the base of the Umbrail Pass. In 2016, Giro leader Steven Kruijswijk saw his firm grasp on the maglia rosa ripped from his hands after he catapulted into a snowbank on the Colle dell’Agnello. Vincenzo Nibali attacked to win that year’s race on the final mountain stage, erasing a huge time deficit he had suffered in the opening week.
During the 2015 Giro’s sixth stage, a spectator leaned over a rail to get a photo and caused a crash; the pileup injured Alberto Contador, who spent the rest of the race recovering from the injuries. In 2014, snowfall on the Passo dello Stelvio caused confusion after some riders believed the race was neutralized — Nairo Quintana descended quickly and won the stage, and eventually the overall.
These calamities force teams and directors to shift their respective strategies on the fly. And these moments don’t always torpedo a rider or team’s chances — they simply change the equation.
“That’s the beauty of the Giro — something like that can happen, and you can still manage to win,” says Luke Roberts, Dumoulin’s team director at Sunweb. “We couldn’t preview that Stelvio stage because it was still under two meters of snow before the race. There’s always that element of surprise in the Giro that’s not the case in the Tour.”
Why can the Giro consistently deliver up such surprises? Every year, the course designers create a punishing route that is arguably more difficult than that of the Tour de France or Vuelta a España. Topography in Italy also points toward a more challenging race. The climbs in the Dolomites and even in the central Apennines are often longer, rougher, and steeper than in the French Alps or Pyrenees. The Giro organizers simply put more of these climbs into the route.
“When you look at the meters of climbing and the length of the climbs, the Giro is harder than the Tour de France,” White says. “Guys are on their knees in the final week.”
And while the Tour often includes several sprint stages in the final days of racing, the Giro organizers strategically make the final week the toughest seven-day block of racing in pro cycling. A typical Giro has at least three, if not four, major mountain stages along with a time trial squeezed into the final days of the event, usually in the snowbound mountains of northern Italy. It’s a recipe for spectacle, and nobody knows this better than the organizers.
“The Giro is like an opera,” says Giro director Mauro Vegni. “We want it to build to a climactic finale without knowing how it will end.”
In this year’s Giro, there are three stages with more than 5,000 meters of climbing, and two of them are in the final week.
That inherent difficulty means that the unexpected can happen. Froome’s Finestre raid was possible because the entire field was exhausted from three weeks of intense racing on punishing terrain. Such an attack may not have been possible in a more traditional Tour-like route. Even Nibali benefitted from exhausted legs during his 2016 foray. He vaulted into the lead during the two final “stage extremis” days, which packed a combined 8,000 meters of climbing across six major ascents.
Another factor that can lead to Giro surprises is Italy’s infamously unpredictable spring weather. Summer in France means there’s almost always warm weather during the Tour. When it comes to bad weather, the Italians just keep going, like they did over the Stelvio in 2014. Rigoberto Urán lost the leader’s jersey and the Giro that day when he stopped atop the Stelvio in a blizzard to put on a jacket. Quintana controversially kept racing under a red flag but ended up winning the overall.
“At the Giro, you can go from 30 degrees Celsius to snow in a matter of hours,” says retired pro Juan Manuel Garate, now a director with EF Education First. “You get these big fluctuations at the Giro that put different stresses on the body.”
The most important cause of the Giro’s unpredictability is found in the legs of the riders. By and large, every rider selected for the Tour de France arrives at the Grand Départ at peak fitness. That’s not the case at the Giro, where some riders are still building for goals later in the season. Younger pros often make their grand tour debut at the Giro, and some teams show up without any major GC goals at all.
Sickness can also decimate a team’s roster. White once finished the Giro with just one teammate left — the other seven riders abandoned due to sickness or crashes.
This has a huge impact on race dynamics. Some Giro stages are taken lightly, and some teams bring only sprinters and stage-hunters. That means the GC battle is often between just a few main contenders, which is eventually reduced to a final-weekend crescendo unseen at the Tour, where team strength is so much more decisive.
Look at last year’s Tour de France. Alejandro Valverde and Kruijswijk each went on daring, long-distance sorties in the Alps. Neither worked. Why? Because at the Tour, the teams are so deep and the pressure to control the race is so high that any hints of bravery are inexorably smothered.
“Hats off to Kruijswijk for trying, but that was like throwing a cat among the pigeons,” Roberts says. “Everyone is so strong at the Tour, it’s almost impossible to ride away from the bunch.”
Team Sky has dominated the Tour over the past decade, winning six of the past seven editions with three different riders, thanks in part to the powerful and balanced squad it brings each July. Sky, however, has never brought as strong a team to the Giro, even when Froome was racing to win. That’s why Froome was often on the ropes and exposed at the Giro in ways that he’s never been at the Tour.
