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Giro d'Italia

Rod Ellingworth on slow-boil Giro d’Italia: ‘Blockhaus will be the next key moment’

After winning three of the past four pink jerseys, Ineos Grenadiers keeping lid on early action ahead of ‘big fight’ looming in final week.

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POTENZA, Italy (VN) — Ineos Grenadiers isn’t in the pink jersey yet, but it’s keeping a tight lid on the Giro d’Italia to make sure Richard Carapaz can snatch it when the time is right.

Team boss Rod Ellingworth is watching with quiet confidence as Ineos Grenadiers is slowly putting the squeeze on the race.

After taking control of Friday’s potentially explosive stage across the Apennine, Ellingworth said Sunday’s stage at Blockhaus is the next major inflection point of the race.

“Sunday will be the next real key moment,” Ellingworth told VeloNews. “We know Blockhaus is a solid climb so people will want to move on there and it can cause some hurt.

“It will thin down on the climb before, but it’s all going to be about the final climb,” he said. “I don’t know if it will be the GC group going for the win for the stage, but even if not, it will be important.”

Friday’s climb-heavy stage saw a big fight for the breakaway to form, with a strong group finally pulling clear after more than an hour of racing.

Ineos Grenadiers wasn’t looking to place riders in the break, but finally took up control of the race after Trek-Segafredo’s Bauke Mollema and two Jumbo-Visma riders snuck into the winning move.

Just as it did Tuesday on Mount Etna, Ineos Grenadiers isn’t afraid to step up and control the race in key moments that could unravel if there isn’t someone setting a steady tempo.

“We weren’t surprised about the breakaway today and we knew it would take awhile to get into the climbs,” he said. “It was all very well expected, and we even pegged Mollema to be in there. It was a strong break, so you know it’s going to go a fair way.

“We were waiting to see what the situation was in the race. It was clear at one point that we had to do some work to keep things under control, but there were no problems.”

Salvatore Puccio and Ben Swift paced the GC group over a string of steep climbs midway through the undulating profile, and Richie Porte and Pavel Sivakov helped shepherd Carapaz safely over the final ramps with about 20km to go.

“It’s just racing. I think the guys are good,” Ellingworth said. “I think we’re in a good place. Richard is confident.”

A winner in 2019, Carapaz finished safely in the bunch Friday to remain 11th overall at 2:06 back.

Spain’s Juanpe López (Trek-Segafredo) kept pink Friday, but even he expects to give it up Sunday.

With a relatively modest string of stages lined up in the second week, Ellingworth said the team is hoping to maximize the opportunity at Blockhaus on Sunday, and then ride into the decisive third week with everything in play.

“Some we say we’re favorites, some say Yates, others Bardet,” he said. “It softens up a little bit in the second week, but then it’s the normal final week of the Giro. You’ve got to stay on it every day in the Giro.”

As winners of three of the past four pink jerseys, Ellingworth said the team is working to keep that trend going. With Carapaz in pole position, the pressure is on to deliver the team’s fourth pink jersey.

“We’ve done well here at the Giro lately, we cannot complain. We enjoy the Giro, let’s hope it continues,” he said. “The Giro is a big race, and it’s something everyone can focus on.

“The guys are ready for the big fight, which I think will come down a bit further down the road.”