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APRICA, Italy (VN) – After back-to-back Alpine stages where you could almost throw a blanket over the four principal contenders for the Giro d’Italia at the finish, the race will continue its passage through the mountains as it heads for Lavarone on a day when rain and cooler temperatures could be a factor.
Speaking to VeloNews after the finish of stage 16 of the Giro d’Italia into Aprica, Bora-Hansgrohe team director Enrico Gasparotto suggested that fatigue and the sudden change in the conditions could result in gaps appearing between the Giro’s four outstanding riders – Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadier), Mikel Landa (Bahrain Victorious), João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) and his Bora’s Jai Hindley.
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“We know tomorrow’s stage because we did a recon after Tirreno-Adriatico in March and the penultimate climb I did as a rider,” Gasparotto explained. That penultimate climb is the Passo del Vetriolo, where American Andy Hampsten won a crucial time trial victory in the 1988 Giro that helped him towards the overall title, although the riders raced up the opposite flank of the pass that day.
“The final is pretty tough and the last climb is very steep. We’ll also have to check on what the weather’s going to do, as the forecast isn’t that good, although it doesn’t look like it will rain all day. But it seems like it will be wet in some parts and up to now it’s been very warm and humid, and changes in temperature like this can have an impact on the body.”
Gasparotto says he’s confident that his man Hindley will hold up, but added: “They’re so close to each other still that there’s no room for mistakes. We’re taking it a day at a time. If we see the opportunity to grab some time, we’ll definitely go for it. I think Jai showed once again how strongly he is riding. He beat Carapaz in the sprint again and gained four seconds there, so it was a good day for us.”
He said the key for Carapaz, Hindley and Landa is to gain ground on Almeida before the final day’s time trial in Verona. “Almeida is 44 seconds behind but he is the best time triallist and he can really gain some seconds in the time trial,” said Gasparotto.
Ineos team director Christian Knees stressed that the Lavarone stage may look a little easier than Tuesday’s run into Aprica that concluded with the climbs of the Mortirolo and Santa Cristina, but it shouldn’t be underestimated. “You have to remember that we’re in the third week so there are lots of tired people with tired legs. Any day now could be decisive, and even if it’s not, gaining a few seconds on someone could make the difference on GC. Every day is a final now,” said Knees.
He was impressed by the performance of his team and in the way that their leader Carapaz had defended the pink jersey.
“The team was strong, it was hard work today. Just like on the stage before the rest day, it was hard to control the breakaway as it seems like everyone is keen to get into it. But they controlled everything brilliantly, and at the end Richard was strong enough to stay with the other main contenders, so all good from our point of view,” said Knees.