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Stage 18 of Giro d’Italia was hectic, and anyone who thought today was an easy stage can think again. You can tell that we’re in the third week of a grand tour now. Everyone is feeling it and gaps that weren’t there before slowly start to open in the bunch. Either the riders can’t be bothered to close them anymore or they simply don’t have the legs. There’s stress, there’s fatigue, and concentration just takes so much more effort than it did on stage 1.
Today was just insane in terms of how fast we went for stage 18. It came down to a perfect storm of circumstances. It was the last day for a break to really succeed on the flat but also the last sprint stage as well. If the final stage to Verona was a sprint, then perhaps today would have been more comfortable in terms of pace but with so many teams still looking for a win it was ridiculously fast.
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We were sprinting out of every single corner, but another factor was that the sprint trains have been through some heavy old mountain stages, so they’re not as fresh or able to control the race like they were before. It just made for a relentless day, especially when the break had so much firepower.
The sprinters’ teams knew how strong the break was, and they kept it on a tight leash for a while but then the gap just went out, and that was it. There’s no such thing as active recovery in a race like this.
In terms of the GC, it’s a shame to see Almeida leave the race with COVID-19. No one takes any pleasure at all in seeing a kid like that go home. He’d been immense in the race so far, never throwing in the towel or losing too much time, and always fighting. He’s a really smart rider too. There was no one on our bus celebrating his departure.
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Stage 19 is going to be really hard with all the climbing packed into the second half, and there are three guys in Richard, Hindley and Landa who have proven that they’re head and shoulders above everyone else. Time will tell if losing Almeida makes a difference in terms of how the race plays out. He might not have been right there on the podium but Bahrain-Victorious were going hard on the early climbs in order to drop him as quickly as possible.
Now that they don’t have to do that, perhaps they’ll take a different approach. Landa is tactically astute and he knows how to hurt but we’ll just have to see. Hindley looks good and it would be nice if we had more of a buffer but it’s a tricky race to call. Everyone thought today was going to be relatively calm, and that might be a factor for the last three stages. Whatever happens, it’s going to be an exciting last few days.
Looking at the profile, stage 19 is hard but I don’t know if it’s going to be hard enough to make a huge difference. So far there’s been lots of shadow-boxing, but tomorrow is at least uphill, and then on Saturday we’re going to high altitude and that’s Richard’s playground.
I think the race organisers have done a good job with the course, and for the people at home thats’ great. It’s going to go down to the wire.