“If you’re exposed, everything is amplified at the Giro,” White says. “At the Giro, no one has a team as strong as Sky is at the Tour to control the race. On those big climbs at the end of a hard Giro, the gaps are big, and you can come from behind like you’ve seen guys do.”
Last year, back at the team hotel in the aftermath of his Finestre collapse, Yates was tucked into bed when the rest of the staffers were drowning their collective sorrows. Being on the bludgeoned end of the Froome beating has only motivated Yates to even the score. In what might have permanently marred a weaker rider, Yates appears to have survived with a strengthened resolve.
But the Englishman isn’t expecting the Giro to be as wide open this year as it has been recently. Somewhat paradoxically, this year’s Giro is so hard and has such a deep GC field that those wild dynamics and intriguing subplots might be snuffed out.
The reason? There are too many would-be winners lining up, even compared to the relatively deep field in 2018.
“The Giro could be different this year,” Yates says. “There are just as many guys trying to win the Giro this year as are usually at the Tour. That could mean more control. I hope it’s not. I like to attack.”
Giro organizers have delivered a Tour-like course, loaded with two time trials and relatively few climbs in the first half of the race. In fact, Dumoulin bucked pressure to target the Tour this summer because the Giro was ideally suited to his style of racing. So it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Dumoulin take an early pink jersey lead, and then try to ride defensively all the way to the final-day time trial in Verona.
“The TT is a race-killer at the Tour, and this year’s Giro has some belters,” White says. “The TTs at the Giro are usually a bit different, with more climbing, and they don’t snuff out the race like they do at the Tour.”
On top of that, this year’s Giro GC field is perhaps its deepest in years. Not only are the Italian favorites like Nibali and Fabio Aru (UAE-Emirates) back, but former winner Dumoulin will face off against the likes of Yates, Miguel Ángel López (Astana), Mikel Landa, Richard Carapaz, and Alejandro Valverde (all from Movistar), Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma), Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin), and Sky’s prodigy Egan Bernal, who is making his GC-leadership debut. That means there will be more teams racing for the overall win, and riding to control the race as they do in the Tour de France.
It could be a very different Giro than last year, or those factors might mean the climbers will need to attack all the more often. The good thing about the Giro is that it is always predictably unpredictable. Expect nothing less in 2019.
Yates’s director, White, certainly hopes he will be drinking again at the conclusion of this year’s Giro, but for dramatically different reasons.
“Win or lose, the Giro is good fun,” White says. “It’s real bike racing.”
|1||05/11/2019||Bologna to Bologna||8.2km|
|2||05/12/2019||Bologna to Fucecchio||200km|
|3||05/13/2019||Vinci to Orbetello||219km|
|4||05/14/2019||Orbetello to Frascati||228km|
|5||05/15/2019||Frascati to Terracina||140km|
|6||05/16/2019||Cassino to San Giovanni Rotondo||233km|
|7||05/17/2019||Vasto to L'Aquila||180km|
|8||05/18/2019||Tortoreto Lido to Pesaro||235km|
|9||05/19/2019||Riccione to San Marino||34.7km|
|10||05/21/2019||Ravenna to Modena||147km|
|11||05/22/2019||Carpi to Novi Ligure||206km|
|12||05/22/2019||Cuneo to Pinerolo||146km|
