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Giro d'Italia

Giro d’Italia: Every second counts for Ineos Grenadiers and Richard Carapaz in GC contest

Ben Swift helping his team leader to climb the standings through bonus seconds ahead of the Giro d'Italia's final week.

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GENOVA, Italy (VN) — Ineos Grenadiers has always been about the so-called “marginal gains,” but the team has put a new meaning on the phrase as it hunts out bonus seconds for Richard Carapaz in the Giro d’Italia GC battle.

Carapaz moved into second place overall in Wednesday’s stage 11 after nabbing what could well be a vital two bonus seconds in the intermediate sprint.

During stage 5, Ben Swift swept up the maximum time bonus, preventing Carapaz’s rivals from being able to do so.

Swift was the instigator in both moves and said that the chance to steal time on the other GC contenders was too good to pass up.

“We’re never going to reject an opportunity so if the opportunity arises, like yesterday where we were in position, and I saw that there were 700 meters to go. We were in position, and I thought we may as well accelerate and take it. The Giro could be won on seconds, but hopefully, it will be won on minutes,” Swift told VeloNews ahead of the stage 12 start in Parma.

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There is no pre-arranged plan for mopping up points at the intermediate sprints and Ineos Grenadiers still hopes that Carapaz will be able to make the real difference in his favored terrain of the mountains.

With some really tough days on the bike still to come, too much wasted energy chasing the bonuses could backfire if the team isn’t careful.

“The one that I won the other day we knew that there were bonus seconds and I thought that I may as well try to take them away from people and yesterday when you have a little look, and you see no other GC riders there and you’re in position then you may as well take it,” Swift said.

“We’re not going to overly chase them, we’re not going to bring the break back just to try and take them. If the opportunity arises then perfect but we need to save energy for next week because that will be the crucial factor. Hopefully, it’s not going to come down to seconds.”

As things stand, Carapaz is sitting in second place equal on time with João Almeida (UAE-Team Emirates) and 12 seconds back on the pink jersey of Juan Pedro López (Trek-Segafredo). Romain Bardet is only two seconds behind Carapaz and Almeida in fourth place and the top eight are separated by less than a minute.

Following two big mountain stages in the opening week of the Giro d’Italia, the terrain has eased off slightly in the first days of week two, but the pace has hardly relented.

Thursday’s stage 12 was the first time this week that we’ve seen the peloton take it easy as it waits for a big weekend through Piedmont and into the Aosta Valley.

“We’ve done a lot of difficult days, there have been no easy days at the Giro, but to our real strengths and Richie’s we’ve only done two stages with Etna and Blockhaus,” he said. “I think that leading into this weekend and into the final week it’s going to sort itself out. Obviously, there are a lot of strong guys. There seems to be four real out there guys, but you can never count out anybody in this Giro.

“The weekend is going to be difficult. Saturday is going to be difficult. I think already this week a lot of people were thinking it was going to be quite easy, certainly the first four days, and then when you look into it in a bit more detail it’s really difficult.

“I think there are a lot of tired people already and this weekend is going to be very difficult, and Sunday is going to be a big day in the mountains.”

Return to grand tour racing

This year’s Giro d’Italia is Swift’s eighth three-week race in his career, but it is his first since 2020. The 34-year-old hasn’t raced a single grand tour since contesting the 2020 Giro d’Italia, where he finished 18th overall.

He told VeloNews that things didn’t “click” for him last year and he’s happy to be back racing over three weeks again.

“It’s really good, the team has been working really well together, everything has gone so far so good so I can’t complain,” Swift said. “My last grand tour was the Giro in 2020 but it was quite late in the year and then last year there were a few different reasons why it didn’t click for me. It’s nice to be back here with the team and with a leader like Richie. It’s easy when you’ve got a team like this and a leader like Carapaz.”

After the Giro d’Italia, Swift will head to the Route d’Occtaine as he prepares to defend his national road race title, which he has held since 2019. After that, he is set to make his debut in Isle of Man colors at the Commonwealth Games at the beginning of August.

Swift originally hails from Yorkshire in the UK, but he has lived on the Isle of Man for some time and hopes to support Mark Cavendish to victory in the road race in Birmingham this summer.

“I’ve been there for quite a number of years now. I’ve never actually ridden the games before. I’ve been selected for the last four or five games, but I’ve never been there. On this course and the way that Cavendish is going, it’s great to be a part of that.

“I love the culture there in the Isle of Man and the environment, everything that’s there the cycling community it’s brilliant.”