The first true summit finish of the 2023 Giro d’Italia ended up mostly a “stalemate” in the worlds of Ineos Grenadiers’ Geraint Thomas, as the early breakaway stayed clear for the win and the GC favorites opted to race conservatively ahead of what could be a vital weekend for the overall.
A four-rider break went clear just a few kilometers in, and was allowed more than 12 minutes – enough to put Intermarché-Wanty’s Simone Petilli in the virtual maglia rosa. When Henok Mulubrhan (Green Project-Bardiani) dropped out of the break, that left three up front, still enough to soak up all the bonus seconds on the road. And with some 35 km of climbing to finish the day, the pack was largely unconcerned with the gap and set only a moderate pace on the chase.
If there’s a word to describe the two final climbs, it’s smooth: the near-constant gradient of the Calascio, the total lack of descent before starting the Campo Imperatore, and the way the break worked together until the finish, which saw just a single (brief, unsuccessful) attack by Corratec’s Karel Vacek before Petilli surged at 300 meters to go and Davide Bais (EOLO-Kometa) went around both for a clean win, plus the lead in the mountains competition over Groupama-FDJ’s Thibaut Pinot.
Behind, a large-ish GC group of close to 30 riders seemed content to just ride tempo and follow wheels. “I wanted to race a bit but it wasn’t the right conditions,” said Thomas at the finish. Team DSM’s Andreas Leknessund took advantage of the lack of hostilities to easily stay in pink another day, while pre-race favorite Remco Evenepoel surged right at the finish to send a message to his rivals that he’s feeling no effects from his hard crashes.
OK, discussion time – have your say in the comments:
-As always, the Giro’s final week is desperately hard. Does that take away from early summit finishes like the Imperatore, as riders seem to race more cautiously?
-Today went about as well as Evenepoel could expect. There have been some questions around his team strength, and Ilan Van Wilder was his only teammate in the first group, but Louis Vervaeke and Jan Hirt weren’t far behind. Is Soudal up to defending if Remco retakes pink after Sunday?
-Saturday is another likely day for a breakaway, but the finish should keep the GC riders on edge with several short, steep climbs (categorized and not). Will we see more aggressive racing, or are they saving it for Sunday’s TT?
- Davide Bais (EOLO-Kometa)
- Karel Vacek (Corratec-Selle Italia) @ :09
- Simone Petilli (Intermarché-Wanty) @ :16
- Remco Evenepoel (Soudal Quick-Step) @ 3:10
- Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) @ same time