|13||05/24/2019||Pinerolo to Ceresole Reale||188km|
|14||05/25/2019||Saint-Vincent to Courmayeur||131km|
|15||05/26/2019||Ivrea to Como||237km|
|16||04/28/2019||Lovere to Ponte di Legno||226km|
|17||05/29/2019||Commezzadura to Anterselva/Antholz||180km|
|18||05/30/2019||Valdaora/Olang to Santa Maria di Sala||220km|
|19||05/31/2019||Treviso to San Martino di Castrozza||151km|
|20||06/01/2019||Feltre to Croce d'Aune-Monte Avena||193km|
|21||06/02/2019||Verona to Verona||15.6km|
|1||CARAPAZ Richard||Movistar Team||90:01:47|
|2||NIBALI Vincenzo||Bahrain Merida||1:05|
|3||ROGLIČ Primož||Team Jumbo-Visma||2:30|
|4||LANDA Mikel||Movistar Team||2:38|
|5||MOLLEMA Bauke||Trek - Segafredo||5:43|
|6||MAJKA Rafał||BORA - hansgrohe||6:56|
|7||LÓPEZ Miguel Ángel||Astana Pro Team||7:26|
|9||SIVAKOV Pavel||Team INEOS||8:56|
|10||ZAKARIN Ilnur||Team Katusha Alpecin||12:14|
|11||CARTHY Hugh||EF Education First||16:36|
|12||DOMBROWSKI Joe||EF Education First||20:12|
|13||MADOUAS Valentin||Groupama - FDJ||21:59|
|14||POLANC Jan||UAE-Team Emirates||22:38|
|15||FORMOLO Davide||BORA - hansgrohe||22:38|
|16||CICCONE Giulio||Trek - Segafredo||27:19|
|18||KANGERT Tanel||EF Education First||30:11|
|19||POZZOVIVO Domenico||Bahrain Merida||33:40|
|20||MASNADA Fausto||Androni Giocattoli - Sidermec||34:52|
|21||DE LA PARTE Víctor||CCC Team||39:51|
|22||DUNBAR Eddie||Team INEOS||42:26|
|23||CARUSO Damiano||Bahrain Merida||49:06|
|24||HENAO Sebastián||Team INEOS||58:45|
|26||ZEITS Andrey||Astana Pro Team||1:05:28|
|27||HIRT Jan||Astana Pro Team||1:05:38|
|28||CATTANEO Mattia||Androni Giocattoli - Sidermec||1:09:11|
|29||VUILLERMOZ Alexis||AG2R La Mondiale||1:12:04|
|30||BIDARD François||AG2R La Mondiale||1:16:55|
|31||BILBAO Pello||Astana Pro Team||1:17:41|
|32||O'CONNOR Ben||Team Dimension Data||1:17:49|
|33||JUNGELS Bob||Deceuninck - Quick Step||1:22:57|
|34||HAMILTON Chris||Team Sunweb||1:24:02|
|35||HINDLEY Jai||Team Sunweb||1:28:09|
|36||IZAGIRRE Ion||Astana Pro Team||1:28:25|
|37||CAPECCHI Eros||Deceuninck - Quick Step||1:32:21|
|38||SERRY Pieter||Deceuninck - Quick Step||1:32:54|
|39||AMADOR Andrey||Movistar Team||1:33:00|
|41||BOUWMAN Koen||Team Jumbo-Visma||1:36:40|
|42||ULISSI Diego||UAE-Team Emirates||1:38:34|
|43||BAKELANTS Jan||Team Sunweb||1:49:34|
|44||SOSA Iván Ramiro||Team INEOS||1:54:16|
|45||GHEBREIGZABHIER Amanuel||Team Dimension Data||1:54:33|
|46||PEDRERO Antonio||Movistar Team||1:56:03|
|47||DUPONT Hubert||AG2R La Mondiale||1:56:44|
|48||CATALDO Dario||Astana Pro Team||1:57:41|
|49||BRAMBILLA Gianluca||Trek - Segafredo||1:59:02|
|50||ROJAS José Joaquín||Movistar Team||2:03:31|
|51||DE GENDT Thomas||Lotto Soudal||2:06:26|
|52||WARBASSE Larry||AG2R La Mondiale||2:07:02|
|53||MONTAGUTI Matteo||Androni Giocattoli - Sidermec||2:07:24|
|54||ANTUNES Amaro||CCC Team||2:09:51|
|55||VENDRAME Andrea||Androni Giocattoli - Sidermec||2:12:22|
|56||KUSS Sepp||Team Jumbo-Visma||2:15:24|
|57||CARBONI Giovanni||Bardiani - CSF||2:18:35|
|58||GAVAZZI Francesco||Androni Giocattoli - Sidermec||2:20:33|
|59||SENNI Manuel||Bardiani - CSF||2:20:43|
|60||VILLELLA Davide||Astana Pro Team||2:27:26|
|61||PETERS Nans||AG2R La Mondiale||2:31:42|
|62||MCCARTHY Jay||BORA - hansgrohe||2:40:04|
|63||CONCI Nicola||Trek - Segafredo||2:41:00|
|64||VAN DER SANDE Tosh||Lotto Soudal||2:41:58|
|65||TOLHOEK Antwan||Team Jumbo-Visma||2:43:16|
|66||BATTAGLIN Enrico||Team Katusha Alpecin||2:44:14|
|67||BROWN Nathan||EF Education First||2:44:52|
|68||HANSEN Adam||Lotto Soudal||2:46:43|
|69||GASPAROTTO Enrico||Team Dimension Data||2:50:28|
