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Giro d'Italia

Giro d’Italia stage 21 preview: Specialists seek victory as Hindley looks to hold pink

The 17.4km test against the clock is similar to the 2019 Verona TT, but packs in 200 meters more of climbing.

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The Giro d’Italia will, for the second time in four years, be decided by a final time trial around Verona.

Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe) goes into the stage with what looks like a decisive lead in the overall classification with 1:25 over Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers), but this is the Giro d’Italia and anything can happen.

Carapaz will also have to keep an eye on Mikel Landa (Bahrain-Victorious), who closed the gap on him to just 26 seconds on the Marmolada and could still pose a threat if the Ecuadorian has any problems.

Carapaz was crowned the victor when the Giro d’Italia last held a time trial in Verona. He went into the final stage with a 1:54 advantage over Vincenzo Nibali and saw it cut to 1:05 by the end of the day.

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BikeExchange-Jayco’s time trial boffin and former multiple Italian TT champion Marco Pinotti says that some gaps could open between the GC contenders. However, he’s not sure that Carapaz’s 2019 effort should be used as a benchmark for the Ecuadorian’s time trialing prowess.

Indeed, he believes that Carapaz has the upper hand on his closest GC rival in Hindley. However, Carapaz has got a metaphorical mountain to climb if he wants to take back the pink jersey from Hindley.

“I think there can be gaps between the GC contenders, a few seconds or more. Two years ago, it was Nibali that did a good TT and Carapaz, who won the Giro, finished 50 seconds slower,” Pinotti told VeloNews. “I think that Carapaz may have ridden conservatively, as he had almost two minutes before the stage. Nibali probably went all out, and he gained 50 seconds on him.

“Between one good TT’er and an average one, it could be three seconds a kilometer to maybe 45 to 50 seconds. Interesting in the time trial will be Hindley. In the first time trial, he was a few seconds slower than Carapaz. Historically, Carapaz seems a bit stronger than Hindley.”

The 2022 turn around Verona is very similar to the one that Carapaz faced four years ago, but it has some small tweaks. An extra 400 meters has been added to the distance, half of which has been added to climb in the middle of it.

“It’s not an easy time trial and this year it is 400 meters longer. It includes 200 meters extra climbing and as part of that climb it includes a steeper section,” Team DSM coach Matt Winston told VeloNews.

While 400 meters isn’t very much, every meter will count for riders hoping to gain time or for those trying not to lose it. The added climbing will be a blessed relief for the GC riders who are less adept on the TT bike.

For Hindley, he will be very thankful for the small rise in the climb after he lost the Giro d’Italia in the final time trial in 2020. The Australian lost nearly 40 seconds to Tao Geoghegan Hart in the almost pan-flat 15.7k test around the Italian city. He is unlikely to lose that much time on this occasion.

One for the specialists

Sobrero could see his opportunity Sunday.

Unlike earlier in the race, when Simon Yates (BikeExchange-Jayco) surprised everyone with the TT victory in Hungary, there seems very little chance that one of the GC riders will contest for the stage win in Verona — particularly with the untimely abandon of João Almeida earlier in the week.

The Hungarian time trial also included a climb, but that featured right at the end whereas Verona’s ascent comes right in the middle. That small difference means it could be an opportunity for some others to get a moment in the spotlight.

“I would say, it’s more for specialists this one and it is a little bit less explosive but from a technical standpoint, it’s very similar. There is a descent, obviously, whereas the other one was finishing uphill,” Pinotti said before offering up some potential names for victory.

“From our team, we have Matteo Sobrero, who could do a good race if he’s coming out of the mountains well, and then it could also be someone like Will Barta doing a good race.”

It’s not only the GC riders that will be feeling the strain come the Verona and the time trial specialists will also have a lot of tiredness in their legs Sunday. There are several riders that have named the final TT as a big goal of the Giro’s last week, including Sobrero, Barta, and Mathieu van der Poel.

Riders such as Wilco Kelderman, Jos van Emden, Thymen Arensman, and Alex Dowsett will also be riders to watch in the fight for the overall win.

Each of the riders have had very different preparations with Kelderman and Barta playing support roles for their GC riders, while some others have been able to sit back in the grupetto and rest slightly. Van der Poel has taken another very different approach, putting himself in the breakaway on a very regular occurrence.

For Pinotti, there’s no right way to do it and resting up at the back on the big mountain stages is not always a sure-fire way of ensuring you’ve got good legs on the big day.

“The last week has an impact on the way that you come out, but it’s not guaranteed that if you go into the gruppetto every day then you’re going to have some good legs,” Pinotti said. “Sometimes it’s riders that are active in the final stages that can do well.

“If you’re active then you’re in good shape and you look for the feeling of pushing, what Van der Poel has been doing. It’s a tricky balance, but Matteo has been in this position for the last two years with the final TT and he’s not necessarily been showing his form in the last week.”