In an incredibly dramatic final GC day, Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) overcame a near-catastrophic mechanical to not only win stage 20, but snatch the Giro d’Italia lead by 14 seconds over incumbent pink jersey Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers).
- Riding a road bike equipped with what can only be described as mountain bike gearing, Primož Roglič had been flying up the steep concrete ramps of the climb when he came to a sudden stop. The chain had come off the single chainring, and with that it looked like the tantalising lead he had over Thomas might have gone up in smoke. However, the Slovenian had enough watts in his legs and passion in his heart to carry 40 seconds to the line.
- Monte Lussari is just a handful of kilometres from the Slovenian border and with their man indomitable in the face of another stage 20 TT, the punishing final climb was covered in Slovenian flags. Anything to help Roglič haul his way into pink and exorcise the TT demons of 2020 – and it worked. The chants of his name nearly drowned out the interviews taking place after the finish as Roglič celebrated a historic victory with his compatriots.
- The time cut of this 18.6km ITT was a whopping 50% of the winner’s time (amended from the expected 30%). Sounds like a lot, and proved to be a lot, which explains the ‘chill vibe’ among the earlier starters who are no friend to the >20% gradients on the Monte Lussari. With the time allowance a little over 22 minutes, all 125 riders successfully stamped their tickets for Rome.
- With Roglič taking over pink, all the other jerseys have stayed with their previous owners with one stage to go: Jonathan Milan (Bahrain Victorious) leading the points classification, Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) resplendent in blue as King of the Mountains, and João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) the best young rider by a wide margin.
- Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma)
- Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) +40s
- João Almeida (UAE Emirates) +42s
- Damiano Caruso (Bahrain Victorious) +55s
- Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) +59s
New (final) GC:
- Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma)
- Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) +14s
- João Almeida (UAE Emirates) +1:15
- Damiano Caruso (Bahrain Victorious) +4:40
- Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) +5:43
Heart-stopping moment for Jumbo-Visma:
The most dramatic moment of the day, and characteristic of one of the least lucky riders in the peloton, elicited a classic reaction from his collected teammates. It instantly drew comparison to similar scenes in 2020 when Roglič lost the Tour de France on the penultimate day’s mountain TT.
- Pending disaster on the final stage – and who would bet against some sort of mishap given recent history – Roglič will be crowned Giro champion in Rome, adding the Italian Grand Tour to three-time Vuelta victory. Once again, the Slovenian has proven his ability over three weeks, overcoming everything from crashes to mechanicals, with a good old-fashioned jour sans along the way. Never write a GC rider off.
- Salvatore Puccio (Ineos Grenadiers) was seen swapping his TT helmet for a more ventilated model early in the day, which backed up rumours that the race leader and his support crew was practising not just a bike swap, but helmet too in their hotel car park this morning. It was no surprise then to see a pink helmet awaiting Geraint Thomas with his road bike, and the alarmingly relaxed changeover that followed. Had the margin of victory been smaller, questions might have nagged as to the value of this decision, but thankfully, for all involved, their minds can rest – on this point at least.
- As far as we know, Roglič was the only rider to get up at the crack of sparrow to recon the course – he rode the flat part and was driven up the climb. But that’s not the only calculated risk he took, he also embarked on the hill climb portion of the stage with mountain-bike gearing, that is, a single 40t chainring and a massive 44 teeth at his disposal on his cassette. It nearly cost him the race, but his recovery over three weeks was such that he had the power to take victory on stage 20, and with that overall victory. Finally.
- North America had a very good day at the races with 21-year-old Matthew Riccitello setting a surprising time that shows real promise for Israel-Premier Tech’s Grand Tour debutant, which is extra special after struggling through sickness in the latter half of the Giro – drill some holes in his saddle and send him to the UK for hill climb season. Then in the final wave, Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma) and Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates) blew through the previous best times to eventually record sixth and seventh place on the stage.
Crowd appreciation moment:
The 125 riders left of the Giro peloton will now travel to Rome for the 21st and final stage of the Giro, a 126km semi-processional stage that is likely to finish in a bunch gallop after six urban circuits. Before the surviving sprinters have their last chance at stage glory though, Derek Gee (Israel-Premier Tech) is sure to throw himself into the breakaway fray once more – he can’t help himself. Then one last finish line and Primož Roglič will be crowned champion of the 2023 Giro d’Italia.
Quote of the day:
Sepp Kuss spent a little time in the hot seat after chipping two seconds off Brandon McNulty’s time, but the stress was reserved for the last ten minutes of the stage, the agony and ecstasy of watching his teammate snatch victory from the jaws of defeat:
“Too many emotions – not only finishing physically empty, then sitting down and watching everything unfold on the climb. But yeah, it’s not Primož without overcoming some adversity like he had there in the end. But I think that gave him even more power.
“It’s just a Cinderella story, you know? With all the Slovenian fans here. It’s just beautiful for Primož, for the team, for everybody. Just beyond words.”
Social media review:
The call went out overnight: Slovenians unite!
Mark Cavendish bids a lonely ciao to his last Giro d’Italia time trial…
We’re still awaiting the rankings in the mid-stage bike change competition – though Ineos probably won’t win…
There was a definite last-day-of-term vibe, especially earlier in the afternoon as those simply looking forward to pizza in Rome
endured enjoyed the hill climb.
The ecstasy and relief of victory…
The RideLondon Classique is ongoing in the UK. DSM’s Charlotte Kool took stage 1 as Canyon-SRAM fell at the last hurdle, but the German outfit bounced back on the second stage to deliver Chloe Dygert to a first WorldTour win of the season for both the rider and the team.
What did you think of this story?