|71||PLAZA Rubén||Israel Cycling Academy||2:55:14|
|72||FLÓREZ Miguel Eduardo||Androni Giocattoli - Sidermec||2:57:12|
|73||OWSIAN Łukasz||CCC Team||3:00:02|
|74||BENEDETTI Cesare||BORA - hansgrohe||3:03:12|
|75||MARTENS Paul||Team Jumbo-Visma||3:03:30|
|76||NIBALI Antonio||Bahrain Merida||3:04:26|
|77||SBARAGLI Kristian||Israel Cycling Academy||3:06:36|
|79||GASTAUER Ben||AG2R La Mondiale||3:09:32|
|80||NARVÁEZ Jhonatan||Team INEOS||3:10:04|
|81||FRAPPORTI Marco||Androni Giocattoli - Sidermec||3:14:04|
|82||LUDVIGSSON Tobias||Groupama - FDJ||3:15:57|
|83||WYSS Danilo||Team Dimension Data||3:18:24|
|84||COVILI Luca||Bardiani - CSF||3:20:58|
|85||ROTA Lorenzo||Bardiani - CSF||3:25:08|
|86||PUCCIO Salvatore||Team INEOS||3:25:43|
|87||VENTOSO Francisco José||CCC Team||3:28:10|
|88||CARRETERO Héctor||Movistar Team||3:33:45|
|89||POLJAŃSKI Paweł||BORA - hansgrohe||3:35:14|
|90||BOARO Manuele||Astana Pro Team||3:35:32|
|91||GIBBONS Ryan||Team Dimension Data||3:39:32|
|92||SABATINI Fabio||Deceuninck - Quick Step||3:43:50|
|93||AGNOLI Valerio||Bahrain Merida||3:52:52|
|94||HOLLENSTEIN Reto||Team Katusha Alpecin||3:53:05|
|96||KNEES Christian||Team INEOS||3:54:54|
|97||GOGL Michael||Trek - Segafredo||3:58:26|
|98||GAROSIO Andrea||Bahrain Merida||4:00:28|
|99||MARCATO Marco||UAE-Team Emirates||4:06:17|
|100||NEILANDS Krists||Israel Cycling Academy||4:06:28|
|101||HONORÉ Mikkel Frølich||Deceuninck - Quick Step||4:07:49|
|102||SANTAROMITA Ivan||Nippo Vini Fantini Faizanè||4:08:19|
|103||MAESTRI Mirco||Bardiani - CSF||4:11:52|
|104||VAN EMDEN Jos||Team Jumbo-Visma||4:13:34|
|105||HAGA Chad||Team Sunweb||4:13:46|
|106||BENNETT Sean||EF Education First||4:17:00|
|107||CANOLA Marco||Nippo Vini Fantini Faizanè||4:18:19|
|108||CAICEDO Jonathan Klever||EF Education First||4:18:35|
|109||BELLETTI Manuel||Androni Giocattoli - Sidermec||4:20:44|
|110||BOLE Grega||Bahrain Merida||4:22:27|
|111||CAMPENAERTS Victor||Lotto Soudal||4:25:03|
|112||LE GAC Olivier||Groupama - FDJ||4:27:17|
|113||NIV Guy||Israel Cycling Academy||4:29:11|
|114||SCHWARZMANN Michael||BORA - hansgrohe||4:29:32|
|115||ČERNÝ Josef||CCC Team||4:31:48|
|116||HALLER Marco||Team Katusha Alpecin||4:31:59|
|117||BIERMANS Jenthe||Team Katusha Alpecin||4:35:35|
|118||DAVIES Scott||Team Dimension Data||4:44:40|
|119||LEEZER Tom||Team Jumbo-Visma||4:51:26|
|120||SÜTTERLIN Jasha||Movistar Team||4:53:09|
|121||STRAKHOV Dmitry||Team Katusha Alpecin||4:56:00|
|122||ACKERMANN Pascal||BORA - hansgrohe||4:56:45|
|123||DÉMARE Arnaud||Groupama - FDJ||4:56:59|
|124||DENZ Nico||AG2R La Mondiale||4:58:12|
|125||BOIVIN Guillaume||Israel Cycling Academy||4:58:58|
|126||MAS Lluís||Movistar Team||5:00:44|
|127||SELIG Rüdiger||BORA - hansgrohe||5:02:30|
|128||GEBREMEDHIN Awet||Israel Cycling Academy||5:06:26|
|129||GRADEK Kamil||CCC Team||5:07:15|
|130||CIMOLAI Davide||Israel Cycling Academy||5:08:52|
|131||CONSONNI Simone||UAE-Team Emirates||5:09:31|
|132||GUARNIERI Jacopo||Groupama - FDJ||5:16:07|
|133||SINKELDAM Ramon||Groupama - FDJ||5:21:10|
|134||LOBATO Juan José||Nippo Vini Fantini Faizanè||5:26:51|
|135||DUNNE Conor||Israel Cycling Academy||5:26:52|
|136||IRIZAR Markel||Trek - Segafredo||5:28:23|
|137||CIMA Damiano||Nippo Vini Fantini Faizanè||5:29:19|
|138||SCOTSON Miles||Groupama - FDJ||5:33:49|
|139||BOHLI Tom||UAE-Team Emirates||5:34:50|
|140||SIMION Paolo||Bardiani - CSF||5:35:22|
|141||CLARKE Will||Trek - Segafredo||6:00:17|
|142||HATSUYAMA Sho||Nippo Vini Fantini Faizanè||6:05:56|
Results provided by ProCyclingStats.