Giro stage 11 report / discussion: So you had a bad day
Pascal Ackermann made the most of a wet, rough day at the Giro d’Italia that saw Tao Geoghegan Hart crash out and COVID-19 continue to work its way through the race. Things got off to a rough start even before the neutral rollout, with eight more DNSs – most due to COVID – including four of Soudal Quick-Step’s roster. The team is now down to just three riders.
The longest stage of the race at 219 km, the ride from Camioare to Tortona looked tailor-made for a breakaway to succeed. But on the road, the race flipped the script, as the six-rider, day-long breakaway disintegrated on the lumpy parcours under rainy, cloudy weather again dogging the race.
The gap was at a comfortable 2:30 or so when disaster struck on the descent off the Colla di Boasi. UAE Team Emirates’ Alessandro Covi slid out on a wet corner, and just happened to be right ahead of the top three riders on the general classification.
The Ineos Grenadiers duo of Geraint Thomas and Goeghegan Hart went down, as did second-placed Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma). Thomas and Roglič were up quickly and on their way – Roglič on teammate Koen Bouwman’s bike – but Geoghegan Hart stayed down and was eventually taken from the race in an ambulance.
And just like that, in one of those senselessly cruel crashes in a nothing moment, the race changed. Ineos’s two-leader strategy is destroyed, Geoghegan Hart’s chances for a second Giro victory are rubble, and two other top favorites are nursing at least some bumps and bruises.
Up front, the sprinters’ teams ensured that yesterday’s near-miss didn’t repeat. Jayco-AlUla set a hard pace over the last climb, dropping several sprinters including Astana’s Mark Cavendish, but everyone except stage 5 winner Kaden Groves (Alpecin-Deceuninck) got back on comfortably in time for the catch of lone breakaway survivor Laurenz Rex (Intermarché-Wanty-Circus).
A final crash just inside 3 km to go split the field again, and a reduced bunch lined up for a chaotic sprint, with Ackermann jumping off Cavendish’s wheel just as points leader Jonathan Milan (Bahrain Victorious) rocketed up the right side from far back. Milan’s closing speed was ferocious, but he left it juuuust a little late and Ackermann held on for the win by a whisker, with a resurgent Cavendish third.
“The guys did an amazing job of bringing me to the first position and I saw Cav was in front and took him as a leadout,” Ackermann told Eurosport after his first win of the season. “I’m so happy that the timing [worked] and I could show off that I’m still there.”
Discussion – have your say in the comments:
-Geoghegan Hart’s departure undoubtedly changes the race. How?
-Cav seems to have dispensed with any kind of formal leadout from Astana, as he had no teammates around him in the final kilometer today or for his slip-and-slide finish on Stage 5. Nobody’s better at surfing wheels, but can he get a win here that way?
-Barely halfway through the Giro, we’ve dropped from 176 to 139 riders, the majority from COVID-19. Teams are (rightly) being very cautious with rider health; can they stop the spread?
- Pascal Ackermann (UAE Team Emirates)
- Jonathan Milan (Bahrain Victorious)
- Mark Cavendish (Astana)
- Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo)
- Stefano Oldani (Alpecin-Deceuninck)
- Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers)
- Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) @ :02
- João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) @ :22
- Andreas Leknessund (Team DSM) @ :35
- Damiano Caruso (Bahrain Victorious) @ 1:28