The symbols “DNS” and “DNF” stalk the battle-weary peloton at the Giro d’Italia.
The Giro’s sign-on ceremony slims by the day, with Sunday seeing a swathe more abandons due to a mass pile-up. And there could be many more DNFs to come as the race hits the high passes – and a snowstorm – Monday.
Emanuel Buchmann, Jos van Emden, Natnael Berhane and Ruben Guerreiro were all the victims of the huge crash which pressed pause on stage 14 Sunday.
Also read: Stage 15 neutralized after early pile-up
GC contender Buchmann sustained a concussion and several bruises and cuts to his face, lips, and hip. Van Emden has broken five ribs and suffered a lung contusion. Guerreiro also has injured ribs, and Berhane has dislocated his shoulder.
— Team Cofidis (@TeamCOFIDIS) May 23, 2021
Italian hero Vincenzo Nibali has also been hobbled after he was caught up in the incident.
Although “The Shark” wasn’t one of the score of riders caught in the initial crash, he suffered a slow-motion get-down as the peloton screamed to a halt ahead of him. Team Trek-Segafredo confirmed Nibali was checked for rib injuries Sunday night and was screened again Monday morning.
“As hoped, Vincenzo Nibali has spent a peaceful night,” read a statement Monday morning. “The pain caused by the contusion of the ribs remains minor and ‘The Shark’ will be ready at the start of stage 16.”
Abandons and casualties quietly shaping the race
Crashes have blighted this Giro d’Italia from early on.
GC contender Mikel Landa was the first high-profile exit after a high-speed crash on stage 5, an incident that also called time on stage-winner Joe Dombrowski’s Giro. Rising star Pavel Sivakov also abandoned after a separate incident during that day.
Other notable departures in the past weeks have included Domenico Pozzovivo, Marc Soler, Alessandro De Marchi and Matej Mohorič. Of the 184 riders that rolled down the start ramp in Turin two weeks ago, just 154 made it to the finishline in Gorizia on Sunday, with Lotto-Soudal down to just three riders.
Although the Giro’s main players have so far come through unscathed, the action has been shaped by the incident-riddled race as teams lose leaders, stage-hunters, and valuable domestiques.
For Bahrain-Victorious, there was some consolation in that the team could pivot early after losing Landa on stage 5. The team has been on the offense ever since, striking a stage win with Gino Mäder – who has now also abandoned – and positioning Damiano Caruso into the top-three overall.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, Bora-Hansgrohe has been left without its GC option after 15 days of working to put Buchmann within range of the podium.
“One of the most difficult things that can happen to a team during a stage race happened to us today. Emanuel Buchmann, our captain with ambitions for the podium, was forced to abandon following a crash,” said sport director Jens Zemke.
“This is of course a very bitter moment for us, and now we’ll have to adjust our tactics for the last week and try to limit the damage.”
Sunday’s crash saw the race neutralized for some 25 minutes as medics rushed to the scene and hobbled riders went for checkups. Of the riders that made it to the finish line, many were seen with fresh road rash and ripped clothing, including former stage winner Mauro Schmid and Jumbo-Visma animators Tobias Foss and Edoardo Affini.
How Sunday’s walking wounded will fare in the attritional final week remains to be seen.
Glavnina zadnjič čez Cerovo.
— Toni Gruden (@duledoz) May 23, 2021
The Giro’s sprint field is also at its bare bones.
With a swathe of multi-mountain stages to come this week, many of the peloton’s fastest finishers have pulled the plug to save their legs for future goals. Giacomo Nizzolo was the latest to abandon Sunday. Before him, Caleb Ewan left early to a chorus of criticism, and Dylan Groenewegen and David Dekker also called it quits Saturday to avoid the horrors of the Zoncolan.
Foul weather in the high passes causes further concerns
Crashes will be just one of the peloton’s concerns as the Giro heads into the snow-capped high mountains this week, with a sudden downpour at the close of Sunday’s stage making for an antipasti ahead of the plato principale Monday.
Forecasts are calling for frozen rain and snow through Monday’s stage in the Dolomites – conditions so severe they forced organizers to cut two of the high altitude passes from the originally-planned route in a late decision Monday morning.
After two weeks of racing through rain and cool temperatures, even the re-routed, 155km stage over the Giau will put the sternest of immune systems to the test Monday, and race-leader Egan Bernal will be taking no chances.
Although Bernal has looked bulletproof every time the race has pointed uphill, he won’t win the race if he doesn’t make it to Milano.
“It’s a decisive stage, so you will have to be ready for sure,” Bernal said Sunday. “They say it’s going to be very cold. For sure I’ll be wearing gloves, all the clothing I need. We have to be prepared, eat well, rest well and be ready.”
The Giro doesn’t cross above the 2,000-meter mark again until stage 20 this weekend, but the weather is showing little signs of improvement for the week to come as the peloton races through the foothills of the Alps and into Switzerland.
Some 154 riders will roll out of Sacile on Monday morning. Expect less to cross the line in Milano on Sunday night.